Saturday 17th Nov, 2018

THE GRILL: Laurie Walsh


How long have you been with the Mission to Seafarers?
Since October 2015. I usually play host but I also drive the van to pick up the seafarers at the wharf. I work behind the bar and sell things and provide advice to seafarers if they want it. I also just potter around emptying bins and making myself useful. I like working in this historic building which is 100 years old this year. After finishing my working career I just wanted a way to stay useful and involved with an important cause and that’s what I’ve found being with the Mission to Seafarers.

Did you previously work in the maritime industry?
A long time ago when I first left school. I was a deck hand on a New Zealand coastal ship way back in 1965. It was an interesting experience – the seas used to get pretty rough down that way – but I decided that the life of a mariner wasn’t the best career path for me.

What career did you adopt?
I was a chef for years. In restaurants and owned a couple of bars over the years in Auckland. They were lively times and left me with many good memories. But I needed a change and came to Australia in 1979. At that point I had a major career change and became manager of a cemetery in Burwood (Melbourne’s eastern suburbs).

What does cemetery management entail?
Taking bookings, delegating work, getting grave-digging done on time. It was a good role – I was outside a lot and supervising people’s burials. It certainly wasn’t dead boring (ha ha). Anyway, when I retired in February 2015, I realised it was time to do something different and that’s what I got by volunteering for the Mission.

What hobbies have you got?
I shoot flintlock rifles. Something I’ve been interested in for a long time. I’ve got a 50-caliber flintlock muzzleloader. I go to a rifle range near Geelong twice a month. I find the experience tremendously enjoyable and another thing that gets me out of the house. We’ve even got a (small) club cannon that we set off sometimes. It looks good when it goes off (laughs).

Favourite television program?
Not really. I watch movies but I prefer to read and am something of a bookworm. The book I’m reading at the moment is about how to organise a crusade. It’s about how they recruited and armed soldiers for the crusades and how they kept track of the finances. It is quite interesting. I’m a history buff.

What New Zealander do you most admire?
Sir Edmund Hillary. Not just for his incredible mountaineering skills but for what he did for the people of Nepal to build schools and hospitals. And he was also just an incredible man in his own right. He was a successful businessman with his honey trade.

What three items would you want if you were marooned on a desert island?
Drinking water, a knife and a fishing rod. At least it would be an excuse to do some extra fishing. Might not be a bad experience (laughs).

Have you got a favourite super hero?
No. I’m not really into the concept of super heroes or hero worship. You can still admire and respect people for what they do without going into adulation. But super heroes are really a bit silly.

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From the print edition February 9, 2017

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