George Brown 1927 – 2011

George Brown was born in Glasgow 83 years ago, moved to Edinburgh at an early age and was educated at Holy Cross Academy. He only attended primary school and went off to join the British Royal Merchant Navy when he was 13. He travelled the world as a radio officer on many ships. At the age of 17 he was a radio officer on landing craft at Normandy France during the second world war and he wore his medals every Anzac day with pride.He met Nan Brown when travelling as a radio officer on a ship to South Africa.
They married in Melbourne, went to Scotland where he (and Nan) joined a scientific expedition to the Antarctica as a radio officer. The expedition was led by Sir Vivian Fuchs. George and Nan lived at South Georgia in the Antarctic for two and a half years where their first child Fiona was conceived.
From the Antarctic they traveled on a whaling ship via South America and Japan to come to a new job in Alice Springs. George was appointed the director of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), quite a contrasting environment to the ice cold weather of the Antarctic.
He served the people of the outback with effective two way communication providing health support to many people living on cattle stations and communities from 1957 until the early 70s. He travelled widely to help fix equipment in an old ute on very rough tracks, sometimes getting lost and only having the stars to guide him back to main roads. He acted as host to his Prince Philip twice and the Queen on one occasion.
George’s broad Scottish accent over the two way radio at the Flying Doctor Base gave many outback people much amusement and his sense of humour and attention to detail was widely respected.
George and Nan had two beautiful daughters, Fiona and Catriona who sadly passed away two years ago a victim of ovarian cancer.
George was a life member and president on several occasions of the Alice Springs Rotary Club (later known as Stuart Rotary Club). He was a member of the Aboriginal Advancement League along with the late Milton and Arthur Liddle as he believed in the empowerment of Aboriginal people in the town.
George was a founding and active member of the Alice Springs Pipe Band.
He also established 8HA with other people in the town and was a board member for many years. When his daughters took up horse riding, he became involved in the Alice Springs Pony Club and was an active member of the Alice Springs Show Society.
He always played his pipes for the Bangtail Musters, Alice Springs Shows and Anzac Parades for many years.
After leaving the RFDS George and Nan began the first travel agency in Alice Springs with Lorri Sitzler. It was located in Mrs Golder’s old house on Todd Street. They were successful business people helping Alice Springs residents to access wonderful holidays both interstate and overseas.
George was a member of tourism boards in the town. Following this they started a new business Codan Communications to provide radio and installation equipment for better communication in the region. Their daughter Catriona became involved in the business which was later known as XL Com.
George decided to travel with Nan so Catriona and her daughter Alysia operated the new business for many years until she became ill. George then decided to sell the business and support his daughter undergoing intensive chemotherapy in Adelaide for several years. Catriona relocated to Strathalbyn, nearer cancer treatment, and bought a farm because of her love of animals. George stayed with her, as well as in Darwin with his other daughter and in Edinburgh where he owned a flat.
  
Sadly Nan died tragically 16 years ago and George decided to continue spending his time between Edinburgh, Liverpool where his sister lived and Alice Springs.  This arrangement worked well for all the family as he was a free spirit, travelling the world, including working on a major restoration project of the whaling station in South Georgia that is now a major tourist attraction in the Antarctic.
Whilst in Edinburgh George started to raise funds for fighting ovarian cancer when his daughter Catriona was diagnosed with the disease. He committed the rest of his life to fighting the dreadful disease, by playing his 55 year old bag pipes in traditional national costume, handing out leaflets between tunes and talking to passers by from all parts of the world about the symptoms of ovarian cancer – the hidden killer. He spent the past three years in Edinburgh playing the bagpipes on the Royal Mile and raising funds for Australian Ovarian Cancer research.
Most recently he collected $5000 from July to November. He also donated money to the veterans of the Merchant Navy who are not eligible for a war pension in Britain. He was loved and admired by all the visitors to Edinburgh, this remarkable old gentleman playing favourite Scottish tunes on the pipes at the Royal Mile in the heart of the city.
 
Twenty four days ago he left Edinburgh to spend some nine days with his only sister May and her family in Liverpool before he took a flight home, returning from Manchester to Singapore and then on to Adelaide where he underwent major surgery in St Andrews Hospital.
Though he fought valiantly for his life he passed away on Friday, December 16. His birthday was the next day.
George leaves behind his daughter Fiona McLoughlin, granddaughter Alysia Wagenknecht, his grandsons, James, Rohan and Miles McLoughlin and his great grandson Cooper George Wagenknecht whom he all adored.
George in the past year has written a story he was hoping to publish about his life, this contains funny stories of the early days in Alice Springs. He knew many many people in Alice Springs and his humour, sense of fairness and story telling will be sadly missed by those who have known him.

Daughter Fiona McLoughlin
fiona.mcloughlin@ntschools.net

Mobile 0434 152 553

Pictures (from top): George Brown and his daughter, Fiona. George was a hit with the public when he was busking in Edinburgh – lots of babies were photographed with him. Nan on a South Georgia stamp when she and George lived in the Antarctica.

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20 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Bill Tubbs
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Fond memories of a fabulous workmate at RFDS Alice Springs from 1963-1966. Sadly missed.
    Bill Tubbs – Perth, West Australia dogsgalore@iinet.net.au

  2. Peter Young
    Posted April 14, 2012 at 4:05 am

    I’ve just moved to the Falklands, and just read Nan Brown’s amazing book, Antarctic Housewife. And now have just found out about George. What a life he had! I wish I’d heard about them earlier.
    Condolences to the family.

