Vale Bernie Shirvington, Life Member of Gordon Rugby Club
27th May, 1922 – 29th November, 2016 (aged 94)
Bernie, like so many of his time, just got on and did it.
Born in Forbes, he came to Sydney with his parents in 1929. He played many sports including cricket, Aussie Rules, tennis and of course Rugby. Educated at Marist Brothers North Sydney, he left school after completing the Intermediate and took a job with NSW Railways, where he worked until he retired, in 1979, aged 57.
His working career, was interrupted by the war. At age 18 he enlisted in the Navy and saw 5 years active service in New Guinea while serving on Fairmile 814 Patrol boat. Decorated for bravery, he simply said that there were 10 volunteers from a crew of 10, he was the one standing closest to the rubber duckie. He went ashore to extricate some Coastal Watch army officers who were being tracked through the jungle by an enemy patrol. He found the men but it was too late to flee. Under the cover of darkness, Bernie instructed all to dig into the sand with only heads showing along the grass line. The patrol passed by, at a close distance, not noticing “the line of Coconuts” sitting on top of the sand. Back on board Fairmile, Bernie gave haircuts to all Officers. Unfortunately, when the Officers were being airlifted back to Brisbane, their plane was shot down killing all on board – when told of the news, Bernie’s response was “What a waste of a bloody good haircut”
After returning from the war and upon his discharge he settled down with Mary who together had a 72 year marriage, parenting 4 sons (Paul, Phillip, Patrick and Brian). Mary passed away in April of last year, aged 93. Together they have left a legacy of 42 family members.
Bernie had a love of sport and a huge love affair with the Gordon Rugby club, where he played 6 seasons and coached for many years after his active playing years. Bernie also served on various club committees for many years.
Bernie, together with other great Gordon personalities, was instrumental in “harvesting” future players from the surrounding schools – players who were to become the soul and future of the Gordon Rugby Club. Bernie was also on the original Management Committee to oversee the creation of the Gordon Social and Recreation Club.
His understanding of the game and the people who played it was paramount. In 1971 he started, together with my brother Patrick, what was to be the first Gordon Rugby Gym (under the Cedric Pike stand). He realised then that successful players needed more than natural strength and power to play the game. Current FOG’s, Al Kirkby and JT still remind me of the weightlifting sessions (albeit primitive) under the grand stand. “Huge” Trollope also talks regularly about Bernie and his long-standing friendships with three generations of Gordon men.
Bernie won’t be missed as he will always be with us. A great man of strength, courage, conviction and faith. We know that he was comfortable and confident in death.
A Gordon – Get Fa Ya Ba.
A celebration of Bernie’s Life will be held
Monday, 5th December
Francis Xavier Church
MacKenzie Street, Lavender Bay