Steiglitz BLOG

Mr Roy Alexander Trotter's Memorial

My name’s Lindy, and it’s my privilege to tell you about a very special gentleman.  A man I considered the elder of Steiglitz…Mr Roy Alexander Trotter.

Roy was my neighbour for over 20 years.  Throughout which, he & I recorded the events of his life.  Although we didn’t finish what was to be the basis of our book, we did record a good portion of Steiglitz history.  All experienced, first hand, by a 96-year-old man who called Steiglitz home for most of his life.  Many of Roy’s own words have helped me to give you a glimpse of a friend I loved dearly.

This is Roy’s Story.  .....

On March 22nd, 1921, Roy was born at Meredith Hospital.  He was to be one of 9 children, – 8 boys (George, Albert, Ernie, Lawrie, Stan, Alan, Roy and Les) and 1 girl (Hazel), born to Harry and Margaret Trotter.  Steiglitz was a very different place almost 100 years ago.  Unlike the ‘living ghost town’ it is today (with only 8 residents) the Steiglitz Roy grew up in had enough people to man an active football & cricket team.  This was a town where, after paying a shilling to Mr Stratton, you sat in the Courthouse and enjoyed the latest silent movie.  Roy remembered the constant noise of a gold crushing battery.  And his eyes sparkled recalling the unforgettable day    Teddy Cooper (who ran the Post Office) brought the first ever car into town…a canvas topped Chev.

These were the days when Squizzy Taylor’s exploits filled front pages of the Argus. A time when both butcher and baker delivered their goods by horse and cart.  When some kids, like Roy, cracked live snakes.  And when all kids roamed the hills until dusk.

In 1927, Roy, along with 12 other students, attended the one surviving Steiglitz School.  He left in 1935, after completing Year 8.  I once asked him if he liked school, and he grinned; in a typically cheeky Roy manner.  Then laughed, recalling he’d been no stranger to the teacher’s strap!  

Even without trouble at school, or the hardships of country living, life in Steiglitz was tough. For just before Christmas, in 1932, his father died.  Roy was 11.  With so many to feed, it was lucky Roy’s mum was a champion cook (as was sister Hazel).  It helped that the Trotter boys spent Saturdays shooting as many rabbits as they could.  Sometimes bringing home eels too.  Recently, Roy’s little brother Les, laughed remembering a fearless 12-year-old Roy sticking his arm down a hole on one of those hunting expeditions.  What was funny was the look on Roy’s face, for it wasn’t a rabbit he pulled out, it was a huge snake! 

Like boys do, Roy loved his mum. He admired her cooking skills, inner strength, business sense and her compassion.   Roy remembered his mum bought up numerous buildings throughout their dying town, and, during the Great Depression, rented rooms out to prospectors for a shilling a week.  He was proud of the fact, that even if food was scarce on their own table, his mum never sent a hungry swagman away, without at least a billy of tea, or a slice of bread.

Roy’s nephew Doug Laird, knows this same generosity and compassion were traits that made Roy so special, “He would give you the shirt off his back, if you needed it.”

By 12 Roy was regularly gold panning. With gold at seven pounds an ounce, Roy reckoned, “Findin’ a pennyweight of gold a day made you feel you were a millionaire.” Though, apart from the three pieces of quartz he once found up near the Albion mine (which had gold ‘stickin out’), nuggets were scarce.  

1935, was a life changing year for Roy.  He was 14, and had just finished school.  Doug remembers Roy proudly saying it was the year he got his first axe.   1935 was also the year Roy left Steiglitz, to work on the Cowan’s dairy farm in Mooningyong.                                                                                        He worked seven days a week, rising at four am every morning, to milk 90 cows.  He found Summertimes the worst.  For after getting in hay and ‘stuff’, it would sometimes be 8.30 at night before he fell, exhausted, into bed.

By age 16, Roy was working in the outback. One day, the regular cook went missing and Roy filled in.  So began the first of many cooking jobs.  My absolute favourite of Roy’s cooking stories (and one which highlights how mischievous Roy could be) was during his time as an Army Cook in World War 2.

One of Roy’s jobs was to slice up the cheese each day.  And each day it would mysteriously disappear before the soldiers could enjoy it.  So, Roy came up with a solution.  In those days, Lux soap came in great big yellow blocks, just like cheese. They looked almost identical.  Yes, you guessed it…Roy carefully arranged a block of soap slices on the plate, then left it in the usual place.  Seems the cheese never got nicked again!

Roy worked many different jobs.  For he grew up in an era when you took whatever work you could find.   Whether trapping local rabbits and foxes for their pelts, picking grapes in Mildura (with his brothers), chopping wood, or working on the railway, Roy did it all.                    Including go to war.  

When conscripted in 1941, he and his brothers were stripping wattle bark in Bannockburn.  Roy became part of the City of Geelong Regiment – 23/21st Battalion, and spent the next three months digging trenches at Barwon Heads.  Then Darwin was bombed.  Trenches were forgotten as troops were deployed up the old Ghan line to the top of Australia.  Here, Roy witnessed first-hand, the destruction wrought by Japan – Darwin Harbour was filled with twisted, smoking ships!

