Vale – Tom Maggs (1952–2017)
|Casey (as SL)
The ANARE Club is deeply saddened to report the passing of Tom Maggs on 24 December 2017.
Tom Maggs wintered at Mawson in 1977 and 1980 and at Casey as Station Leader in 1988. He was a long-serving Australian Antarctic Division staff member, including his role as Environmental Manager, including as Australia’s representative over many years to the Antarctic Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP).
Emails received from Denise Allen 24/12/2017, Kevin Shepherd 26/12/2017, Ralph (Noddy) Fletcher 27/12/2017, Jan Adolph 27/12/2017
Other Tributes to Tom:
Thomas Raymond Maggs (1952–2017)
by Kevin Shepherd
My friendship began Tom Maggs started almost immediately on our voyage south aboard Nella Dan, on our way to Mawson in November 1979. Tom became my ANARE mentor throughout 1980.
In the Met shack at Mawson there was always a quick cheerful reply to my weather report as I tapped – hunt and peck style – into the Telex machine, across to the Radio VLV shack on the other side of the station, where Tom was on duty. There were insights into a Greer Garson movie; A quiet drink after a Met or Radio shift; Help when it was my turn to feed the huskies, especially during a blizzard; Advice about dog sledge maintenance in Biscoe Hut; Carefully reviewing the dog breeding records; Sneaking a few extra scraps for the husky pups; Scanning maps to plan another Mt Henderson, Rumdoodle or Auster Rookery visit.
The Tom that I met at Mawson in 1980 was the Tom I knew for the rest of his life – intelligent, witty, thoughtful, humble, caring, warm and genuine. That year at Mawson opened my eyes to a new richness to life with much credit to Tom. His attitude to life was always positive, open, adventurous and fun-loving, keen to share his knowledge and wisdom, his awe for the Antarctic environment and his passion for travel with the Mawson huskies.
On our return from Mawson it was an honour when Tom asked me to his wedding with Isabel. From that moment he put his heart and soul into his family as an active and devoted parent – a role model for my eventual parenthood. His investment was returned many times over by the love from his children. It was a pleasure watching those children grow; often being invited to dinner at the Maggs house, to picnics, breakfasts, barbeques and weekends away. When I returned south in ’85 and ‘90 I could equally rely on lengthy letters from Tom as from my family. Tom had become like a brother, and even his mother like a distant aunt. When I moved back to Melbourne, I missed being able to invite Tom to my family’s dinners or out to see a movie at Hobart’s amazing State Cinema. As some solace, and though not frequent enough, we could sustain very lengthy phone calls.
Until the day he died, Tom remained one of the finest friends I ever have known, taken far too young. Being in Tasmania without Tom for his funeral felt very empty. Hearing Tom’s many friends speak at his funeral service, I realised that Tom’s many friendships were also deep and genuine – that was his nature.
Having considered retiring back to Tasmania, I’d always assumed there’d be time to spend dropping by at Tom’s idyllic bush-setting house; talking over the latest of his many interests, readings and endless discoveries; talking with his children and grandchildren; walking with him and his dogs; sharing breath-taking Tasmanian vistas; sharing a coffee in the morning or firing up the barbeque and sharing a glass of red in the evening.
Among Tom’s many interests was astronomy. When I find myself star gazing, I imagine he’s somewhere up there, watching and listening.
Tom Maggs passed away this evening. He had a stroke last Wednesday.
Tom was a radio operator at Mawson and then station leader. He worked at the AAD for many years.
Email received from Denise Allen 24/12/17
I have some terribly sad news, and you may have already heard, but Tom Maggs passed away yesterday evening. Tom suffered a massive stroke on Wednesday and had been in a coma. It’s devastating for Tom’s two beautiful daughters who were very close to him, and of whom he was so proud. Tom was a dear and loyal friend and I shall miss him forever. I know that Tom’s loss will be deeply felt throughout the entire Antarctic community.
Email received from Kevin Shepherd 26/12/17
It is with a heavy heart I advise the sad passing of Tom Maggs- a man known to so many of us.
Tom had a massive stroke on the Wednesday prior to Christmas that resulted in a “catastrophic brain bleed” and despite the best efforts of the Neurosurgeons a decision was made to switch off his life support system as there was nothing further that could be done.
He passed away Christmas Eve with his Daughters Bonnie and Georgina holding his hands while listening to Pink Floyd.
Tom wintered at Mawson 1977 and 1980 as Comms Officer and at Casey in 1988 as OIC. He worked in the Division in Melbourne prior to shifting to Kingston in 1981 and stayed on and rising through the ranks to position of Environmental Manager. He also was a Voyage Leader on trips down South.
I first met Tom in November 1979 at his Parents fruit block in Red Cliffs. Had lunch with Tom and his Parents Lorna and Tom (Snr) and Enid Borschmann. Enid and myself had just come back from Macquarie Island 1978 and Tom was getting ready to go back to Mawson. Tom was know as a very fair man, loved and respected by all that knew him. He leaves a lasting legacy of memories of a good bloke.
