The Sandringham Club is an entity I know very little about. Driving past its signposted corner on Beach Road I always thought that the emblem was the Prince of Wales Feather’s until I actually stopped to make out the letters themselves with the ‘S’ so curvaceous it may as well be a replica of Sabrina’s figure; boobs and bum equally as arresting from either side of her centre of gravity.
If you’ve heard of Sabrina (UK siren of the 50’s and 60’s) then you’re just the right age group for most of us who gathered at Michael Holland’s funeral 2 weeks ago.
Many members of the Sandringham Club were there …… as well as, I may add, most of Bayside; so popular and loved was this man.
Michael was Fairway’s Treasurer for a brief period. He had generously volunteered for (read been press-ganged into) the role and we were royally chuffed by this, knowing how many past community projects he had supported, including as a volunteer Finance Committee member at Star of the Sea College for years.
But in a cruel twist, within months, Michael was diagnosed with cancer and despite a valiant fight to the end, died in early July.
We gathered at Sacred Heart on a cold winter’s day, warmed by friendships and familiar faces all come to pay homage to Michael.
Some did not know him personally but knew family members well, others knew both. Many had fantastic memories and stories to tell.
A funeral is always full of sameness but equally, never the same as another. Michael had talked of his requests for the service only in general terms – no great shakes. His two dearly loved daughters Lizzie and Rachel read a poem as was his wish; they chose a well known Banjo Patterson piece full of imagery of Australian Bush Life. Michael loved his homeland and one of his greatest joys was to go fishing with friends or simply to jump in the car and travel to great places in Australia – many were the trips and friendships made.
We laughed at funny stories or photos – especially a shot of Michael exposing his derriere to the camera. (Well I think it was him, such rosey cheeks ……).
Father Frank spoke gently and sincerely; complete faith in God’s word a given. But he also mourned; Not just the priest who gives comfort but the Shepherd who, upon finding a lifeless lamb, weeps for its loss. For Michael was a loyal member of Sacred Heart’s Finance Committee and had worked with Father Frank and others to realize many dreams and jump the tricky hurdles which have faced the School and Church.
So we listened to this service; a paen for an ordinary man. Ordinary that is if success in business and friendships, love of family and huge service to one’s community is ordinary; the kind of ordinary we would all aspire to.
Michael found meaning in so many things with so much before him and had only re-married nine years ago. Despite him living to the fullest and fighting the good fight I felt miffed that in the “Feast of Life” he departed after the entrée and main course – dammit couldn’t he get the dessert?
Didn’t this terrific bloke deserve the metaphorical equivalent of a smooth and rich sticky date pud or a fantastic pav all meringue crunch and marshmallow centre —oozing with cream and fruit? Couldn’t he have been allowed those sweet 2 decades more?
Shamefully despite Father Frank’s reassurances I felt a greedy loss for what might have been; not anger just lament for a life cut too short. Sixty six is young – too young.
The huge crowd slowly drifted out into the pale midday light, all meager and regretful, like my mood. But turning to walk to the car I was taken by a Guard of Honour quite casually assembled and comprising the members of the Sandringham Club, mates of Michael; loyal and true. I recognized several faces including the tall, impressive figure of Jim Smith whose voice I could hear over the others as they cheered and clapped with the hearse driving slowly past them and into the street. No Viking on the way to Walhalla could have been saluted with more gusto and comradeship.
This act of homage was so touching to witness and filled some of the vacuum of emptiness felt no doubt by many of us.
The Sandringham Club has been the butt of some good natured banter by some of its members known to me in some cases only casually – with others more closely.
It’s social and sporting platform is spoofed for being an occasional hot bed of gossip and intrigue (Hell I thought only women were labeled as gossipers…!)
But after witnessing this true display of male kinship I’ll take such comments with a grain of salt. This is quite clearly a place of deeply held regard for fellow members not just a place of pleasures, but of support, dare I say love …..?
Looking again at the Logo the words “Deo Patriae Amicus” are emblazoned underneath the club’s letters – God, Country, Friendship. Intentional or otherwise Michael’s funeral had all 3 in equal measure.
Vale Michael Holland 21.03.1951 – 12.07.2017
Fondest regards to all,