On the first anniversary of Steve Irwin's untimely death, John has been asked by many in the media for his thoughts at this time. Steve's passing is still so raw with John that he is not comfortable speaking about it. However, he has written the following words which completely sum up his feelings:
Steve Irwin was an even nicer bloke off camera, if that could be possible. With all his world fame, he remained a humble young fella astounded by his popularity. His heart was well and truly soaked in wildlife and his love for the natural earth seemed to empower him. His greatest gift, to my mind, was his way of getting an environmental message across to millions in an entertaining way. It was obvious his urgent plea was more important to him than his fame. If he is only remembered as the 'Crocodile Hunter' his wonderful gift will be wasted.
I will miss him as a mate. We had so much in common.
- John Williamson
I was deeply honoured to be asked to perform at Steve Irwin's memorial service at Australia Zoo. Steve's heart and soul was at the zoo and it was and is a most appropriate place to celebrate his life.
Steve was a proud Aussie who spruiked the wonders of our ancient land with infectious enthusiasm, who stood his ground on every occasion to protect not only the fauna of the world but his Australianness.
My song True Blue was so appropriate for the end of the memorial service and many people have commented to me that Home Among The Gum Trees lifted everybody's spirits in the middle.
Steve was the 'real deal' - a good bloke and certainly True Blue.
Dear True Blues:
I was in the outback town of Meekatharra, in W.A., when a hole was blown in my heart. A real Aussie had just been stabbed in the chest by a stingray, and died. No! Not Steve Irwin. It couldn't be. Why him; a loud and proud Aussie who spruiked the wonders of our ancient land with infectious enthusiasm; who stood his ground on every occasion to protect not only the fauna of the world but his Australianness.
He was the 'real deal'. He didn't put it on. He was the same off camera. I would say perhaps more humble face to face. He had an alarming innocence. We had a lot in common, that is, both being inspired by our natural heritage. And, I was thrilled to learn that my CDs were on the top of his collection.
The only two Australia Days he put on a show in his new little stadium at Australia Zoo I was there. We shared our mutual admiration with 5,000 people. And I loved the connection we made.
It was after the last show I observed his almost overpowering love for his wife, Terri, and his special kids, Bindi and Bob. Little Bob, who had grown into a nuggetty little miniature of his dad showed me his new ukelele. As usual, in that situation, I tuned it up and showed him how to play a little, old song called "On My Ukelele". So I struck up a chord and began singing "On my ukelele, I keep strumming gaily ...". "Hey" said little Bob and grabbed back his little instrument and said, "It's MY ukelele!". From then on he was a little wary of me. Perhaps even competitive, because when Steve handed me a carpet snake little Bob grabbed it as well. "Beauty!" cried Steve, "that's the first time Bob has handled a snake". I'll remind Bob of that one day. I'm sure he'll be another Steve, I hope so.
Already, there have been many emails to me suggesting I dedicate a song to Steve. Well, I promise that it will happen. I've already started it, in fact. It will be called "Sad Day in Meeka".
Back in Meekatharra the terrible news of Steve's death was rapidly spreading through the little town. One bloke said his little boy immediately started crying with disbelief. The news flash had reached us while we were setting up the backdrop and sound equipment for my show. "How am I going to cope" I was thinking, "I can't cancel". The small audience, I was told, were stoked at us being there. And, of course, we had come a bloody long way. Then it was suggested by Phil, my Manager, and Megan, from the Town Council, to fling open the doors, and put on a free show for anyone who wanted to come. Call it "a Memorial to the Crocodile Hunter". It was a perfect idea. I knew then I could get away with my sad, sentimental mood. And I could share with my audience an admiration for Steve.
Well, they all came, local aborigines included. And that gave me a chance to tell them that Steve had a great respect for them as well. "Rip Rip Woodchip", "Salisbury Street", "Flower on the Water", and of course, "True Blue" all became songs for my mate that night.
I am an Ambassador for Australia Zoo's Wildlife Warriors campaign. A fully equipped veterinary hospital has been established there by Steve and Terri. It employs veterinary surgeons etc. to care for diseased and injured wildlife. It's the only one of its kind that doesn't rely on just volunteers. I will remain a big supporter.
Finally, I leave you with "long live" Steve Irwin's legacy and by CRIKEY he was a good bloke.
- John Williamson