Mourning for unsung hero
MORE than 200 people gathered on the foreshore at Lennox Head yesterday to farewell one of the stalwarts of the local surf lifesaving club, and many other sports, Phil Murray.
Members of the Lennox Head Lifesavers as well as the town’s rugby league club and rugby Golden Oldies joined the family, friends and colleagues of Phil, a journalist whose last position was as a sub-editor at The Northern Star, a paper previously edited by his father, Cliff.
Phil, 60, grew up in Lismore Heights but at the age of 10 developed an abiding love of Lennox Head, after his family built a weekender in Stewart Street.
As well as fishing at the beach, and swimming and canoeing in Lake Ainsworth, it was the beginning of a lifelong devotion to the surf. He gained his bronze medal in 1966 at the age of 16.
Garry Owen from the Surf Club called him ‘an unsung hero’ of the lifesaving movement, a man who ‘would always show up at the drop of a hat’.
A photograph in the funeral program shows him standing happily at his beloved Seven Mile Beach, two weeks before he died, and after being housebound for five weeks with the cancer that killed him. It was his last visit, and one on which he insisted that he do the driving.
Phil was also captain-coach with the Lennox Head Rugby League Club. He played for it in his 40s and in the ’90-’91 season they didn’t lose a game.
Passionate about all sport, including squash, he founded the Golden Oldies rugby side with Col Hendry in 1990.
Mr Hendry said Phil was ‘old school – tough, reliable and active’, and while he was outgoing and community minded, he was also a very private person.
Phil was a respected journalist, a craft he practised from Melbourne to Townsville.
After returning to Lismore 22 years ago, he worked at Ballina Primary School but returned to journalism, sub-editing at The Star and papers on the Gold Coast and in Tweed.
Acting editor Dave Kirkpatrick said of him: “Phil was a great bloke to work alongside because you could have a laugh with him, but when the pressure was on he’d be right in there with his nose to the grindstone.”
He is survived by four children, Renay, Troy, Matt and Sean, and his partner Bev.