Memorial service for the late Mr Michael Collins Persse MVO OAM
Speech by His Excellency on behalf of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales
Like you gathered here today, I was deeply saddened when I learned that the Flights of Angels had, at last, come to lead Michael Collins Persse to his final reward.
Michael taught me history over 50 years ago. His tutelage at that time I regarded then, and have done since, as a great gift.
Michael's love of history and, perhaps more importantly, his passion for education for its own sake, was as formative for me as it was inspiring.
Above all, he was the kindest of men and I will never forget his legendary letter-writing skills, nor his astonishing capacity to use every single last square inch of writing paper . . .
It was, as we know, Geelong Grammar School and its people that Michael made his principal life's work.
I know he never lost his affection for, and commitment to, each generation of students, as well as their families.
Indeed, Michael's knowledge of the lineage and connectedness of people's families – including my own! – could only be described as encyclopaedic.
If you were from Geelong Grammar, from country Victoria or apparently from anywhere in Queensland, it seemed Michael could describe your family history and intermarriages back at least as far as William the Conqueror!
I know that many tributes will be paid to Michael today from people who loved him and who, like me, will miss him dearly.
Years ago, I observed that Michael must surely qualify as one of Australia's National Treasures.
Now that his long and distinguished life of generous service to others has come to an end, I can only reflect anew on what a truly National Treasure he was.
I am incredibly sorry I cannot join you today in celebrating Michael's life, but I thank God that I was able to say goodbye to him while I was in Brisbane in April this year.
His courage and determination to make the journey to Queensland, despite being so ill, touched me more than I can ever say.
So I can only add my own prayers to those you will make today in giving thanks for Michael's life and for the memorable privilege we all shared in having known him.