Members Tribute to Dr Phil Law
by Dr Sue Halliwell - Friday 23
April 2010, Melbourne
It was a grey day with light, misty rain, not unlike a typical day on Macca, where many comrades and colleagues, friends, relatives and acquaintances gathered at the ANARE Club’s invitation, to pay tribute to the remarkable life of Dr. Phillip Garth Law.
The Current President of the ANARE Club, Ralph Fletcher gave the opening address and introduced the Guest Speakers for the afternoon’s proceedings. On display in the Parkside room were two handsome portraits of Dr. Law by Artist Vladamir Sobolev. Also a Commemorative Book to be signed by all present.
The most remarkable impression to take away from the day was that three hours is not enough to celebrate one such life. Each Guest Speaker enlightened us with many humorous occasions that were a fond memory by many present. They spoke of leadership, humor, purpose, energy, initiative, willingness and camaraderie. All good traits needed to endure the trials to be faced in Australia with administrative hurdles and in the Antarctic facing the physical, logistical and meteorological hurdles of establishing bases and running science programs.
Ray McMahon, colleague and friend for fifty years, gave a delightful tapestry of Dr. Law personality in his retirement. Just recently escorting Phil to lunch at the Chelsea Pensioners monthly luncheon, or was his intention. The dilemma for Phil in choosing a tie, needing his shoe laces to be tied and trouser zip to be zipped. The eye to eye stand off in persuading the Nursing Staff Manager at Phil’s residence the he WAS going out to lunch. And once in Ray’s car Phil giving unwavering directions to be taken to his favorite Club, the Kelvin Club. Here though Ray ignored the street directions he was given and preceded into town along the more conventional route. Ray had a licence and was not always on the look out for ‘Mr. Plod’. The outing was all worth while when after getting a round of drinks from the bar; Ray saw Phil had been well accommodated for being seated under the etching of him and being surrounded by many enquiring admirers
Syd Kirkby also a colleague and friend, spoke of his extraordinary leadership qualities. His exceptional administrative skills and Phil’s expectations of his co-workers. Quoting Phil in that…… “Yeah, we were fighting out of out weight but not out of our class”…. And imparted the story of Phil’s history with Antarctic beginnings, as well as a list of many of the achievements of ANARE. One item Phil was pleased to receive but which the wait for was long, the Polar Medal.
Back in the fifties Phil was asked if he would accept the Polar medal, due to specific requirements needing to satisfied, Phil held that he would do so if a small handful of his fellow workers received one as well. This did not come to pass, so he declined the offer despite probably yearning for one. In years to come Dr. Law was granted a Polar Medal and it was bestowed upon him by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll.
One trip stands out- In 1965, the Amery Ice Shelf they found themselves restricted with equipment failure. That the landing party would go ashore in eight motor boats. The survey equipment set up, Phil with flag in hand was seen roped together with two others climbing up a peak, but the gyro of the theodolite was spinning wildly and Phil and co were noted to be in a bit of a flurry, then climbing back down again……as the three walked past it was quietly but gruffly noted that it was an iceberg they had climbed!!!!!!
When asked which Phil’s worst trips were, he would say his first and his last.
Syd left us with the comment that he would like us to carry with us the thought that Phil would much rather be celebrated than mourned, and to always start a talk with a joke…or three, Hear, Hear!