‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray, extracts
‘It was a cold, fine Sydney night on 20 July 1954. A speeding police car was the first vehicle straining spectators saw as they lined the Princes Highway leading into Sydney and towards the Moore Park Showground where a crowd of over 20,000 eagerly waited. In close pursuit of the police came a dust-covered, booming Ford V8 that in the previous 18 days had covered 9600 miles (15,450 km) over the roughest roads the Australian continent had to offer. The driver, clad in black pants, black t-shirt and flight jacket sat beside his white-overalled navigator. Bonded by a shared love of motorsport and adventure, both men wore their customary flying boots—and broad grins. The four burly officers sardined into the lead vehicle had earlier offered a quiet word of advice to the two Murrays as they reached the southern outskirts of Sydney…
As Jack told the story in Neil Bennetts' interview recorded in 1976 for the National Library of Australia:
"Across the Nullabor and practically back to Sydney, it was eventful but not like it had been: lots of bitumen and got escorted everywhere, more or less nursed back into Sydney. And the police met us up at Moss Vale and said, 'If you let one stick of jelly off, you’ll be locked up. You follow us from here to Sydney Showground.' And we followed the police, four of them—I think it was a Ford too—and they went faster than we’d ever been. We were flat out keeping up with them. We got there about half an hour too early and we crossed into the Showground. We had a lot of luck …and then we became more or less famous." '
"The 1953 REDEX, in the Plymouth. We turned it over. We flipped it over in an up-jump, came out of one of these, came out of the last one—and there was a bull standing in the middle of it. I swung to avoid the bull and when we came out, the road turned hard left, [so I] hit the bank which was about 18 inches, and just flipped the Plymouth over on its side. The windows flew out, Bill flew out and the windscreen flew out and hit him on the head and gave him concussion. And half a dozen cartons of jelly just burst open. Of course, you’ve got to detonate it to let it off; it’s quite safe. The sticks were all lying around and Bill was lying on the road. I picked him up, put him against a tree—it was about half past nine in the morning, a beautiful summer’s day. And I said: 'This would be a beautiful place for a sunbake.' By 11 o’clock we moved him into the shade of a tree; it was about 120 in the water bag. (laughs)…The other cars would pull up and say, 'Are you all right?' and I’d say yes, and they’d say, 'What are you doing there?' I said, 'I’m thinking of opening up a shop.' 'You’re what?' they said, 'Do you want a lift?' and I said, 'Oh no, we’ve got a truck coming out.' The truck came out and got hold of the car and drove us into Cloncurry." '
‘Never Ever Park Here
Fairly clear and unambiguous…For many years these were the unequivocal words that were emblazoned across the roller door shutter that separated Jack’s property, The Garage, from the normal outside world—Curlewis St locals. Indeed, everyone in Bondi knew to heed that simple four-word command. Caps, huge font, it read with all the gravitas of the Eleventh Commandment, not handed down by God but by ‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray. If ignored, the consequences were likely to be more than serious.
‘Lubricants remove friction within engines. Some people are lubricants who smooth the relationships and interactions within families. Often this role is unseen, unnoticed by those who benefit most. Mum had gone on an extended holiday with her sister; the family lubricant was absent. Jack and I were home alone, left “batching”. The baking dish blue began to sizzle.
Phil Murray has inherited his father’s genes when it comes to adventure, seeking personal challenges and embracing all life has to offer. Just as his father Jack did, Phil believes life is best lived following some pretty simple instructions: "Don’t take yourself too seriously" and "Always sprinkle in a good helping of humour."
Phil’s adventures have included white-water rafting the Grand Canyon and trekking on three continents (the Himalayas, Africa and Australia) plus travelling extensively throughout Europe, Africa and Asia. Whether spending time as a patient in a Soviet hospital during the Cold War, sailing a yacht to Morocco, or experiencing the midnight sun over Hammerfest in Norway, Phil’s journeys have enriched him both as a man and a writer.
A prize-winning short story writer, Phil has also had work published in Australian Traveller and several Catchfire Press story anthologies. In 2014 he won the NSW Neighbour Day writing competition with his poignant story My Neighbour Alex. See https://open.abc.net.au/explore/97404
Water-skiing past the British Parliament
‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray did it all: "I engaged in various sports with various successes": cycling, VFL schoolboy football, stock car racing, hill climbing races, car endurance events, Australian and NSW Grand Prix racing, international and Australian rally driving, wrestling, boxing, crocodile, kangaroo and buffalo hunting, ocean boat racing and water-skiing…to name most, but not all. He even once raced a bathtub—plug in.
For other interesting lives, view the Life Stories page
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