Wednesday, August 29, 2012


The following obituary was written up in "The Age" newspaper in Melbourne. Jock worked for The Age for over 25 years.


25-7-1921 — 28-7-2012

Key role in Age's real estate mastery
by Kevin Norbury
24 August 2012

RAY Davie, whose long career as a distinguished journalist ranged from reporting in court the day Ronald Ryan was sentenced to be hanged, to being appointed The Age's first and long-running real estate editor, has died of complications from pneumonia at a nursing home in Wantirna. He was 91.

Davie played a pivotal role in building up the paper's real estate section in its glory days and won respect across Melbourne's real estate industry and beyond. Even Barry Humphries, as Sandy Stone reminiscing about the iconic images of Melbourne in one of his shows in the 1980s, referred to "The Age Real Estate section edited by Ray Davie" - much to the surprise of Davie's daughter and son-in-law, who were in the audience.

Whether it was a Toorak mansion or a humble Footscray weatherboard, Davie made each house for sale worth seeing, or at least reading about. His descriptions were literary gems. He had a beautiful turn of phrase, a style that had the lilt of an Irish barmaid.

He also reviewed crime books for the The Age. After he retired in 1988, at age 67, he continued his reviews, expanding his vast library well into his 80s.

Davie was born at Kadina, north-west of Adelaide, to Fred, a bank manager, and Doris. His mother died when he was only six weeks old and he was raised by his grandparents at Kapunda, a small town near the Barossa Valley. He liked school and excelled in English and maths. At school he loved playing cricket and also bicycle riding. His idol was Sir Donald Bradman, whom he once saw play. Something he never forgot was passing Bradman in the street one day when the great man worked at the Adelaide Stock Exchange. In later life he spent a lot of time watching cricket.

Even as a boy, Davie started writing children's stories and at the age of nine had his first fiction published in the English comic, Rainbow. Several times a month he'd be up early and waiting at the Kapunda library before 7am for librarian Freddy Arbury to arrive so he could "bag" the latest copy of Chums or Boys Own Paper.

After Davie finished high school, his father and grandfather wanted him to become a pharmacist because he found maths and sciences easy, but the young man wanted to go to university to study writing. At 18, he got a job at the Adelaide Library and started an arts degree. Then World War II intervened.

After his grandmother died, Davie rode his bicycle from Kapunda to Melbourne to enlist, and joined the AIF in June 1940. He saw active service in the Middle East and rose to the rank of sergeant.

On leave he met Doreen O'Neill on St Kilda beach. They married in 1942, and had five children. The newly-weds went to live in Warwick, Queensland, but returned to Melbourne in 1944 after he was discharged from the army with chronic asthma. They moved to Bendigo thinking the warmer climate might help his asthma. There he started writing wartime stories, many appearing in The Argus and The Herald in Melbourne.

Davie did any work he could, from carpentry to picking tomatoes. His first full-time job was on the Bendigo trams. He also started a course with Melbourne Correspondence School to become a journalist. One of his examiners was Alan Marshall, author of I can Jump Puddles, who wrote on his paper: "Sergeant, you write in a way that I find attractive and interesting. You see with a clear eye and you see beautiful things … Never lose faith in yourself."

Each night Davie tapped out short stories, comedy, mystery, even a dash of romance on his old Remington typewriter. These appeared in newspapers and magazines, including Smith's WeeklyNew Idea and Australasian Post. He also started writing children's stories and took up photography. In later years he never went out without a camera dangling around his neck.

His first job in journalism was on Bendigo radio station 3BO, prompting him to start writing radio plays. Some were broadcast on the ABC. Later, he joined Radio 3AW and in 1961 moved back to Melbourne.

Because he was good at shorthand, Davie's next job was as a court reporter for Truth newspaper. He was in court the day Ryan, the last man hanged in Victoria, was sentenced to death for killing a jail warder; he also attended premier Henry Bolte's press conference to announce Ryan's fate.

It wasn't long before Davie came under the watchful eye of one of Australia's most celebrated editors, Graham Perkin, and became chief law courts reporter at The Age. It was also Perkin who appointed him the paper's first real estate editor. Perkin needed someone to write about real estate with accuracy and authority, to stop the arguments among estate agents over who was getting their houses in the paper.

Davie ran the section, according to one former editor, "with an iron fist".

Davie often spoke fondly of the journalism cadets who had spent time in the real estate section, and he followed their careers with something akin to fatherly pride.

His shorthand ability never left him. He even wrote his shopping lists in shorthand. "I had to remind him that I had no idea what he had listed," said his daughter Jenni. "As recently as a year ago, at the age of 90, there were little notes in his writing pad only he could understand - all written in shorthand."

He was known by most in the family as "Jock", a nickname he was given by his second son, Robin, who as a child was small and destined to be a jockey. But then he put on a growth spurt and dubbed his father "Jock" instead, and the name stuck.

Davie's daughters described their father as a gentle soul, a little shy, but witty, with a wicked sense of humour. Only days before he died, on his 91st birthday, he was trying to make his two daughters feel happier by telling them he "really did only feel 80" - with a cheeky look in his eye.

There was a sad side to Davie's life few work colleagues knew about. Back in the 1970s, a daughter, Merryn, then only 11, was killed when thrown from a horse. Less than 10 years later, in 1980, his wife, Doreen, died of a heart attack, aged 57, and both his sons died within four months of each other in 1999-2000 - David, aged 55, and Robin, 53 - of the rare inherited Fabry disease.

After his wife died, Davie built a flat behind his daughter Ailsa's home in Kilsyth, where he lived for 19 years. Only in the past couple of years did he use a walking frame. But not when he went shopping. Then he used a walking stick - and swung it like Fred Astaire.

Davie is survived by his daughters, Ailsa, and Jenni, nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Kevin Norbury, a former Age journalist, worked with Ray Davie in the early 1980s.

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