Red Ned Tudor Mysteries

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

In Memoriam Nick Sams

 Vale Nick
To all my readers I wish you a happy and safe New Year in the hope that it will be an improvement on the last.  Traditionally the New Year break or the twelve days of Christmas and the older Roman Saturnalia was a pause in the yearly cycle.  Up north its when the Yule tide log is ceremonially burned as symbol of the returning power of the sun, as those enduring a northern winter begin to count the days until the cold departs.  Always it has been a time of renewal and new hope, when pledges are made for the coming seasons and the old year is recalled in both happy memory and regret.  All of us around the world celebrated, mostly with family and community
 -- some of you I’m sure saw the wonderful fireworks from Sydney Harbour Bridge.  That was always my favourite New Years spot and a pleasant inspiring sight to carry into the next year.
For the good Doctor it is the same, on this New Years Eve he managed to catch up with a dozen old school friends and their families, who’d travelled in some cases thousands of miles to share the pledging of troths and swap old stories and new.  In a few instance I hadn’t seen these dear friends for far too many years.  The usual excuses of life and drama that we often come up with always feel so inadequate when you greet them after such a long break.  However with the lads of the KDD fellowship Knox Drinking and Driving society 1978, though here I must pause and add in real honesty that never in all those years did they undertake those pursuits at the same time.  Not ever!  But I digress, apart from the fact that they were good honest friends at school, one of their endearing traits is their welcome and friendship is always extended to any new members of the fellowship either by marriage, association or just visitors.
Their other unfailing trait is that no matter how long the time lag, distance or irregularity of contact, when you do finally coincide, it is as if you’d only been away a few weeks.  The wry smile, the hug, the joyful welcome its always there and always the same. 
Now I know dear friends and readers that the Doctor has usually given forth in a lightly satirical tone regarding some the common misconceptions and mistruths of modern life and history to entertain and enlighten.  Though you no doubt understood that the articles on the Great War where very much from the heart.
In this missive I am forced to put aside the common banter and talk about loss.  In my study of history I often came across references to the ravages of plague famine and war and the toll that had upon the Medieval or Tudor family.  Frequently it has been lightly glossed over, by dare I say older usually single male academics with the dismissive tone of ‘well they lost so many all the time, no doubt they where used to it, grief and loss was different in those days’. 

At that point the tome usually hits the wall.  I find the offhanded dismissive-ness deeply offensive and insulting as if inferring that our ancestors weren’t capable of human emotion.  If I recall my prehistory correctly some years ago a grave was discovered containing flowers and red ochre pigment sprinkled over the body.  Quite clearly it pointed to respect, love and grieving.  That was a hundred or so thousand years ago.  To be blunt despite some of our more destructive habits that one human trait at least has remained constant.  We genuinely mourn our departed, because we loved and regarded them, so their loss hurts us deeply. 
So at this stage in the discussion I have to admit to my own loss and it isn’t damned academic. 
At New Years Eve, I once more met up with a very old friend Nick Sams. We had talked on and off over the years and swapped greetings via the KDD network but for sixteen odd years we actually hadn’t shaken hands or exchanged personal G’days or met our associated partners and children.
Well as I said above, it was as if it had only been weeks not years.  So as you’d expect we caught up and our partners got on and the kids enjoyed each other’s company as only they can.  Thus finally we departed after many pleasant hours enfolded in the love and community that is the KDD and the New Year looked a damned sight better for their company, fellowship and regard.  

I find that at this stage of my life I do not possess that common rose tinted view of my past or of the shared time at school, or to be honest of my then fellow adolescents.  Some of them where right little shits and it wouldn’t surprise me to find a few have fled the country over dubious financial schemes or regularly engage in questionable moral decisions.   Unfortunately that’s part of the human condition.  But it does have a balance, those people at the other end of the spectrum, who are despite all the travails of life, are basically ‘good men’.  As I said I’m somewhat cursed with honesty so this isn’t idle flattery or gratuitous praise, the KDD has more than its fair share of good men (and women) who’ve stood beside others in difficult times because it was the right thing to do and not because it was popular or expedient.  But because it’s what you do; real duty, honour and humanity. 

