Nimbin mourns loss of Chicken George
By ANDY PARKS firstname.lastname@example.org NIMBIN identity John Taylor, know as 'Chicken George', has died aged 66 after a long battle with throat cancer.
According to his friend, 'Doc' Peter Hendrix, Chicken George passed away on the night of December 20 in the company of his wife Cassy and daughter Samantha.
"He was one of the people that nearly never made it," Mr Hendrix said. "He found what he was looking for in the sense he was accepted (by the Nimbin community). He could put into the community and was accepted and well respected.
"He could have been a drunk on the side of the road or a junkie, but he found a way and he made it."
According to Nimbin Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone, the nickname 'Chicken George' came from a time when he was involved in the Woolgoolga Football Club.
"I think he was named after a VFL football legend. He played for Woolgoolga and I think he was assistant coach and they won the premiership in his first year there," Mr Balderstone said. "It was one of the high points of his life."
Chicken George was born John Taylor, but to thousands of people he was 'The Plantem', the public face of Nimbin's annual Mardigrass. He also appeared as Constable Grunter with his dog Sniffy in Nimbin's cannabis law reform rallies.
"I want to get the message across and give young people the information and space to make informed decisions," he said in an interview with The Northern Star several months ago. "I get a lot of pleasure from helping people."
John Taylor spent much of his young life surrounded by domestic violence and in boys' homes.
"I was in Mt Penang orphanage at Gosford when I turned 16," he said. "There were about 200 boys there and all of us who turned 16 were automatically issued two packets of papers and two ounces of tobacco and, like any youth, I wanted to be part of the group, so I joined in by smoking."
"If I'd had more information available to me then I wouldn't have smoked.
"I could see smoking and alcohol was damaging my life so I gave smoking away in 1998 and alcohol in 1994."
Before adopting Nimbin as his home town, John Taylor was an ordinance officer with Coffs Harbour Council. When his marriage broke up he was in despair and took to the road for a journey lasted 15 years.
"The 10 years since I arrived in Nimbin have been the happiest of my life. I got involved with the community and the Hemp Embassy and it gave me a purpose, it saved me," he said.
Michael Balderstone made the following tribute to Chicken George.
"He entertained, influenced and educated literally thousands of people working in the Hemp Embassy. He was a great story-teller and extremely funny. He lived an extraordinary life with a tough childhood, quite a time in jail, a variety of careers, and fortunately for us he eventually found sanctuary in Nimbin."
A funeral will be held in Nimbin tomorrow from 1pm. His body will be taken from the hospital, taken down the main street in a coffin and 'planted' at the cemetery.