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Dame Elisabeth: Langwarrin patron
The death of Dame Elisabeth Murdoch is being strongly felt at Langwarrin Fire Brigade where she was patron for more than 20 years.
Dame Elisabeth’s home Cruden Farm – a wedding gift from husband Keith Murdoch – is in the Langwarrin brigade area and this brought her into contact with the brigade.
“The Murdoch family has been in Langwarrin for a long time,” says First Lieutenant Robert Hosegood.
“Our brigade formed in 1932 and we only had a trailer-mounted pump. Dame Elisabeth’s husband Keith Murdoch donated a Herald Sun van for us to use as a fire truck and it was a great asset. He arranged for it to be converted by Bert Murray, one of our brigade members. At that time Langwarrin was all bush and a few houses and this gave us mobility.”
Brigade member Graham Thoday also has fond memories of Dame Elisabeth. “She was a wonderful person,” he says. “What you saw was what you got with Dame Elisabeth.
“In 1944, thousands of hectares were burnt in our area with nine houses and a church lost,” he says. “We didn’t have a fire station at the time and the Murdochs helped us get our first station built that same year.
“In 1962 Dame Elisabeth helped us with the purchase of a 400-gallon trailer pump that was still in service in 1981.”
Fast forward to the mid-1980s when the brigade was funding its own rescue unit which was being built in the CFA workshop. “It cost a lot of money to fit out,” continues Robert, “and Dame Elisabeth donated a substantial amount of money. We were very fortunate to have that help.
“We always invited her to our open days and she always turned up – just got there under her own steam.” [Graham says she drove a Peugeot!]
“One of my great memories is of her being given a tour of the station by Captain Glen Jacob. She saw there was a raffle on and asked how much money was wanted. Glen told her, ‘No, no. This is just a day for the community’ and he said she was really taken aback.
“When Glen took over as captain, she phoned him to personally congratulate him.
“She took a genuine, active interest in the brigade and where we were going. She wasn’t a distant figure.
“She will really be missed.”