Written by Gavin Carpenter: 2007.
“In Memory of Alfie”
Good morning Emily, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today on this solemn but also reflective occasion. My two business partners of old send their Condolences at this time, as do quite a number of other people who have lived and worked in Tennant over the years and are unable to be with us here today.
Singapore Ant, Garden Gnome, Little Elf, Little Alfie, mention these names in Tennant Creek and everyone knew whom you were talking about.
Mention these names elsewhere throughout the Territory, outside of Tennant Creek, and most people knew whom you were talking about.
Mention these names around Australia and still you would find people nodding thoughtfully and knowing whom you were talking about.
It was, of course; Alfred Ernest Chittock. OAM
Such was the standing of this person who arrived in Tennant Creek for a short time all those years ago.
On the occasion of his 90th birthday we were asked to contact a few ex Tennantite’s and gather some greetings to be read out at the dinner. We contacted three people, and ask them to spread the word. Our fax machine ran hot for several days.
There were too many letters to be read out and the messages of best wishes and congratulations were put together in a folder for Alf to peruse at his leisure.
I would like to share with you today a few excerpts and comments received, still pertinent today, all passed on willingly with a genuine feeling of pride and respect in knowing Alf.
Alf operated one of the three betting shops in town, in the days when Peko and Warrego were operating, and money was earned hard and spent easy.
In that regard, Tony and Heather Walford in part wrote: . . . Most, if not all, will know that Alfie was a member of the noble profession of Turf Accountants – but few of you would realise that he never had a winning day! Ask Alfie how he went and the answer was always “I broke even”. Ask him why he didn’t give up swinging the bag and he would tell you, “I can’t, it’s how I make my living”!!
His sense of humour coming to the fore.
Stan Reed, an old Peko Pirates baseball player wrote a poem which said:
There is a bloke called Alfie,
He came to Tennant Creek.
He could have come on Sunday
Or the middle of the week.
A cheery sort of fellow,
He wasn’t very tall.
A bugger to have to pitch too
When he played the game of baseball.
He soon went into business
And really made his mark.
He sold the toughest meat in town,
As tough as iron bark.
The town all seemed to like him,
And some they didn’t care.
That is why for years and years
He was the Tennant Creek Mayor.
And now he’s turning ninety
Good, for a Singapore Ant.
He made it look so easy
And ran it with hardly a pant.
Well done you sunburnt hero,
Well done you son of a gun.
So grab a slab of beer
And let us have some fun.
Alf’s size was often a problem, not to him, but to others, especially new police constables.
Barrie and Jennine Armistead wrote in part: . . . I have fond recollections when I was a young uniform policeman, new in Tennant Creek. A phone call came into the station that there was a car travelling down Paterson Street with no driver. I told my boss, Sgt Pat Grant. He asked me what sort of car and when I told him that it was a white Fairlane, Sgt Grant said: . “That’s all right. It’s just Alfie Chittock.”
Alf continued to drive until quite recently, and I suspect he holds a near Territory record, when at aged 91; his licence was renewed for 5 years.
The words “the short and the tall of it” rang true when you saw Alf standing alongside of the then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, Alf himself would often joke about it, particularly as they were on totally opposite sides of the political fence.
A small piece of what Ian Tuxworth wrote says: . . .” I do recall him playing baseball (Ebbeths Field). As my memory serves me, on one occasion he was hit on the back of the head by a ball coming from left field whilst he was trying to come ‘home’ for his team. The ball flattened Alf about 5 metres from the home plate and he lay on the ground semi-conscious. The two Kittle brothers walked out onto the field, picked him up and with a hand under each arm, carried him forward and actually dropped him on the ‘plate’ with the game being won by Tigers – Alf was the hero that scored the winning run”.
Tennant Creek and Alf just went together and everyone welcomed the opportunity to be remembered to him.
During a meeting I attended in Canberra some years ago, Peter Nixon, the then Federal Minister for Transport, particularly asked to be remembered to him.
Alf was remembered by Prince Charles who asked after him during a more recent visit to Alice Springs, and asked for his best wishes to be passed on to Alf.
And so it went on from many quarters. Alf’s attitude was always, what you see is what you get, and he stuck to his guns.
The then Town Clerk, Bruce McRae wrote the welcome speech for Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s visit to Tennant Creek. The problem was, Alf dropped his H’s and it was rather difficult to refer to the Royal couple without the words, “Highnesses”. Alf did not like the speech and proceeded with his own version, even with the Royal “Inesses,” included.
A wonderful photo of Alf delivering his welcome speech is in the Memo Club.
One night at a council meeting Alf and I violently disagreed on a particular issue, neither of us would give way. Alf eventually left the Mayoral chair and sat back while the Deputy Mayor, Terry Callaghan continued the meeting, diplomatically sorting out the difference of opinion. Alf then took the chair again as if nothing had happened. His attitude was, that’s over with, past is past, let’s get on with the agenda; such was the nature of the person.
One rather lengthy night at the Police Club, Alf began getting a little loud and outspoken, something that did not happen very often. A couple of fairly tall beefy police, one either side, picked him up and with his legs peddling wildly in mid-air, lifted him outside to a car with the words “we will see you safely home your worship.” He picked up his car next morning and sincerely thanked them for their hospitality and the wonderful time he had had the previous evening.
Prior to moving to his house on the hill, Alf lived in a comfortable cottage in Paterson St. Housing was not plentiful at the time and he was talking of maybe selling, so we approached him about purchasing, thinking his price would be pretty steep in keeping with the then market. He rang back a few days later and said a price followed by “I think that is a fair and reasonable price” it was, and we purchased.
The original golf club was with the first racetrack, situated out at the 7 mile, the last par 5 being down the main straight of the racetrack, to a shared clubhouse. When the golf club shifted to its present site, Alf hand-made the cement bricks for the clubhouse and his long time mate Roy Brown was builder and supervisor. This older section of the current Clubhouse was named the ‘Alf Chittock’ room several years ago, 40 years after Alf helped build it. Housed therein is a great collection of old photos and memorabilia.
One of his greatest achievements in life was his long-time relationship with Emily. It was a true working relationship and partnership, continuing into their retirement, with Emmy caring for him in his declining years.
We grieve with you at this time Emmy, and during this celebration and reflection of his life, we also acknowledge and admire the personal and business contribution you have made into all aspects of Alf’s life.
Alf may have only recently left us, but his legacy and input to the town of Tennant Creek will live on long after we here today have all disappeared into oblivion and his mark will remain somewhere on almost all facets of Tennant Creek history, indeed Territory history.