NEW PODCAST EPISODE #44 — 'Solomon in a singlet'
Andrew Rule is a legendary investigative reporter and true crime author. His 1998 eulogy to his father Keith Rule is an ode to Australian bush life. One of the great eulogies.
It’s one of the great photos too.
Andrew Rule gave it the title ‘Solomon in a singlet’ when it first ran in The Age a few days after his father Keith Rule’s death from cancer in June 1998. At the funeral a few days later, Andrew read the text pretty much verbatim, with a few adlibs. He regards himself much more as a writer than as a speaker, and there’s so much care in the construction of this one. There is no surviving audio of the actual delivery so Andrew was good enough to record a read for the podcast. Here is the standalone eulogy, and below that the full episode with our chat.
There’s so many reasons why this is a great eulogy, many are to do with Andrew Rule being an incredibly gifted and experienced writer, but here are a few pointers that might help a less experienced writer construct a eulogy:
it’s written in the second person. This ups the emotional impact. A lot of eulogies shift to second person for the final farewell. It’s tough to maintain second person for a whole speech, emotionally draining, but can be very effective;
a meaningful physical object as a motif — in this case it’s the axe.
a phrase that the deceased used, repeated for effect. ‘Neat as you please’ is the one here. In another Andrew Rule eulogy, for friend and colleague Les Carlyon, he repeats, ‘Won’t keep you, Les’;
contrast between the vitality of life lived, and the recent experience of dying. This is particularly poignant here. ‘It took a while, Dad, but you've finally run up against something you can't fix with the axe. It's cancer, though none of us knew that until it was too late.’
It’s a beautiful transcript. I’ll add it below.
I’m really grateful to Andrew for reading it, and it’s hard yards revisiting a parental goodbye. This was his first take on his Dad’s most celebrated footy moment.
Andrew Rule and I ‘swapped podcasts’ so to speak and I’m his current guest on ‘Life and Crimes’. We talked about roguish AFL footballers in an episode called ‘Black Sheep in Footy Boots’.
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27 June, 1998, Lake Tyers, Victoria, Australia
The morning after we got the news, I went out to your woodheap. There was that big old axe you used in the bush all those years ago, just as you'd left it, stuck in the chopping block like a signature. I split wood until the memories and the tears came flooding in. Then I dropped the axe back in the block, nose down, handle sticking up, as neat as you please. Just like you would, Dad.
Remember how we used to get around in the old Blitz army truck, the one you'd bought when you were 16 and drove for years before you got a licence? I hadn't started school, but I'd begun my education, sprawled on the petrol tank that doubled as a seat, my head on your lap, lulled by the old side-valve V-8 grumbling away behind its thin tin cowling.
I watched the way you used to pat the old girl into gear, those huge work-stained hands easing the gear stick through the unforgiving crash box while you double-clutched and caught the revs just right.
"Listen to her," you'd say as we labored up a hill with tons of timber or a bulldozer on the back, "slurping petrol fast as you could pour it out of a two-gallon bucket." And you'd laugh and sing King of the Road.
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