Christopher Anthony Connellan
Thursday, 11 May 2023
Born 10 July 1948
Died 19 February 2023 Aged 74 Years
Chris (XC 1966) was the younger son of Eddie (OX 1930) and Evie Connellan - pioneers of the Northern Territory. He had a sister, Cynthia who died in infancy and an older brother Roger (OX 1965), who was killed following a tragic aviation accident in Alice Springs on 8 January 1977. All of these members of the family are buried in the Alice Springs Cemetery not far from “Araluen”, the former family home.
Chris grew up in Alice Springs at “Araluen” which was located near the “town-site” airstrip and a recent book written by him (The Way It Was) outlined his childhood of roaming around a town with very few people and much community spirit. “Araluen” is now an arts centre and the former airstrip is the location of the Central Australian Aviation Museum and a residential housing estate.
Chris was a great many things including having been the husband of Sally for many years and the father of Edward, Sara and Samantha as well as being the long-time partner of Julie, father-in-law to Sonya, Mokuahi and Hamish and grandfather of Anthony, Max, Roger, Emily and Andrew as well as a friend to Casey and Dane.
He was also a member of the Bell family which was a link to his mother’s family and his cousin Adrian (OX 1966) and his wife Kathy and their Bell family were much valued by him.
He was a Territorian and a cattleman and ran Narwietooma Station, a large cattle station north-west of Alice Springs. He had a reputation of breeding a consistent line of cattle which were much sought after well before on-line sales systems were adopted.
Chris was the only person I ever knew with a two sided business card. One side had the title “Pastoralist” and the reverse side said “Jackaroo”. I guess it depended on the identity of the person he was aiming to impress!
Regardless of what the business card said, the outback was Chris’ home. He sometimes liked to think of himself as Crocodile “Mick” Dundee of Central Australia and on occasions he behaved that way!
His education began in town with the nuns and then at the Narwietooma Station school before boarding at the age of nine at Rostrevor College in Adelaide and completing his secondary studies, like his father and Roger, at Xavier College in Melbourne, where he was also a School Prefect at the same time as his cousin Adrian.
It was there that I first met Chris in 1965 – some 58 years ago, although our fathers had caught up on a number of occasions during World War II in Northern Australia.
I think that it would be accurate to say that, despite our living at opposite sides of the country, we averaged weekly and valued contact over all those 58 years. Chris introduced Lynne and me, he was our best man at our wedding 48 years ago, as well as being our daughter Clare’s Godfather, while I am pleased to be Samantha’s Godfather.
He was a friend to many generations of aboriginal people – having attended school and worked with many and he spoke the Anmatyerre language and other local vocabulary with fluency. Many members of the local community attended his funeral which was a wonderful expression of the Connellan family’s extended and loving involvement and support.
Chris attended Newman College and was awarded a Commerce Degree from the University of Melbourne and achieved the distinction of an Exhibition in Economics A – probably one of the most studied subject at the University.
I know he gained his degree because I attended the Graduation Ceremony in Wilson Hall at the University in his absence, and took the document around to the Clyde Hotel afterwards!
During his student days Chris established many life-long friendships in Melbourne and people always asked me about him, his health and his recent activities.
Chris, like many in his family, was also a skilled pilot having held a Senior Commercial Licence for many years.
The family published books about Connellan Airlines, Narwietooma Station and life at the family home at “Araluen” in Alice Springs. Chris had a strong connection with many of the aboriginal, aviation and pastoral people of the Territory – although now much of that contact sadly is now passed into history.
Chris was an extremely generous and hospitable host. There was always a constant stream of guests to Narwietooma Station and his other homes. He was pleased to show guests much of the beauty of the outback and the appeal and challenges of the ocean.
He loved the open spaces and applied his knowledge of the seasons, animal husbandry, pasture, water utilisation and many other skills to run a productive enterprise.
Before ill health occurred, Chris was very dedicated to his role as a cattleman. Over many seasons he spent months each year in the swag well away from the homestead attending to cattle work. He used to pull casing out of bores while up a windmill in 40 plus degrees days and he once spent nearly a whole month fighting bushfires which burnt on Narwietooma and nearby stations.
After the sale of Narwietooma Station in 2015 Chris greatly enjoyed his time at the Mount Zeil Wilderness Park where he also valued contact with the aboriginal families at M’Bunghara.
Chris was a skilled yachtsman and made many friends on the central coast of Queensland.
He loved sailing on “Avingot” and introduced many to the sport while going with others to exotic locations. His early sailing “development” took place at the Sleepy Hollow Yacht Club on the Dashwood Creek at the foot of Mount Zeil.
Chris was born with very fair skin which was not suited to the strong sun of the outback. Whether this played a role in his chronic fatigue, leukemia and his numerous other conditions – we don’t know, but Chris suffered greatly over a long period of time and he was very fortunate that his family, and especially Julie in recent years, assisted him throughout the journey.
In addition to his role as a pastoralist, Chris took an active interest in the Central Australian Aviation Museum, Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Associations and the Connellan Airways Trust – all of which contributed greatly to the Northern Territory.
In addition, he followed and applied a wide range of pastoral practices, promoted by
Dr Terry McCosker, including “extended rest” and “cell grazing” programs and encouraged others to follow his example.
The timing of a death is never ideal but Chis has spent an extended period of time with Sara in January, actively participated in Samantha and Hamish’s wonderful wedding in October 2022 and his family were with him in his final hours.
Chris’ mother died in 1989 at the age of 76 and Chris lived longer than his father who died in 1983 at the age of 71. Chris lived the life which he chose to live, he made a contribution and brought much happiness to many people and advanced many situations.
Michael J Dowling AM
M 0418 145 231