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Nimbin farewells John 'Smoulder' Brunsdon

Widgabul custodian Gilbert Laurie performs a smoking ceremony on behalf of 'Smoulder' who was a valued member of the Nimbin community and staunch advocate for the legalisation of marijuana. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star
Widgabul custodian Gilbert Laurie performs a smoking ceremony on behalf of 'Smoulder' who was a valued member of the Nimbin community and staunch advocate for the legalisation of marijuana. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star Marc Stapelberg

NIMBIN identity John 'Smoulder' Brunsdon never could get arrested for his public commitment to marijuana legalisation, but he also never stopped trying.

The popular personality on the streets of Nimbin liked to smoke joints in front of policemen on certain occasions but they always refused to put him in cuffs.

Mr Brunsdon died peacefully last week.

He was fondly remembered outside Nimbin's Rainbow Cafe yesterday, when more than 100 friends gathered to celebrate his life.

Born in Melbourne, in 1940, Smoulder was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age.

He suffered the ignominy of being put in leg irons at a 'special school' as a youngster even though he could walk.

After that early experience, much of his adventurous life was spent upending people's stereotypes about people with disabilities.

He managed to escape Melbourne in his early 20s, hitch-hiking to Sydney, and secured a job in a factory run by the Spastic Society.

Three years later he started his own lawn mowing business which he ran for 20 years.

He eventually turned up at Nimbin in 1999.

There he was named Smoulder, because he often had a smouldering joint in his hand - and also because of his fiery temperament.

Close friend Natalie Meyer said he cherished his independence above all else, even the basic comforts of life.

She said it wasn't surprising that Smoulder lived 20 years longer than the average person with cerebral palsy - it was a "fitting conclusion for a man who spent most his life bucking the trends and norms, and proving everybody wrong".

He was described as "smart, clever, witty, and did not suffer fools at all".

If he had grown up in today's era which better embraces people with disabilities, he would probably have gone on to hold multiple degrees, she said.

Celebrant Denise Paitson said that in Nimbin Smoulder had the freedom to live the life he wanted, living in his own house and becoming a much-loved member of the community.

He could often be seen on Nimbin's streets, a beloved part of Nimbin's roll call of colourful characters.

He used his motorised scooter to make much mischief, Ms Paitson said.

"He did love being really naughty. He was quite often seen sitting there in his chair either deliberately trying to run them over or trip them up with his stick," she joked.

"He was highly intelligent, he was a philosopher, he was witty, funny and intelligent - the real deal."

Topics:  editors picks marijuana nimbin



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