Peter Swannell.
Peter Swannell. Kevin Farmer

Peter Swannell's daughter farewells dad in moving column

REGULAR readers of The Chronicle will know that my father, Peter Swannell, died last Wednesday night after a long illness.

My name is Cathy Swannell and I am honoured to be able to fill this column for what will be the last time, in Dad's name.

For about 12 years, Dad took great pride and delight in being able to talk to The Chronicle readers every week. As far as I am aware, he never missed an issue. His last column, published on the day he died, was written from his hospital bed, and was dictated to my mother, Janice. It wasn't easy for him, but there was no way he was going to take a week off, if he had a choice.

Dad always said his biggest dilemma in writing this column was knowing when to be broad in his topic choice and when to get personal with his readers. He maintained that he didn't think people would be interested in anything too personal, too often.

Well, sorry Dad, but this will be personal. How could it not be?

Dad loved Toowoomba. Like every big decision he, and Mum of course, ever made, he committed to it 100%. When they decided to move up from Brisbane in 1990, it wasn't just about starting a new job, and living in a new home - it was about jumping into Toowoomba life, boots and all. He never looked backwards.

They did the same thing, on a bigger scale of course, when they moved from England to Australia in August of 1971. His commitment then was just the same as it was until his last day - all in, no regrets.

Dad took every opportunity to advocate for Toowoomba. Whether it was taking the University of Southern Queensland global, or talking to high school kids about the glories of tertiary education. Whether it was bringing his love of theatre to the fore by working to get the Empire Theatre regeneration project off the ground. Or whether it was getting involved with The Clubhouse to help people with mental health issues find their feet again.

The Sophocles quote at the bottom of Dad's funeral notice - "It is the task of a good man to help those in misfortune" - sums up his approach to life, community and family. He was as generous with complete strangers as he was with his family and friends. Christmas dinners spent around a table loaded with food (thanks, Mum!) and populated by whoever felt like turning up at the door were testament to that.

There are many people to thank. Over the past three years Dad has spent time in all three Toowoomba hospitals. The care he received in all of them was exemplary.

I particularly want to focus on his final hospital stay, at St Vincent's. The nursing staff in St Luke's ward were gentle, patient, professional and unfailingly caring towards him and Mum. Dr Manu Ratnayake, who oversaw Dad's treatment for more than a year, through several stays at St Vincent's, has been a pillar of kindness and honesty. Dr Bob Ayres, who was lead physician during Dad's final stay, was comprehensive and compassionate, and, of course, clinically expert.

To the good folk at Right at Home Darling Downs - thank you for all you did for Dad this past year, and for all you will continue to do for Mum.

And to you, Dad's readers - thank you for giving my father a platform upon which he was proud to stand, and which gave him an immense sense of purpose and pleasure, particularly over the past year.

My mother, Janice, my partner Nicole and myself invite you to come and celebrate all things Dad at his funeral service, to be held from 11am tomorrow at his beloved Empire Church Theatre, 54-56 Neil St. In lieu of flowers, Mum asks that the Toowoomba Hospice be the recipient of your generosity.

From Dad, farewell, and from me, thank you.

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