A Eulogy for David Diprose
Given in St David’s Cathedral, Hobart on
28 June 2011
There is a Yiddish word, Chutzpah, which means “Impudence so outstanding as to command admiration”.
In David’s Greville Street days I ran into an attractive French lady who, like David, had a shop in Greville Street. She told me that one Sunday David had taken her for a drive in the Dandenongs. It was about 3:00 in the afternoon. They felt hungry and stopped at a country store advertising sandwiches. The shopkeeper said they only sold sandwiches between 12 and 2:00 Unperturbed by this, David purchased a loaf of bread, some butter and some ham. He asked the shopkeeper for the loan of a knife which he was given. He then proceeded to prepare ham sandwiches on the shop counter. He gave the guy his knife back, and they went on their way. The French lady said she had never seen anyone do anything like that in France.
That was David.
I first met David in the Ref at Uni in1967. We got together and wrote a couple of scripts for the Uni Revue. We sparked off one another and I liked to think we were one of those great comic teams like Pete and Dud. Well maybe.
Then we shared a flat. It was at 37 Elizabeth Street in what is now the Mall. It was on the top floor above a ladies hairdresser and a delicatessen called The Pantry. It was known far and wide as “The Pantry Flat”.
This was the era of the musical “Hair” and Sergeant Pepper. This was the era of 10 o’clock closing and after-the-pub parties. It was a great flat for parties because there were no neighbours to complain about the noise. Back then the Hobart CBD was deserted at nights and weekends.
At weekends Kerry used to hitch down from Campbell Town or St Mary’s or wherever she was teaching.
Finally David married Kerry and moved to the Mainland and got a real job. First in Millicent SA and then in Canberra and finally in Sydney where he and Kerry had an establishment rather similar to the Pantry Flat, just off Oxford Street. I remember staying there one Saturday night when it was packed with genial Irish folk singers.
For the next several decades David seemed to oscillate between Melbourne and Sydney. In the early 70’s he had an alternative bookshop in Greville Street, Prahran. It was called “Toad Hall”. At this time Greville Street was the Haight-Ashbury of Victoria’s hippy movement. Unfortunately hippies are not big spenders and Toad Hall struggled as did its competitor “Heffelump” across the road. Finally Heffelump and Toad Hall joined forces and moved to Commercial Road next to the Prahran Market.
Sales immediately quadrupled.
It was about this time that David moved back to Sydney and established a bookshop in Walker Street specializing in computer-related books. Ultimately he ran Apple Computer agencies.
His Walker Street bookshop was doing so well he decided to open a second shop, this time in the new Jam Factory development, also in Prahran in Melbourne. When he came down from Sydney from time to time he would visit us in Elwood where we then lived. I remember one occasion when, late one night we hopped in my car to go over to Fitzroy Street to get a pizza and were pulled over by the police. I was driving the car, but David, usually a law abiding sort of chap, decided to take over negotiations with the constabulary. I vividly remember the following exchange:
David: “Look Mate we were not breaking any law.”
Copper (through gritted teeth):“I am not your mate I am Sergeant Smith.”
David: “Look, Sergeant Smith ...”
Unfortunately he said “Sergeant Smith” so sarcastically that the good sergeant took umbrage and sent David off to spend a night in the cells of the St Kilda lock-up. They let me go home and I picked him up at 6:00 am the next morning. No charges were laid.
His Jam Factory bookshop was a disaster. The young couple he had put in to manage it turned out to be heroin addicts. A couple of decades later another business of his also failed disastrously when he re-hired a former employee he felt sorry for. This guy had just finished 6 months in Long Bay Gaol. David’s entire stock of computers was cleaned out early one morning. Both businesses failed for a similar reason – David’s generosity – his propensity for helping lame dogs over styles, his misplaced trust.
He was not really a good businessman. He was too generous, too imaginative perhaps. I think he missed his true vocation. He loved organizing events, organizing openings, displays, parties, art exhibitions. He should have been a professional party organizer.
But what we all remember and loved about David was his vitality. Even in these last dreadful months he managed to keep his pecker up and front up at parties and events and meetings of his Constitution Society.
He was a party animal to the end.