  3. Posted January 14, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    I remember George becoming actively involved in setting up the Central Australian Aboriginal Advancement League with Dad (Milton) and Uncle Arthur and others back in the early to mid sixties.
    He was a lovely man and I deeply regret his passing. Condolences to Fiona and all the family.
    Bob Liddle

  4. Dronz Arigho
    Posted January 13, 2012 at 4:25 am

    I met up with George and Nan some 40 years ago whilst on a quick visit to Alice Springs, courtesy of the RFDS. We had both been Ships Radio Officers in our earlier careers and we struck up a life long friendship and kept in touch on a regular basis.
    Indeed we had made tentative arrangements to have a reunion in Edinburgh in 2012.
    An earlier comment made stated George was a pioneer and he was that in every sense of the word. His spirit and his inspiration will live on for ever, in those immortal words of that great entertainer Sir Harry Lauder: “Keep right on to the end of the road” and George did!
    My sincere condolences to all George’s family at this sad time.
    Dronz Arigho
    Radio Officer UK (Retired)

  5. Rebecca MacTavish
    Posted January 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I live in Grass Valley, California, and happened upon this article. Mr Brown sounds like he was an amazing man, I offer my condolences. It is my driving dream to visit and absorb the outback and I appreciate reading about such an inspiring person. Perhaps some day soon I will see first hand the successes that Mr Brown was instrumental in achieving. Love from across the Pacific.

  6. John Sitzler
    Posted January 11, 2012 at 10:06 am

    I have so many fond memories of George and Nan in Alice stretching back as far as I can remember. My condolences to Fiona and family. Your Dad was a true Territory legend.

  7. Rosalie Highfold
    Posted January 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Dear Fiona,
    My deepest sympathies to you and your family on the loss of your Dad. He was a real treasure who was respected by a lot of Aboriginal people in the NT. He would always stop to have a chat and have a laugh with my parents all the time. It’s people like your Dad that are a credit to our community. May he rest in peace and play his beautiful bag pipes in Heaven.
    Rose.

  8. Merrill, Marshall and Mitchell Bray
    Posted January 5, 2012 at 2:44 am

    Fiona, James and family, our deepest condolences to you all on the loss of your Father / Granfather. A man I’d always admired whilst growing up as a child in Alice Springs. What a rich and wonderful journey he had. RIP.

  9. Marisa Seddon
    Posted January 3, 2012 at 6:27 am

    What an inspiration. We were related in a distant way through George’s Auntie May who was my Nan. I vaguely remember a visit from some Australian relatives along with May from Liverpool around 1977. I am sure he will be missed by a whole host of people.

  10. Mike Prada
    Posted January 2, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Met George once when he visited my mother(his aunt) May Prada in Morecambe. Must have been in the 70’s. Would have liked to have known him better. He musicality probably came from his grandfather – Michael Joseph (after whom i am named) – my children are musicians too! May he rest in peace forever. Mike Prada.

  11. Peter and Marlene Bassett
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Cheery … firm … clear and straight to the point! George and his girls … Oriel and Barbara … Base Station Alice Springs … 1966-67 … without them the Territory would not be what it is today.
    R.I.P. George and thanks once again for teaching me that oscar is not an orange!
    Ex radio operator eight wisky double zulu … (Wingellina).
    Peter Bassett
    Kangaroo Island.

  12. Russell Sweet
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Life will not be quite the same without my mate who was a specialist in the enjoyment of life, even in the face of extreme adversity.
    I shall miss our frequent outings with the Talisker family together with dining with George on haggis and neeps in Rose Street, Edinburgh.
    We did George proud at Strathalbyn yesterday culminating in the pipe band doing a complete rendition of Amazing Grace and the lid coming of a flash scotch bottle that George had not managed to consume. George will enjoy the next one having experienced two near death experiences which convinced him there is a next one. Seize eternity.

  13. Georgina Radley-Brown
    Posted December 30, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Fond memories of so few meetings of my father’s brother, my uncle George, a warm, generous human being.

  14. Julie Ross
    Posted December 29, 2011 at 9:26 am

    George was an old family friend of the Rosses. He was MC at Neil and my wedding and I remember many occasions when Ron and George shared a wee dram. Neil and I stayed with George, in Edinburgh last year and had the pleasure of meeting some of his busking friends. We will miss his entertaining emails describing his many “fans” and his adventures. He will certainly be missed by our family – a true gentleman and friend. Rest in Peace George.

  15. Sandy Casey
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I am so touched by this story. What an inspirational man! I too came from Glasgow and went out to live in the Alice and worked with the Aboriginal people – now back living outside Edinburgh. George sounds such a remarkable man and what a life. I’m sure he was inspirational to those who were lucky enough to meet him. My best wishes to his family especially at this time of year.

  16. Nick Byrne
    Posted December 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    In all my years in the outback at Blackstone, Wingellina, crossing the Simpson Desert and many other jobs, George was the voice of the Flying Doctor. He was reliable in getting messages and telegrams through even though reception was sometimes pretty awful and it was comforting to hear his voice when you were broken down in the middle of the Simpson with a bearing in the Land Rover’s transfer case gone. It is really sad. RIP George.

  17. Jenny Mostran
    Posted December 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I first met George and Nan when planning my first overseas holiday in 1979: They were treasures and shared there love of travel and great travel tips. Another great Centralian who has made a difference.
    Vale George Brown.

  18. Margaret Sarsfield
    Posted December 21, 2011 at 3:50 am

    A remarkable gentleman, sad you only hear about all he has achieved when he has passed away. Love to all the family.

  19. May Sarsfield (sister of George) tomayb@live.co.uk
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    I am finding it hard to come to terms with the idea that I shall not be seeing my dear brother again. Well not in this life. Rest in Peace my love.

  20. Dave ANDERSON
    Posted December 20, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Another marvelous gentleman. He always had time for a quick word and a story about his life. The times I met him and heard the skirl of his pipes will be treasured. Rest in Peace.

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