Those 16 months protecting Australia were tough.  Roy saw things he never forgot.  Lost friends who simply never returned.  Met Aboriginals with mud covered dreadlocks, asking for ‘baccy.’  And came to realize, that while the bombings sent some soldiers ‘troppo’, they didn’t seem to affect him.  Infact, some nights, when others ran from their beds for the safety of trenches, he simply rolled over. 

Roy celebrated his 21st with bully beef, biscuits and bore water.  Although it tasted terrible, freshwater, when available, had to be retrieved from crocodile infested rivers.  So, bore water and beer rations sufficed.                                                      

Somewhere in those months, amidst the threat of being eaten by crocodiles, or killed by the Japanese, Roy became an Army cook, catering to the officers.  He laughed as he recalled how good it was to finally eat something apart from those tough old biscuits!                                                                                                                                     

Throughout his many travels Roy collected the tall tales and ‘pearls of wisdom’ for which he became famous.  There were such classics as, “I’m Trot, nothin’ but guts and determination!” His joke about the three nuns, “None today, none tomorrow, and none the next day!” My personal favourite, “Ya can’t kill a weed!” Or the one he kept for those he especially found annoying, “If you kick ‘em in the backside, they’d die of a cerebral haemorrhage!” 

This last one was, for many years, solely used on anyone connected with Parks Victoria.  Head Rangers, Chris Worrall, Stuart Willsher, and Ranger Judy Locke, sent me messages recalling their favourite memories of Roy. 

Although Judy didn’t know Roy well, she remembers Rangers tales of how their ‘replacing of Steiglitz toilet rolls’ had been overseen by Roy.  He was always adamant they hang the new rolls in what he knew was the ‘correct’ way, with the sheets at the back…not the front.”

Stuart’s tale was from the 1990s.                                                                                                                              

He says, “Roy was well known to wander the water courses located within the Brisbane Ranges and Steiglitz Park, collecting small, shiny and expensive pieces of precious metal.  Many a young Ranger, while doing their duties clearing culverts and filling potholes, was shocked when Roy would suddenly materialize as if out of nowhere. Once he made himself known, he’d then happily give his personal take on everything from the condition of the Park, to the state of the shovel the Ranger was using.  If Roy was enjoying himself, he may even add in some good-natured critiques and criticisms about individual local staff members.                                                                                                                                            

Then, just before the Ranger’s task had finished, Roy would switch tact and hit the Ranger up for a lift home.  Apparently, many a frazzled young Ranger was sent on his way with a hearty, ‘Thanks mate’ after dropping off the man Chris Worrall called the Eyes & Ears of Steiglitz.”

It seems the habit Roy had of walking unseen through the Steiglitz landscape was not limited to surprizing only Park Rangers. 

One neighbour, now passed, told me of how, on an unbearably hot night, she could bear it no longer.  It was dark outside, nobody was around, and the town dam was just next door.  So, naked as the day she was born, she rushed out to enjoy a few moments of relief in the cool breeze coming off the dam’s waters.  The next day, she bumped into Roy.  He looked at her and innocently said, “See you couldn’t sleep last night either.” Grace said it took her months to recover from the shock.

Roy may never have married, though that didn’t mean he was alone.  People filled his days.  He gave his time freely.  Doug & Maree’s children (Fleur and Lance), and Doug’s brother, Stretch & Helen’s children (Kate, Jessie, Emily and James) adored their years of BBQ’s, bushwalking and gold panning trips with Uncle Roy.  His kindness, knowledge and patience turned walks into excitement-filled-expeditions.  They became adventures, guaranteeing both new local knowledge and precious, shiny specks of gold. 

Roy’s niece, Kerry, recalls her dad (Alan) and Roy being like ‘two peas in a pod.’  She loved tagging along on hunting trips.  And recalled how Roy’s childhood habit of sticking his arm down a rabbit hole, hadn’t left him…though luckily, no snakes were caught that way again! 

Whether he knew it or not, Roy was an important part of many families.  Which is why so many children grew up calling him Uncle.  A sign of respect in times gone by, some (like Tracey Taylor) gave him that title out of love.  

Tracey’s grandparents lived in the old Post Office.  She spent every holiday at Steiglitz.  Uncle Roy was a part of her happy childhood.  As an adult, she asked Roy to attend her wedding. For she couldn’t imagine getting married without him there. However, her heart broke when he refused.  Tracey couldn’t understand why.  

We all know Roy was a very private man.   Apart from the odd joke, he never spoke of why he remained a bachelor.  Some thought it due to the local women being already taken by the time he returned from war.  While others thought he’d simply been too wild to settle down. 

However, that day, in an effort to ease Tracey’s pain, Roy shared a very precious memory with her.  He couldn’t attend her wedding because it would be too painful for him.  For he would be reminded of his one great love.  The woman he had loved, and heartbreakingly lost.  Not because she had married while he was at war, though because she had died before he left. 

Even those of us who were Roy’s neighbours, who considered him the Elder of Steiglitz, until today, had no idea.  Like much of Roy’s life, that special memory was kept close to his heart.

