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With the passing of Gough Whitlam, Mike Welsh takes a moment to reflect on the two times he brushed up against this national political icon…
I met EG Whitlam once, possibly twice.
I’m still not sure.
With the MCG final siren ringing in my ears, I drunkenly lurched into the Southern Cross Hotel lift which just contained one rider… a tall, broad-shouldered, imposing man who, in my “emotional” state, looked vaguely familiar.
I told him as much, too.
Surprisingly unfettered by post Prime Ministerial chaperonery, this Prime Minister of Prime Ministers was extremely cordial under the circumstances. Gough thrust out a huge hand and, with the timbered, cultured voice of a stage actor/emperor, subtly suggested I’d obviously, “had a good day at the football, comrade…”
Gough alighted the lift at the next floor possibly smirking (excuse my unreliable memory), but hopefully amused at the drunken bogan who had failed to fully recognise the great EG Whitlam.
I did meet the great man again about 15 years ago.
EG was visiting the Hastings area as guest speaker at an Architectural conference at Port Macquarie. The local ALP branch seized the opportunity to get Gough to sign a couple of bottles of fundraising Red. Media were invited but Mr Whitlam was not his usual amenable self and brusquely rebuffed the first media question from a reporter from the local newspaper. I thought it was just an example of the famous Whitlam wit and stepped forward to ask my question which only angered him more.
The tape recorder I had pointed in his direction was ordered “OFF.”
Again, I thought Gough was entertaining the small but adoring gathering of local true believers, but I thought wrong.
I bore the lash of the famous Whitlam tongue… but considered it a privilege.
Vale Gough Whitlam