Goulburn says goodbye to Bob Thurling

Former Goulburn Local Court magistrate Mary Jerram couldn’t hide the smile remembering the day the late Bob Thurling gave her some chooks.

Mr Thurling, the former clerk of petty sessions, had just attended a deceased estate on a district property with his deputy registrar, Kelly Anable. As Mrs Anable tells it, rain drenched the chook yard as both went slipping and sliding trying to catch the pecking birds.

“He picked up the last two, delivered them to the courtroom door, gave them to Mary and said ‘there you go, take them. They’re all yours, take them home. We’ve had enough’,” Mrs Anable said.

Mrs Jerram, who had a property on the Crookwell Road at the time, wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be grateful.

The woman who went on to become State Coroner was just one of many who attended Mr Thurling’s funeral service at Sts Peter and Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday. He died on September 5 in Canberra Hospital following a stroke, aged seventy-nine.

“He was one of the old style gents,” Mrs Jerram said.

“He was lovely to work with, old fashioned and polite and had a great way with staff.”

Mr Thurling was clerk of petty sessions from 1991 to 1999 at Goulburn but had a long public service career.

Son Peter recalled a father who always wanted to help people. Born in 1939 at Port Macquarie, one of four children, his older brother Charlie was diagnosed with polio as a teenager. The young Robert would perch himself on the end of the bed, telling him he wanted to be a doctor so he could help his brother and others.

“From that point on he was known by his family as ‘Doc’ and an interest in serving others, a hallmark of his life, had begun,” Peter said.

The family moved to Casino when he was 16 and after completing the intermediate certificate, Mr Thurling sat the public service exam. He joined the Department of Lands at the local courthouse. Later he travelled extensively with the War Service Land Settlement Board and worked for the Attorney general’s department.

“He used to say with pride that he had worked in some capacity in every courthouse in the State during his 44 years in the NSW Public Service,” Peter said.

In 1963, he married Val Baskerville from Casino, whom he’d met as a teenager. Peter recalled an enduring love; a couple who “did everything together and everything for each other.” On occasions his father would stand to one side and say: “Look at your mother. Isn’t she beautiful?”

But he also imparted valuable lessons to his children, like the importance of always doing one’s best. His cheeky, prankster side emerged often.

“This larrikin streak was well known to his work colleagues, who often suffered his sense of humour,” Peter said.

“Dad was proud of his courthouses and loved his job, especially his role as coroner where his compassion for people experiencing the worst of times came to the fore. This understanding nature was also apparent to people who approached him for legal advice in his role as chamber magistrate.”

He knew everyone not just through his work but community involvement. Mr Thurling was involved with the Saint Vincent de Paul Society from the 1960s, volunteered for school P&Fs and junior sporting clubs. Following retirement in 1999 he became involved in the Parish, serving on the finance committee, and was instrumental in starting the community transport service from Goulburn Base Hospital.

But he didn’t mind getting his hands dirty either. Peter said his father was the Mr Fix It, tinkering in his shed, especially with his beloved Morris Minor tip truck named ‘Mack.’ He was also curious about about new things and people, and loved to hear their stories. Mr Thurling wrote beautiful letters and detailed diaries. Only the night before he took ill, he told his wife how much he loved her and thanked her for all the little things she did for him.

“Dad lived a life full of happiness, hard work, curiosity, compassion, fellowship and love,” Peter said. 

“Dad, you have been described to us again and again this week as a good man, a gentleman, a kind man, a funny man, a straight shooter. You were all of these, and most of all you were a loved man. We are all the better for having known you, and all the sadder that you are no longer with us.”

Mrs Thurling told The Post she would remember her husband as a caring, kind and generous person who always wanted to help others.

He is also survived by children Helen, Jan and Therese, their spouses and six grandchildren.

A private cremation took place on Wednesday.

Some tributes

Ursula Stephens

”I served with Bob on the Parish finance committee for two and a half years. He was a gentleman. When I was a senator he helped me a lot. Whenever constituents needed advice he was always there to sort out things like birth certificates and visas. He’d clear a path.

“On the finance committee he had a clear head and a thoughtful approach. He was also a big part of Saint Vincent de Paul. His passing is a loss to the parish and the community.”

Kelly Anable

“He was an amazing man to work for (at the Goulburn courthouse) because he got everyone wanting to do the right thing. He had everyone morally conscious about things.

“He went over and above for everyone and brought out the best in people.”

Pat Bourke (fellow parishioner and friend)

I was very close to Bob. When I did the catering (for the parish), he washed up for me.

“He was fabulous and was one of the funniest men. He would email me dozens of jokes every day so I could tell them at Probus.”

Melissa Walsh – Transport For Health SNSWLHD

“Bob was one of our original volunteer drivers of the Transport For Health service and a regular at our Christmas Party up until last year 2017.

“(He) played a crucial role dating as far back as 1999- 2000 in the setup for the service including rostering, wound clinic, statistics and recruitment. Volunteering his time willingly for the benefit of the community, Bob was compelled to make a difference and his selfless dedication to the Transport for Health and Goulburn Community assisted a great many people.”