Earlier this week I received very sad news… My mate Brendan (Bruno) Brannelly had a heart attack and passed away.

Bruno was the Assistant Principal of Distance Learning for the Northern Territory Education department.

He was a great educator, and most importantly a generous and kind hearted soul.

In addition, he’d always been a Army reservist and the official news bulletin said he died at the Larrakeyah barracks in Darwin. A place that he valued and loved…

And although I hadn’t seen him in person for quite some time he is someone who I often thought of.

I first met Bruno when I moved to Darwin back in the early 1980’s. He was the head of Phys Ed at Nightcliff High School, and we got on well from the very first.

Effectively my new boss after I joined the staff at Nightcliff High. At first on a temporary basis as a substitute teacher, but then after a few short weeks moving into a full time role.

As you can imagine the first year was a bit of a “dog’s breakfast” in terms of the range of subjects I taught. Basically a full time relief teacher assigned to four or five faculties.

From the very get go Bruno took me under his wing and helped me find my feet in this city and indeed the Northern Territory.

Bruno grew up in Darwin and ventured south to Adelaide to earn his Physical Education degree and had returned to teach in his hometown. Which was quite a rarity!

In those days Darwin wasn’t the thriving northern capital city it is today, no far from it…

Less than a decade before Cyclone Tracy had devastated the city and virtually wiped it from the map.

The majority of the population was under 40 with many of the older residents having left after the Cyclone never to return or rebuild.

Nope, it was still the “wild west” and therefore a city very much in transition. The perfect time for a young, single guy to experience this exotic place. 🙂

One of my favourite memories is of him taking me to Lims Hotel on a Sunday afternoon soon after I arrived.

I have fond memories of our Sunday sessions at Lims, or as the locals loving referred to it as the “rage in the cage”.

Let’s be clear Lim’s was a biker bar. It had iron mesh walls used to protect the band from flying beer cans. It was an eclectic mix of people, lots of local icons and larrikins. 🙂

As I said – it was a slice of life.

Although his official name was Brendan, everyone called him Bruno.

He was a big burly guy just over six feet, 2 inches, barrel chested and stronger than an ox. Always a smile on his face, a great sense of humour and willing ear if you ever needed advice.

He represented the Northern Territory in Rugby league and got the chance to see him play a few games. He was willing to give anything a try, usually mastering it quickly.

I played on his Touch rugby team – the Saints. A completely social affair which always ended with beers late into the night after our games, lots of laughter and great memories of our triumphs and losses.

It didn’t matter that I’d never played touch rugby before, he just knew that I’d fit with the team and the rest is history. It was awesome!

Another great memory I have is of him and his mate Jonesy dropping me at the airport as I was leaving for my year long backpacking adventure around the world.

In those days, the Darwin airport was basically a tin shed, with a small bar on top of the building overlooking the tarmac. It was rustic to stay the least.

We got there early and had a few drinks, actually quite a few… At some point in the merriment the bartender asked if I was still interested in going to Singapore. 🙂

Hell yes I said, he then told me that they had been holding the plane for me and had about 2 minutes to be on the plane.

I ended up running across the tarmac to the stairs of the plane and feeling less than stable. 🙂

A year passed without contact – pre internet of course. 🙂 I called Bruno from Sydney to say that my flight was coming into Darwin the following day.

No worries he said brightly. Where are you staying he asked? I told him that I wasn’t sure. Don’t worry I’ll take care of it he said. I ended up sharing a house with him and his roommates for a couple of months until I was on my feet.

Yeah, he was that sort of guy. 🙂

Bruno picked me up from the plane with in a beer in his hand and one for me. That night we hit Sweethearts at the casino and a number of other bars with him and the boys from rugby… Yes, a BIG night!

Next morning he had arranged for us to go deep sea fishing. Trust me with about 2 hours sleep and a blood alcohol content significantly more than is permissible we went out on the boat.

All was well while in the confines of the harbour, but after about 40 minutes and out in the open Arafura Sea with a big and consistently rolling swell I was in trouble.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever been seasick, but all you want to do is curl up and die. Especially knowing that it could potentially be hours before you’re back on dry land.

I still remember feeding the fish at the back of the boat and all the guys laughing, but the longer I threw up the more they became greener themselves.

We didn’t end up staying long cos before I knew it, Bruno and the other two guys were also throwing up with only the captain still standing.

A memorable weekend to say the least!

When I got the news this week it was like a punch in the gut.

So unexpected and surprisingly painful… I guess it’s the circle of life and all but just a little too close to home if you know what I mean. 🙁

Until next week.