July 12, 2005 | Graham

Brian Ray

There is a thesis in why some deaths are more newsworthy than others. 50 people die in London and it is high news, more than that number die every week in Iraq, and we barely notice, while our need for mobility led to an average 31 deaths each week on the road last year, and only the ATSB appears to care. I’m not going to attempt that thesis in a blog post, but I am going to write about Brian Ray whose death was noted on the front page of two of the newspapers I get every morning.
I never met Ray, but he did have an impact on my life, and perhaps without him, there would be no On Line Opinion. So, while I normally ignore frontpage deaths, either because I don’t know the people involved, or feel it would be prurient to pay too much attention to the detail, I’ve read the stories about Ray.
Back in the 80s my family owned a property at Currumbin, on the Gold Coast. They’d actually owned a part of it since 1926 when my Great Gran and Grandmother had bought a shack on the beach front that lacked even a road access. Since then it had been added to and we ended up with an acre with absolute beach frontage.
Mum hated it; it was an essential part of dad’s existence; and as kids we hadn’t known anything else, although we did resent cleaning houses and cutting grass in the mornings when the best surf was running. In the 70s and 80s we frequently had approaches from developers, and from the point of view of us kids, there’s been a number of close shaves. There was more than a little tension between Mum and Dad on the issue of whether to sell or hold.
As I got older, and more commercially knowledgeable, Dad and I fell into a strategy. I thought about saying “devised”, but it was more a habit than a device. When an offer would come along Dad would ask me what the property was worth. I’d make some inquiries and assessments, then we’d put at least 20% on top of what we thought was absolutely top-dollar. That meant that the property was always for sale, which kept Mum happy, but at a price that no-one would pay, which was fine by the rest of the family.
That was until Brian Ray came along in 1986. From memory, and that is fallible, I don’t think anyone paid more per unit for a three story walk-up in that boom than he did for that site in Currumbin. It seems to be the story of his life – pushing the envelope on everything.
The result was that our beautiful patch of land became blighted by a pretty ordinary development and our family took the cash and started a property development business of its own. That gave me sufficient time and resources to be a senior office bearer in the Queensland Liberal Party, which led ultimately to the publishing of On Line Opinion.
So I read the front page stories and wonder about the web of happenstance that sometimes joins us together. Ray was a risk-taker, and he died taking a risk. If he hadn’t been that sort of a person Dad might still be pottering around his beloved houses, and I’d be doing something entirely different to what I am now.
So, I feel as though I know Ray, even though I don’t, and that means it is OK to inquire about how things are with him by reading the paper. At the same time I can’t help a little twinge guilt, because in some strange way I feel that I have benefited by his death, in a way taken advantage of the risk-taking that was eventually fatal to him. It’s a little like the twinge of guilt that I feel taking the wheel of the car in the morning knowing that four people are likely to die that day so that I can enjoy the right to drive. Or the feeling of relief that we perhaps all feel that we weren’t in that tube station in London, and that someone else paid the price for us.

Posted by Graham at 10:11 am | Comments (4) |
Filed under: General


  1. spam sincerity tags:
    somehow the word association of ‘Graham Young’ and ‘Jesus’ keeps popping into my head.

    Comment by benno — July 13, 2005 @ 2:34 pm

  2. But, of course, we’ve always known that one Westerner’s life is worth than a hundred “other” lives (?). It is unfortunate that our Governments do not reflect “the man in the street’s” version of the value of one human life. Because there is anger at the assumption of our superiority, “Terriosts” will continue to target the soft belly of the community to ensure that eventually we’ll learn to count properly.

    Comment by Mary Walsh — July 13, 2005 @ 5:37 pm

  3. Here go the silly doorsteppers like Mary. As it happens, we identify more with people who are like us. We empathise with people like us: we can imagine us being them. It’s harder for us to liken ourselves to others who live in poor societies and practice rituals strange to us. These are the Pakistani train-travellers.
    It’s not, silly Mary, that we disrespect people of other cultures. We have the technology that publicises these from far greater distances than many of the world imagine exist. We have a broader view because of our circumstances. We are made aware of many things and we can spend only so much time expressing regret for all these others. How much time, Mary, did you spend for each of the 36 people killed on our roads this week?

    Comment by Sapien — July 14, 2005 @ 11:59 am

  4. Benno, say a prayer and have a good lie down!

    Comment by Graham Young — July 14, 2005 @ 5:33 pm

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