It was at this 1985 ACTU Congress at the Sydney Town Hall that I had my first serious setback.
I had felt unwell for a day or so and this day I left early to see a doctor.
We were staying at the Top of The Town in Kings Cross and when I got back asked the desk clerk for directions to a local doctor; he suggested I go to St Vincentís Hospital.
It turned out I was having a heart attack and I got attention in the nick of time, I nearly died and was in intensive care for 10 days.
I was off work for months and even when I resumed I was still very weak and took a long time to recover.
Speaking at meetings which was a major part of my job took a lot out of me.
I was on medication but managed to get on with life until the problems resurfaced about three years later.
This time I was advised if I wanted to keep on living I should give the job away.
It was a very stressful period, almost daily conflict, lots of pressure, tension, and it had taken its toll.
I had been at it for 25 years, the last 19 or so in the trenches at or near the top.
I knew it was time to call it a day. I retired on the grounds of ill health in September 1988 three years after suffering my first heart attack.
State Service House in Elizabeth St., which was our home almost from the day the union was born, was sold to a developer, Kevin Seymour I think it was, in the late 1980ís ,and itís still standing although I have never been back.
In partnership with the Credit Union the Union purchased a five story building in Albert St., next to Festival Hall which enabled staff to be accommodated on the one level rather than how it was in the old offices.
Over the years the union managed to achieve many significant improvements in pay and conditions.
There are too many to mention but some of those I recall were Increases in long service leave, and flexibility in the option of taking it, annual leave increased from three to four weeks, five weeks for shift workers ,and improvements to superannuation, shift allowances, penalty rates and daily travelling allowances to name a few
Locality Allowances replaced the miserable Zone allowances for public servants in the Northern and Western parts of the state and we were instrumental in introducing flexible working hours which are a major benefit and even more flexible today.
Much of our time was spent in assisting individual members with a wide variety of work related problems.
One case more of a humanitarian nature was getting the Federal government to intervene in the case of a Vietnamese member who was separated from his wife after he had fled the country with his children and the Vietnamese government refused to grant a visa for his wife.
He approached the union in desperation and with the help of Bill Hayden then Foreign Minister the Vietnamese government eventually relented and she was able to rejoin the family.
As a measure of his appreciation my wife and I were invited to dinner with his family where I met his parish Priest Father Peter Kennedy for the first time.
I got to know Peter Kennedy quite well after that and my wife and I would often go to Sunday Mass in his church St.Maryís in South Brisbane.
Talking to him one day I noticed that the church badly needed repainting but they had no funds.
I put the hard word on Peter Jones, another good guy, who was then head of the Corrective Services Dept to see if a couple of trusted prisoners could carry out the painting.
The paint was provided by Jim Kennedy, Peterís brother, who donated the funds ,and the prisoners did the rest.
I was very fortunate having the opportunities that working for the union gave.
Iíve met some great people, none better than the rank and file members who put their trust in us to represent them as vigorously and honestly as our abilities allowed.
It was a privilege to have worked with the high quality people on Executive and Council who gave me their loyalty and support and the office and industrial staff who shared the load and kept the engine room running.
I only had to sack one person in my time. She complained to her union but it went no further when they realised she didnít have a leg to stand on.
I mingled with lots of interesting characters, encountered a few con artists, a handful of back stabbing opportunists and white- anters, but mainly I remember a whole lot of good, decent people.
It was great while it lasted.
When I retired the Union presented me with a set of golf clubs, bag and buggy and I took lessons from Hughie Dolan at Brisbane GC to learn how to use them.
That started me on another adventure I wouldnít have missed for the world.