However, there were many things we did know about Roy.  Maree Laird knew both Roy & Doug could be found, on a Friday, at the Great Western Hotel…with Doug asleep in his car, and Roy having a ball at the pokies.  Roy’s sister-in-law, Jean Trotter, knew that nomatter how much she tried to teach him, Roy never mastered dancing, for he had two left feet. We also know Roy was honest, always immaculately dressed when heading into town; loved a beer; knew Steiglitz like no other; could be a smoothie with the ladies; didn’t mind a bet or two, and believed Fisherman’s Friends cough drops would cure even the worst of colds!  

We also knew he was one of the last of a generation to speak ‘true blue dinkum Aussie.’    When Roy came visiting he’d announce his arrival with a loud, “Hookey Up!”  He loved to throw old Aussie slang into a conversation.  And, always a gentleman, if women were present, he’d edit the ‘blue’ bits out.  Though sometimes, a whiskey or two saw that editing line blur slightly!  

At one stage Roys language skills came to the fore when he cheekily gave the local policeman a nickname - ‘pantyhose’ (too rude to explain).  This same constable contacted me, saying, although Roy & he didn’t see eye-to-eye he’d known of that nickname, and thought it brilliant!

Roy’s niece Kerry, and her daughter, Belinda, also knew Roy had a secret sweet tooth.  They regularly took the long journey from Melbourne to sit & visit with Uncle Roy.  At Easter Belinda would bring Easter eggs.  On his birthdays, she baked a cake.  Each time, nomatter what the sweet treat, Roy would insist they be quickly tucked away out of sight.  To be enjoyed later, at his own leisure.  While the wonderfully wacky beers Belinda collected for him on her world travels, where opened and appreciated on the spot.  He especially loved his ‘Trotter Ale.’

No conversation about Roy would be complete without mention of his incredible memory.  He had the ability to clearly recall moments, names and faces from his times in grade school.  Peter Sharp, now living in the old pub, recalls when he began emptying out an old well, in the middle of a paddock.  Roy came along and told him to keep an eye out for a shilling.  So Pete did.  Though he’d seen nothing, until, at the very bottom, sifting the sludge, a single coin appeared.  When he accused Roy of exaggerating (for it was only a sixpence) Roy came straight back with this.  “Well, I remember watching the blokes play a game of cards out the back of the Post Office, and a coin rolled off the table into that well.  I thought it was a shilling.  But it was back in 1928, so I could be wrong.”   Roy was 7 at the time!

There is no denying it, Roy was remarkable.  A neighbour, Sandra Dynon, remembers him as, ‘A true Aussie character who lived life on his own terms.’  

Even when Roy became ill and had to leave his beloved Steiglitz to move to Bannockburn, he still lived life on his own terms.                                                                                                                                                   It seems his absolute favourite part of modern living was having an indoor, flush toilet.  However, to reach said toilet, he must first cross cold tiles. After some thought, Roy came up with his own unique solution. Rather than put on slippers, he simply covered the cold tiles with his tracksuit pants.  When family mentioned the possible danger to nurses, they explained as quickly as they picked them up, Roy would just as quickly throw them back down.  

As with any problem in life, Roy had found a solution, and was sticking to it! 

Roy Trotter was a man dearly loved…by many.  When younger, he was definitely no angel.  Though after 80 years or so, Roy began to mellow quite nicely.  Many know how his generosity inspired others to be generous.  How his kindness and patience were appreciated by all.  Roy’s laughter, tales and recollections of a time we now only read about in books, will be greatly missed. As will his incredible fighting spirit.                                                                                              

For those of us in Steiglitz, who saw Roy as part of our quirky little family, the town we all called home, will never be the same without him. 

For Roy Trotter was definitely one of a kind.                                                           

I’m laughing typing that last line, for I can hear his retort, “And that’s no Bullamakanka!”

There’s another favourite saying Roy had, “There are no rich men in a cemetery.”                                                                                                 Today, I’d have to disagree with him…just this once.                                                                                                                                                                      

For it would seem Roy is one of the richest men we know.  Rich in a way that matters most.  In a way money can’t buy.  Roy’s immense wealth is evident in the sadness of those who loved him.  Those who miss him in our lives.  His wealth glows in the hearts of we who will never forget him. 

Like all of us who call Steiglitz home, Roy wanted to take his last breath here.  Unfortunately, an illness saw that dream taken away.  However, he’s now home again.  

Roy wanted a graveside service, of which it was my honour to conduct.  He would have been humbled to know over 100 people attended to say their final goodbyes.  The laughter & love of so many friends made the moment a true Celebration, of a life well lived.  

Especially apt was the last ‘song’ played.  Roy, his radio & the race calls were inseparable.  Yes, you guessed it…Roy’s coffin was lowered to his final resting place accompanied by his favourite music…the Melbourne Cup race call.                                                                    

Goodbye Roy…we’ll miss you so!

Roy passed away on Sunday, 6th August 2017.


 Roy Trotter (right), with his little brother Les (or Smokey as Anakie know him).

 written by Lindy Allinson, of Steiglitz Township.