Graeme Crayford, former Scotland Island resident, president of the fire brigade, SIRA committee member and coordinator of the community vehicle, has died aged 73.
Graeme moved to the island in 2007, buying a house just a few doors away from Bell Wharf. He had retired some years earlier, having been a communications engineer for Telstra. Before coming to the island Graeme had lived and worked in Singapore.
|Graeme on active duty with the fire brigade
It rapidly became obvious that Graeme was eager to contribute to community life. Bill Gye, SIRA president at the time, quickly identified Graeme’s organisational potential. ‘I managed to persuade him to join the SIRA committee’, says Bill. ‘He clearly had a lot to offer: politically astute and well-informed, and committed to the fabric of island life.’
For the rest of his time on the island Graeme maintained an involvement in SIRA. He was a member of its Roads and Drainage sub-committee, headed by Sharon Kinnison. ‘He was a splendid man’, remembers Sharon. ‘His contributions to committee discussions were often spot on. He was a clear thinker, a great mind.’
But it will be through his contributions to Scotland Island fire brigade that Graeme is best remembered. Graeme qualified as a firefighter in 2012. Around that time the brigade was setting up its Community First Responder (CFR) unit to deal with medical emergencies. According to its leader, Ian White, Graeme was one of the first to qualify for the CFR team. ‘He was always one of the first to put up his hand for a CFR call. And he was still attending medical emergencies well into his 70s.’
|Graeme regularly served behind the bar at fire shed dinners.
Besides being a member of the CFR team, Graeme was involved in firefighting activities. ‘He was one of our most active operational members’, says Captain Peter Lalor. ‘Graeme was almost always one of the crew responding to bushfires, boat fires, trees down and medical emergencies on and around the island’. Graeme won several brigade awards, including ‘member of the year’.
Besides his operational involvement in the brigade, Graeme contributed administratively. He became vice president in 2013, then president in 2015, a position he held until August 2021, when he left the island. It says something about Graeme’s commitment to the brigade that he was still chairing a brigade AGM on his last day on the island, rushing to catch his last ferry ride at the end of the meeting.
One particular contribution to community life stands out. For around 10 years Graeme, along with other brigade members, but especially Nathalie and Julian Muir, helped organise dozens of fire shed dinners. Just about anyone attending a dinner over the last decade will remember Graeme serving behind the bar. But a lot of his involvement was behind the scenes, including shopping for food and drink for each dinner.
What Graeme gave to community life went well beyond the fire brigade. Starting in 2011, Graeme drove the community vehicle, and for the last seven years he was vehicle coordinator. Cass Gye remembers him as a ‘wonderful, generous human being, a good friend to many, and a well respected and loved community member’.
|‘Island Graeme’ by Gwyn Perkins,
given to Graeme in gratitude for his services as driver and coordinator of the community vehicle
Despite these many contributions to island life Graeme was, in many respects, a very private man. Reserved and unassuming, many will remember him jogging around the island in his trademark white shirt, black shorts and cap, or stretching tired muscles on Tennis Wharf.
The outpouring of grief on Facebook is a measure of the island’s love for Graeme. ‘He knew the spirit of community’, comments Melanie Marshall. ‘A revered member of our great community’, says David Wagner-mccullough. He was an ‘absolute gentleman’, according to Matt Blackwood; ‘the quiet achiever who loved helping out’, writes Lisa Jane. Many met the news of his passing with shock.
Graeme moved away from the island in August 2021, when he bought a unit on McMahons Point. ‘He loved his new home’, says Julian Muir, who feels honoured to have counted himself among Graeme’s closest island friends.
Leader, volunteer, helper, rescuer, mate and mentor: Graeme was many things to many people. It’s hard to exaggerate both his practical and emotional impact on the island. Perhaps that’s because, in the words of Ian White, ‘Graeme did everything’.
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