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40 Years Ago

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By Yvonne Stainer

My son Brian was electrocuted at work on the 4th February 1969.  It was many decades ago now but I have never forgotten how my son’s death was handled and the way we, his family, were dealt with by the people who were supposed to be there to help us in our tragic loss.

Brian was just 21 years of age when he died.  He was a very handsome young man and was engaged to be married to a wonderful young lady called “Ann”.

Losing Brian was a shock to us all but I also learned that there were a few people that I had to deal with that not only lacking compassion but were at times down right rude.

I will never forget the lawyers that were supposed to be looking after things for us.  We were advised that the burial (and various  expenses to have my son moved from Port Pirie to Adelaide where the tests were done and then returned to Port Pirie) would be looked after.  

I did not have anything to do with engaging this law firm.  My husband looked after such matters but he was terribly unwell with asthma and cancer of the pancreas.  I nursed him until he died and tried to cope with matters I would not normally have needed to.   

We were assigned an ‘article clerk’ to attend to all and sundry, since all the scripts by the Port Pirie Police were given to him after the Coroner’s Inquiry was finalised.  To my distress, I found this chap to be terribly lacking in manners and courtesy when I took the letter from the Undertaker in to him to attend to.

Unfortunately, somebody appeared not to be doing their job too well because one year later the Undertaker was threatening to take me to court for the outstanding amount of monies he was owed - $343.00.  It was a lot of money 40 years ago!

I gave the letter to the Clerk and he said he was ‘busy’.  I replied that I was also busy!  With this he retorted, “Put it there and I’ll tend to it later when I get some time!”

I was really annoyed by this, not only because I felt he was rude but also because I was the one being threatened with legal action by the Undertaker and I was concerned that once again, the matter would be shoved aside.  I told him that if this was how he dealt with people’s legal affairs, I was sure he wouldn’t amount to much of a lawyer.

With that he replied, “Okay, you do it your bloody self then!”

And my reply to him came with equally harsh words (I would not normally speak like this but I was very hurt and angry), “Okay - I jolly well will!”  

I went straight to the Credit Union where I had just started to bank and asked them if they could loan me the amount of money I needed to pay the Undertaker.  The man at the Credit Union asked me what was wrong and so I explained to him what had happened.  He was very surprised and disappointed at the way the Clerk had reacted.  

I was able to then post the Undertaker the money that he was demanding.

I never saw that money again.  I should not have had to go through this.  I was told that the company was supposed to pay for these expenses but I’ll never know what happened to it.  I just know it never found its way back to us.

It has been many years since my son Brian was killed at work but the heartache has always stayed with us all.  We lost our Brian and at the same time we lost ‘Ann’ who he was going to marry.  We also lost the children they may have had.

This loss will stay with me until the day I die.  I loved him so very much.