Old Collegians Rugby Union Club



Alan Spry

President, OCRFC - 1974

Dr Alan Herbert Spry was born on 29 October 1927 in Adelaide. He was educated in Adelaide, completing his Honours degree in geology at the University of Adelaide. During his University days he had an interest in jazz, becoming a skilled trombone and guitar player - he played with such prominent musicians as Dave Dalwitz at jazz conventions - and, more importantly, met Joyce, his wife well-known to us all.

Alan lectured in the Institute of Technology, Armidale, NSW, then spent 15 years in Hobart where he completed his PhD and became an Associate Professor at the University of Tasmania.

Perhaps more importantly in Hobart, he and Joyce became keenly interested in rugby. The question has been raised whether it was the sport or the motley mob that paced the sidelines that attracted them!

Whatever it was they fitted in perfectly - a day at the rugby was entwined with guzzling Ginger Mick out of flasks and yelling encouragement and abuse at friend and foe, alike. Also, pies were bought only to keep his and Joyce's hands warm. His love of sport and rugby continued with Old Collegians Rugby Football Club - considered to be his second home for a very long time by his children.

His passion and frustration with the game and players were experienced at OC, often with the punctuated outburst of "Gormless nit!" when he believed a player or the team had committed an indiscretion or was not fully realising their potential on the field.

Alan was President of the Club in 1974 and put all his efforts into the well-being of the Club, not only as leader and administrator but also ensuring that menial tasks were completed. He was First Division team manager and Club selector at various times. His "hands-on" and diligent approach to the Club spread to his home with a pyjama party, a raucous chicken and chips night in lieu of an OC Ball in a year when all the tickets could not be sold (he made a rash promise to that effect!) and a house-warming party for Club members. The latter resulted in Alan and Joyce's new bed being "hardened" with the surreptitious placement of the metal house-for-sale sign under the mattress.

Alan and Joyce's sporting interests also spread to basketball in support of their sons, Peter and Paul, both accomplished players. This interest led to the formation of an OC basketball team that played in a local competition.

Alan and Joyce enjoyed lunching at local restaurants before going to Saturday matches. During the Finals, such lunches with others were known to go on for some time - a well-known OC foible. In 1980, the Sprys in their wisdom organised the inaugural "finals BYO chicken & champagne picnic lunch" for OC supporters at Bailey. A tradition that ensured supporters made the finals on time and still continues today.

Alan was well known for his sartorial elegance in colourful tropical-design shirts on the side-line. So much so, that one player saw a tropical shirt on a hanger behind the bar after a beach night at the Club and drily commented "Gee, Alan Spry has lost weight lately."

Similar to many a rugby player, Alan had a passion for wine that culminated in 1995 with a trip to the great wine growing districts of France led by Phillip White. His determination was heightened by the fact that he had a by-pass operation six weeks previously - he paced himself by only visiting 1st Growth wineries in the morning and the obligatory dinner in a French Chateau at night!

Alan was a humble and gentle person in many ways with great talent, both in his profession and to listen and counsel people. He retired as Chief Consultant from the Australian Mineral Development Experimental Laboratories in 1980 and continued as a private consultant on problems of stone in modern and historic buildings. His intellect and expertise is 'set in stones" in many important public and private buildings in Australia and internationally.

Alan died quietly on 3 April 2001. He will be greatly missed by OC as a long-standing and supportive member, and for his wise counsel and his some-what emotional outbursts on the side-line.

However, the Club is privileged with continuing Spry support through Joyce's warm enthusiasm and commitment to the Club, especially to the Juniors as their Patron.

The Club's sympathy is extended to Joyce and their children, Erica, Paul and Peter, and to their families.

(By Peter Allen, 22nd April 2001)

Obituary (This obituary was read out at his funeral service.)

Alan Herbert Spry was born on 29th October 1927 in Adelaide, South Australia. He was the second of the two children of John Duncan Spry and Alice Spry, the other being his brother John, known as Jack. Alan's early years were spent with his family in Adelaide, attending a number of schools before going on to the University of Adelaide to study geology. One of Alan's early interests was jazz, and he became a skilled trombone and guitar player. Alan and Jack used to travel to Melbourne by motorbike every Boxing Day for a jazz convention there, and it's known that Alan played with such prominent musicians as Dave Dalwitz. Joyce remembers Alan saying that if he hadn't been a geologist he would have like to have been a professional musician.

Joyce and Alan met while Alan was completing his Honours Degree at the university. Joyce had recently arrived from England and loved ballroom dancing. Alan would take his books to her lessons and study there so that he could 'keep an eye on' Joyce and her dancing partner. Eventually he gave her a choice, 'Ballroom dancing or me', and Joyce chose Alan! Their first year of marriage was spent in Armidale, New South Wales, where Alan lectured at the Institute of Technology there. Then it was to Hobart and a position at the University of Tasmania. This was their home for fifteen years, and in that time Alan completed his Masters degree and Ph. D., ending as an Associate professor at the university. Sabbatical years were spent in London (during which Alan wrote 'Metamorphic Textures', a standard text for many years), and also at Berkley, California. Alan and Joyce's three children were all born in Hobart, fist Erica, then Paul, and finally Peter. After two years at Monash University in Melbourne, Alan decided he'd had enough of university students and academia, and the family returned to Adelaide where Alan had taken a position with the Australian Mineral Development Experimental Laboratories (AMDEL), a geological and geochemical consulting company. After twenty years service there, eventually as its chief consultant, Alan retired from AMDEL at the end of the 1980s to work from home, as his business card says, as 'a consultant on problems of stone in modern and historic buildings'.

Alan was clearly dedicated to his work and sharply focused on what he undertook. He loved the field of geology, in which his son Paul followed, both being awarded the Adelaide University's Tate Memorial Medal and James Barrans Scholarship, a unique father-and-son achievement. Alan gave his all to rugby too, and especially to the Old Collegians Rugby Club in Adelaide where he served at various times as president, team manager and selector. Paul and Peter's prowess in basketball prompted Alan and Joyce to take an interest in this sport too. Alan's family remember him as a very caring man, ready to support Joyce in whatever he could. They complemented each other in many ways - while Joyce excelled at conversation, for example, Alan excelled in the kitchen (much to the children's relief!)

In June 2000 Alan was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, and died quietly on the morning of Tuesday 3rd April 2001 at the Burnleigh Nursing Home, Parkside. Alan faced his illness with calm dignity, and Joyce and his family supported him with their loyalty and love. Alan is survived by his wife Joyce, his three children Erica (Zimbabwe), Paul (Iowa) and Peter (Adelaide), his daughter-in-law Susan, three grand-children, Daniel (married to Jo), Henry and Amelia, as well as by his brother Jack. They will miss him dearly.

27th February 1990
Adelaide Advertiser
Story no. 221408, Pic S771

"Alan Spry. An Adelaide modern master has gone to the rescue of two of Australia's most important heritage constructions." Alan was approached by the Tasmanian Main Roads Department and asked for advice regarding the preservation of the Richmond (1823) & Ross (1836) stone bridges.