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  • Writer's picturePete Jonson

Farewell Graham Barrett

Good afternoon. My name is Tim Tench, and I am fortunate that Graham Barrett was my friend for over five years. This is a text of the Eulogy by Tim Tench at Christ Church, Brunswick, om 31 March 2021.

Tim Tench

Graham was born in South Africa during the days of apartheit. He spent many years as a foreign correspondent and as a foreign affairs commentator. He became the foreign editor of The Age newspaper, and contributed articles to the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review. He served on the editorial staff of the Johannesburg Star and spent two years working for the black African publications Golden City Post and Drum magazine. For ten years he worked at the World Bank in Washington, DC. He also taught a postgraduate course on contemporary Asia at the University of Melbourne. Graham was vice president of the Foreign Press Association in London and a former vice president of the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

Graham was a quietly-spoken and gentle man who endeared himself to many. He had the ability to walk into a room of strangers and to make both himself and his new-found acquaintances comfortable. In speaking with Graham it was easy to feel that the things you said truly mattered because his experience and insight allowed him to empathise with you on a personal level. It was also easy to sit with him over a meal or a glass of white wine. Oh, Graham did like a glass of white wine! Conversation would be relaxed yet lively. Never dull. There was no subject you could not raise with him. He took a lively and detailed interest in all manner of things, whether it was the current difficulties with China; the finer points of bocce; or the most recent outing with golfing buddies! Whatever the topic the conversation would flow smoothly and generously for all involved.

Some seven years ago Graham published an account of his many activities across the globe and of the many interesting and sometimes scary people he met. The book ('The Psycopath will See You Now') explains some of the big events of the recent past, including the end of apartheid in South Africa; the fall of the Soviet Union; the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia; conflict in the Middle East; and the reunification of Germany.

The book also introduces us to many of the interesting and talented people that Graham met over the years, including Peter Ustinov, Stirling Moss, and Yehudi Menhuin. He also takes time to point out the humorous and sometimes ridiculous aspects of the human experience. My favourite is when Graham was invited to Kensington Palace to interview Anne, the Princess Royal. Beforehand, feeling a need to use the facilities of the Royal bathroom, Graham was directed upstairs to a draughty suite of rooms containing a bath with clawed feet, a lavatory with a chain, and a printed notice from the Queen entreating whoever read it to save money by switching off the light on departure.

Graham's life took a happy turn when he met Svetlana. As many of you will know, Svetlana (or Lana, as Graham liked to call her) was born and raised in the Ukraine. Over time (via the internet and during frequent visits) Graham's and Svetlana's love for each other grew stronger and more resolute. Soon they began the long and challenging bureaucratic struggle to be united. And it is a tribute to Graham's determination that he was able to fight and eventually overcome the administrative obstacles (both Ukranian and Australian) which sought to oppose their wish to build a life together. Success was eventually achieved, and Svetlana was allowed to enter Australia and to later become an Australian citizen. An additional joy was that Svetlana brought with her her young daughter Veronika to become Graham's step-daughter. In June 2018 Graham and Svetlana were married on a sunny day in Royal Park, and I was fortunate to be present on that happy occasion.

About 12 months ago Graham was diagnosed with terminal carcinoma. The news was of course devastating for all who knew and loved him, especially for Svetlana and Veronika. Living in Parkville meant that Graham had easy access to some of the finest medical services available and to some of the best medical practitioners. But eventually the ceaseless rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy began to take their toll. And Graham's former enthusiasm and vitality began to wane. Three weeks ago Graham was admitted to hospital for the final time. Thankfully the regime of pain management allowed him the dignity of a peaceful end.

The number of people here today and the number who visited Graham in hospital towards the end attest to how much he was loved and cherished. Unfortunately, some are unable to be with us today. Patrick, for example, one of Graham's close friends, lives in Europe. And he has asked me to recite a poem in remembrance of Graham. The poem, by the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, tells us that while death is inescapable we should nevertheless resist it with all our might because, after all, life is precious.

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my dear friend, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

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