After all that wind up now for the loss.  My friend Nick Sams died suddenly this week on Jan 3 while walking with one of his school friends.  Duncan Mc and other bystanders present acted immediately and got him off to hospital.  Unfortunately the damage to the heart was far more severe and that evening, well you get the drift. 
Now I didn’t know Nick near well enough over the past few years, but I do remember him at school as if it were last week.  His friendly mischievous grin is all so easy to recall.  I remember him even better because he actually was genuinely friendly.  I cannot recall a single instance of petty meanness or spite so common of adolescent lads in an exclusive school.  If you needed a hand he was always there.  In all the reports of his actions since then I haven’t heard he’d strayed from the essence of that personable lad it was good to be with.  Now I’m not saying he was a saint, but from what I saw NYE he still had that glowing sparkle of care, love and humanity that made me proud be enfolded in his continuing regard.
As Mark Anthony said of Caesar
I come to bury Caesar not to praise him, the good that men do is oft interned with their bones, while the evil lives on. 

Well damn it!  It wasn’t so for Nick Sams I cannot grieve for him as Sarah and his girls do and our compassion really does go out to you in this sudden tragedy. 

But each of us can help no matter where we are, we can remember Nick; his smile, his laugh, his helping hand.  For instance the work on the whirly gig last New Years Day, where the ready camaraderie of the KDD was there to help out.  As for others if you knew him, his memory is enhanced by a smile and a tear.

Bye Nick

Ever since I've known him he's always been the friendliest and hospitable friend, and so keen to be one of us.  He loved his family dearly and after being with him, I always left happy and with a smile on my face. ‘Stuart’.

Nick’s sense of inner good humour always shone through. ‘Cathy’

I find myself at the conclusion of reading your proposed blog, sad at our loss, thinking deeply of Sarah and her two.  Where will our “league of extraordinary gentlemen" be without him?  We are now so much poorer. ‘Cameron’
In other words, for David and I, it was a normal, wonderful day with old school buddies, and there were no signs of anything wrong, right till the end.
We will all, I'm sure, have our own special memories of Nick.  And I'm sure, he will live in our memories, very vividly!  Duncan Mc’

Farewell to one of a kind gentleman who blessed us with his enthusiasm for life. He will be sorely missed by us all. Our love and thoughts are with Sarah Megan and Kate
‘Duncan M’

I will never forget both the care Nick showed as I struggled to have a child then the delight when we knew Mitch was to arrive on his birthday. Nick even brought us both home from the hospital. So very sad that Mitch will not have the opportunity to share more birthdays with Nick and in later years, share a beer.  ‘Chris B’

He will always be in my thoughts.  I remember most his pleasure in others – his focus on others.  His openness, friendliness, kindness. 
For my 40th birthday, Nick, Andrew and myself did a little pub crawl.  The idea was to sample an ale or two from each of the boutique/micro breweries in the CBD of Sydney.  We went by train, of course.  On the way, Nick introduced me to a “Triple J” – being Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Johnny Walker, plus air.  Just to get us started, you see.  I remember a night of just good friends, good talk and good ale.  Thank you Nick, for that great night.
I remember Nick coping with loss of employment – obviously hurting, but not letting it destroy his basic optimism.  His willingness and preparedness to do anything, try anything.  A doer, not a complainer.  We talked a lot in those days – those difficult days.
Throughout it all, his basic goodness, his generous nature did not change.  The Nick I knew in High School is the Nick I really enjoyed catching up with at New Year’s Eve.
 Vale Nick.  ‘Angus’

The following is from Duncan and he gives us a very vivid picture of his time with Nick on his last day with us.

Can I just tell you all briefly about my last day with Nick (and David M) , especially coz is was so, so normal, right till the end of the afternoon.

It was one of those typical last days we had guests staying with us, so what were we all going to do?  And possibly more typical, the girls went shopping and to the beach, and the boys... well there was Nick, David and myself, and Nick came up with this idea: "how about go-karting?" There wasn't much convincing needed for David and I, so off we went about 1pm.  Way over the other side of Melbourne, but that was fine, David had to be dropped off at Melbourne Airport to go back to Sydney, and the airport wasn't that far from the kart track. We were only on the track for 10 minutes, but the 3 of had a ball!  The chat in the car during all those km's was terrific.

