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Australian musician made whoopee thanks to Liverpudlian's sea change




11-5-1924 4-8-2011

CHARLIE Holmes, who left the grimy docks of Liverpool in 1949 to find a new life in Australia, has died at the Monash Medical Centre in Clayton, aged 87.

Born on the Isle of Man, where his father had bought, sight unseen, a three-field farm, the large family of 12 moved back to Liverpool when the land proved poor.

Charlie and his nine siblings made good he became a pattern maker. After World War II ended, the government planned to send him "down the mines", so he went to Australia House in London and within two weeks was on an immigrant ship to Sydney. However, he soon found himself entombed in a different way in an airless factory.

Charlie lit out for the high country and found a job as a carpenter on Victoria's Kiewa Hydro scheme at Bogong Village, where on a climb to Mount Bogong he met Norma McLaren. They were married within a year. Both were adventurers, skiers and bush walkers, and they travelled Australia in a little Bradford van, working in Townsville, Thursday Island and on the Eildon Weir scheme. They eventually settled in Beaumaris, where Charlie became the woodwork teacher at the local high school.

He built a house by himself that became home for his three sons, and maintained his lifelong love of the high country through life membership of the CSIRO ski club and leading many work parties to build and maintain their lodges.

He went on to train woodwork teachers at Melbourne State College, where among the students he mentored was Mic Conway, who carved a beautiful washboard that became the emblem of the Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band.

In retirement, Charlie led bush walks, sang in choirs, built sets for amateur theatres, attended U3A courses, and dabbled in astronomy. He is survived by Norma, sons Derek, Max and Warren, three granddaughters, two great-granddaughters and two siblings.

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