Church on the hill hosts a fitting farewell

By NICK PAPPS, 28 August 2003, Herald Sun

Church on the hill hosts a fitting farewell

By NICK PAPPS, 28 August 2003, Herald Sun

FOR more than 100 years, St Ignatius Church has watched over Richmond, guiding it through wars, the Great Depression and the good times.

And yesterday the imposing bluestone building at the top of Richmond Hill said goodbye to its greatest son, Jack Dyer.

Dyer was Richmond -- a football club legend who grew up, fought and spilled blood for his suburb in the shadows of St Ignatius Church.

Dyer, Richmond and St Ignatius have always been inseparable. The trinity began in the 1920s when young Jack was an altar boy at St Ignatius and a pupil at the primary school next door.

In the same church he would become a husband, marrying Sybil in 1939, and later would proudly look on as his children were married there.

Yesterday at 10am, on a crisp winter morning some 54 years after his last game for the Richmond Football Club, Jack Dyer's final milestone was also marked at the church on the hill. More than 800 people crowded into St Ignatius, filling the pews and lining the walls with their yellow-and-black scarfs, tiger print tops, Richmond badges and tiger striped ties.

Fans, club presidents and high-powered businessmen sat shoulder to shoulder with Tigers of old such as Sid Dockendorff and today's champions, including Wayne Campbell and Ben Holland.

For over an hour, tales of a bygone era bounced around the old church as the feats, dramas and laughs of Jack Dyer's life were retold.

The stories recalled the father, grandfather, footballer, police officer and World of Sport star.

There were laughs at memories of Captain Blood's legendary dislike of Collingwood -- "The enemy just up the road and over the hill" -- and immense pride in the man who fought to keep his club alive.

For much of his life, Dyer had carried the hopes and dreams of a struggling suburb on his broad shoulders and strong back.

Yesterday they said thank you.

After more than an hour of recollections, it was time for the church to say goodbye to its favourite son. As incense surrounded Dyer's casket, covered by a tiger pelt, the final act was over.

At 11.30, the spirit of Dyer alive in their hearts, the crowd made their way down the hill to Richmond's heartland at Punt Rd.

In front of the stand that bears the Dyer name and within sight of the St Ignatius spire, they gathered and remembered for one last time.

On a day that would have filled Jack Dyer's heart with pride and hope, one of Richmond's faithful summarised just what the legend meant.

"He was inspirational," Ron Reiffel said. "He is Richmond."