Special thanks to Ulla Knox-Little who has kept us all in the loop in respect of this very sad situation.
Should any of you have pictures of Tom it would be appreciated if you could send them to Ulla at firstname.lastname@example.org as Tom’s Sister Marie is seeking to have some.
Our thoughts are with all of Tom’s family and his many friends.
He was one of the best and will be sorely missed.
Email received from Ralph (Noddy) Fletcher 27/12/17
Tom’s funeral will be held 10am, Tuesday, 2nd January at Turnbull’s in Leticia Street, North Hobart. https://www.turnbullfunerals.com.au/find-us
Email received from Jan Adolph 27/12/17
Aurora Journal Summer 2017/2018
by Peter Boyer
Last week I went to the funeral of a man who had died on Christmas Eve from the effects of a stroke. His son-in-law happens to be Australia’s test wicketkeeper, Tim Paine. Millions of cricket watchers would have noticed the Australian team wearing black armbands when they took to the MCG on Boxing Day. It was duly noted in the media, but with virtually no information about the person who inspired it. I’d like to fill a small part of that gap.
It’s ironic that Tom Maggs was remembered at a major international cricket match. Sport had no part in his life, and his mind would wander whenever the topic was raised. Of course that all changed a couple of years ago when a champion cricketer teamed up with his daughter Bonnie and joined his family.
But apart from his short-sightedness Tom might have passed for a sportsman. Much of his life, working and otherwise, involved physical activity, and in his early years in Victoria, in Tasmania or in the great Antarctic wilderness he liked to be outdoors whenever possible.
Tom Maggs served as radio operator and dog handler (he loved all animals) through two Antarctic winters before joining the staff of the Australian Antarctic Division in the late 1970s. He moved from Melbourne to Hobart in 1981, choosing Margate as a place to live.
When I first met him soon after joining AAD staff in 1987 he was preparing for a stint as the station leader for Casey, one of Australia’s Antarctic bases, through the 1988 winter.
That same year Sydney entrepreneur Dick Smith decided to spend some of the fortune he’d made in electronic retailing to show the AAD why it should be flying planes. In November 1988 he and British pilot Giles Kershaw landed on Antarctic ice to complete the first Hobart-Casey flight.
Casey expeditioner Owen Holmwood later recalled how station leader Tom Maggs dealt with this historic occasion:
“Tom was just starting to wax lyrical about the staggering importance of the event, when there darted out from among the assembled multitude two St. Trinians schoolgirls, with blond wigs, fulsome blouses, short blue tunics, frilly knickers and fishnet stockings.
“They skipped straight past the official party, and presented the startled airmen with bunches of plastic flowers and kisses on both cheeks. The two interlopers then dashed back into the crowd to put on warm clothes, before anything that girls don’t have dropped off.
“Tom, ever the pragmatist, realised that he had no chance of restoring that sense of decorum which is so characteristic of [Australian Antarctic] ceremonies, and dispensed with further formalities.”
Two things about Tom come out of this. First, his sense of humour. Some official speakers would be mightily offended at being interrupted by such irreverence, but not Tom. I don’t know what Dick Smith and Giles Kershaw thought, but Tom would have quickly seen the funny side, and I’m sure he led the laughter.
The second thing about him was his eloquence both as speaker and writer. Whether it was sea ice exploding against a ship’s hull, sledge dogs howling at the moon or the first sunrise after a long winter, wondrous Antarctica came to life in his words. I would love to have had his gift.
He loved listening to music, mostly classical. He was an avid reader and a deep thinker, and enjoyed wrestling with complex questions. He was very much at home among the scientists he worked with, and had a rare ability to articulate the complex processes they studied.
Tom Maggs had a long and distinguished career at the AAD. His leadership qualities, writing and analytical skills and love for the natural world landed the former radio operator in a succession of management roles, looking after environmental policy and strategic development.
Underlying his career was a deep humanity, evident in all that was said about him at his crowded funeral in Hobart last week. The memories of his daughters, Bonnie and Georgie, were touching testament to his finest attribute, the unstinting care and love he bestowed on them.
When I left the AAD in difficult circumstances in 2002, Tom was MC in a rousing send-off addressed by several former colleagues. I felt as if I was listening to friendly eulogies at my own funeral. It was a huge fillip and a great start to my new life.
Such compliments are to be taken with a pinch of salt. I think Tom knew his strengths and his weaknesses. If he had been able to hear what friends and family said about him last week, he’d have enjoyed the moment with his characteristic smile and then got on with the rest of his life. I’ll always remember that smile. I am proud to have known him and sad indeed that he is lost to us.
Peter Boyer (as published in the Hobart Mercury).
Antarctic Place Names
Maggs Island, -67.60472, 62.53778
Named after Thomas (Tom) Maggs for his contributions to Australia’s Antarctic program between 1979 and 2012. Tom’s Antarctic service spanned three winters and appointments as a station and voyage leader. He led Australia’s implementation of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty and represented Australia in the Treaty’s Committee for Environmental Protection.
Source: Australian Antarctic Division