We dropped off David at the airport.  Nick and I headed home from the airport about 3:30pm via a sculpture on the side of the freeway on the way back.  I had to point it out to Nick after Robyn had spoken to him about it.  As we approached the city, I suggested a cup of coffee at Port Melbourne. He readily agreed.  Although after a few minutes, I thought to ask: "would you prefer a drink at a bar?"  Nick said, no, coffee's
good !

The two of had a really great chat right thru the arvo, as he and I always did, I'm sure just like he did with you all.  Coffee at the Port Melbourne cafe was terrific. A pleasant little french patisserie on Bay Street. We sat inside, chatted more and watched the world go by.  Very, very relaxing.  As usual, Nick was great company.
And still, as thru the whole day so far, Nick was very much the lovable Nick we all knew and loved. Nothing was any different.

We headed home from Port Melbourne at about 4:30pm and again had 25 minutes to chat with Nick on the way home. We had planned a BBQ for Nick & Sarah's last night at our place. So we needed to stop at a supermarket on the way home just for a few small things. So we stopped at Sandringham Coles.

It wasn't until then, just as we got out of the car at Coles, that Nick complained of what he said was "heart burn". But it only put a slight frown on his face. We walked the 25 metres to the entrance of Coles, and there, he wanted to sit down. From there, he basically started show signs of collapsing.

It wasn't long before we had an ambulance there, and Sarah was there in minutes via Robyn's car, in time to go with Nick to the hospital. All the time at Coles, bar about 10 seconds when he seemed to blackout, he was awake, and quite "with it". Even while on the ambo's stretcher, easily recognised Sarah from 20 metres away, and called out her name and waved to her before she got to him.

In other words, for David and I, it was a normal, wonderful day with old school buddies, and there were no signs of anything wrong, right till the end.

We will all, I'm sure, have our own special memories of Nick.  And I'm sure, he will live in our memories, very vividly !

Thanks Duncan I realise how difficult that was to compose and get down. In parting as my name sake Dr Gregory House would no doubt say;
“You’re not immortal y'know, the human body is surprisingly frail and vulnerable. So god damn it, take care of it!”

"Oh yes and take the pills!"


  1. This is a wonderful tribute. Even though I don't know anyone, I was saddened to learn of your loss of your dear friend. He was much too young.

  2. Thank you very much Joansz, I've just returned from the funeral. Hundreds of his friends and family had turned up to remember and reminice over his smile, past help and wry sense of humour. Afterwards we toasted Nick as only the KDD could do, with affection.

  3. As an old fellow 1978 Knox Grammarian, it was a bitter-sweet experience to read this wonderful tribute to Nick and to view the pictures of a few old school mates who, yes, I can still recognise. Nick was a true gentleman and obviously taken far too early in the prime of his young life. I was saddened to hear of his passing via the Knox communication channels. My very best wishes to Nick's wife, family and the other Knox lads... Graeme Brown

  4. Today is Australia Day, and as I have just read this wonderful tribute to my amazing husband,
    I ask you all to raise a glass today and drink to the memory of another great Australian, Nicholas Sams.

    There are no words to ease the shock and pain we all feel as we come to realise the massive loss from our lives. All your love, support and continued friendship is what we will draw on in days to come.

    Once you were in Nick's life you were there to stay. He loved the time he spent with each one of you and treasured the fun, friendship and experiences he had with everyone. Nick has shared many of his fond memories with me and while there are many I still haven't met yet I would still like to hear your stories and share your memories of Nick.

    Nick, was my rock, my best friend, my lover and my soul mate. He taught me to live again, to love, to smile from my heart, trust, try (especially when times were tough), and to believe in myself.

    Every day Nick would say "Have I told you that I love you today?". He would ask this 3,4 or more times a day even by sms. I would still catch my breath as he came home and held me in his arms and asked about my day.

    I will miss everything about him, especially his smile, warm heart and embrace, especially his "cheeky Nick" that would make me laugh in spite of myself.

    Remember each day is a gift, leave nothing unsaid. Call your friend just because you see their name in your Contact List. We all say "we have to catch up soon" don't just say it... do it.

    Finally, a big thank you to all the KDD for this wonderful tribute to Nicholas.

    My love and thanks for all your kind words and support. Sarah