Nicholas McLeish Shand
Founder of The Byron Shire Echo
Born: London, July 22, 1948,
Died: Mullumbimby, NSW, October 27, 1996, aged 48.
• Introduction (by Mungo MacCallum)
• Tributes from Nick’s family
• Tributes from friends and associates
• Letters to the Editor (from readers of The Echo)
• News coverage of Nick’s passing from The Byron Shire Echo
Introduction by Mungo MacCallum
The tradition of the independent, crusading country newspaper in Australia is all but dead. The few that survive in individual or family hands are seldom more than bland vehicles whose principal concern is to maintain their share of real estate advertising. The Byron Shire Echo, founded by Nicholas Shand in 1986, is something else altogether.
Originally set up to provide outraged civil libertarians with a platform from which to protest against the brutality of police marijuana raids, The Echo became a haven for lefties of all kinds throughout the community. Through the years it has vigorously opposed rapacious development and championed green, quality-of-life issues within Byron Shire. It has campaigned against Club Med and in favour of koala sanctuaries. It has helped to hound at least one council manager out of office and defended the rights of New Age ferals. It has been viciously attacked by the pro-developers and subjected to a crushing price war by its local rivals, but somehow The Echo has survived.
This is largely owing to the enthusiasm and idealism of its founder.
Shand was born in London then brought up in the wild country in Wales, and he showed a temperament to match. His family cheerfully acknowledges a reckless and rebellious streak, but note that young Nick always got away with it because of his unfailing ability to charm people, a trait he never lost. Youthful enterprises included running an avant garde restaurant and skippering a yacht across the Atlantic. Eventually he took the hippie trail overland to Australia and in 1972 bought 81ha outside the northern NSW village of Mullumbimby to set up a commune.
In those days the Brunswick Valley, of which Mullumbimby is the centre, was the first hippie haven in Australia. Three years later it was overtaken by the Nimbin Aquarius Festival, but what might be described as the dedicated hard core remained in the hills around Brunswick Main Arm, to the initial alarm of the locals. Shand later described the invasion as ‘a wave of patchwork colour, an unwashed wave, a laughing wave, a wave of love and confusion, a very hairy wave and very often a stark-naked wave; a wave full of new thought and old ideals a wave of alternatives’.
The older residents of the area did not always welcome the wave, but in fact the money it brought with it (including dole money) probably saved the area from drifting into rural poverty as the staple dairy industry faded away. It certainly reinvigorated the valley in all sorts of ways.
Shand was at the forefront of the movement, but he was also a leading peacemaker between the two groups of residents. His charm helped, but so did his idealism; he was always prepared to believe the best of people, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Politically, he was a mix of New Age green, serious social democrat and old-fashioned liberal. He had a passionate belief in freedom of speech and diversity of opinion, and although it was always clear which side he was on, he was scrupulous in providing the opposition with a fair hearing.
Thus, setting up an independent and free weekly paper came naturally to him, the more so as his father had been a highly talented and respected printer in Pembrokeshire. Shand went into partnership with another expatriate Englishman, David Lovejoy, who was something of a production wiz-kid, and local surfie Jeff Dawson, who proved to be a gifted salesman of advertising. With Shand as the driving force, it proved a formidable team and quickly attracted other talented people.
The area had had other local newspapers through the years, but never one like The Echo. It became not only the principal voice for green alternatives but a genuine community forum in which all voices could be, and were, heard. It also provided a focus for other community activities: The Echo is a generous sponsor of the various festivals that have grown up in the district and a keen supporter of community groups of all kinds.
Inevitably, Shand was in great demand as a speaker and compered at various functions.
The Echo set up a biennial awards night, a sort of spoof on the Oscars, at which local performers strutted their stuff and local community workers were honoured. It was always the hottest show in town.
The Echo also has its own cricket team. Shand was passionate about the game and a great student of it, but it must be said that, in the best English tradition, he was a gentleman rather than a player. His captaincy was sporting to the point of becoming charitable, which meant that his team lost more matches than it won. We invariably compensated by winning the drinking that followed.
Shand’s conviviality was indeed remarkable; he loved a lengthy argument over a bottle or three of claret, and would talk under wet cement. Even dedicated enemies of what he stood for could be inveigled into debate at one of the town’s many bars. Such discussions were, on Shand’s side at least, always vigorous but never malicious. For such a controversial figure he provided a great point of stability; his capacity for connecting with and drawing together disparate groups was remarkable.
He died, tragically but typically, as he had lived, in a road accident after a long and splendid lunch with friends. The community turned out in force for his funeral, which turned into a celebration of his generous and exuberant life the way Shand would have wanted it.
He is survived by his wife, Jane; his sons, Sebastian and Saffron; and his daughter, Aslan.
Tributes to a great human being from his family
From Christina Shand, Sebastian Shand, Jane Shand, Annetine Forell, Suzie Forell, Peter Forell.
As always with my father, nothing he ever did was uncomplicated. The manner of his passing is something that I will have to come to terms with over time and the consequences dealt with as they arrive.
In the days after his death, through the horror that surrounded me, a wonderful thing began to take shape. It grew in an ever-widening circle, starting with the people of Coopers Lane and reaching out into the community of Byron Shire.
It slowly built through the week, gathering strength with increasing rapidity like the floods that often pass through this region. It was an affirmation of all that Nicky loved and believed in. It shouted the heartfelt grief of those who live in the area and manifested itself in the support and help extended to me and my family.
The crescendo was reached last Friday at his funeral and it was as if an attempt was being made to bring the scales of life back to some sort of equilibrium.
On the one hand his death and the manner of its occurrence, versus the love, understanding, support and courage of a community on the other. It was palpable and strong and almost terrifyingly beautiful.
It was a gift to Nicky from the community he loved and said in tangible energy that he was right in all his beliefs about the people that make up Byron Shire.
My thanks, to all the people who participated in this gift both near and far, can never be adequately expressed.
However, it will exist for all time in my heart and, I hope, give me the strength to live through his loss.
The following poem, entitled Wind was written by Nicholas’s maternal grandmother Vere (’Vevie’) Simms in November 1936, and is a family favourite.
The wind, the great musician, have you ever heard him play?
Just walk across the moors alone on any windy day.
His instruments are his alone the birch has muted bells Oh sea-sound in the pine trees when the wind sweeps o’er the fells!
Have you heard the husky whisper of the bracken’s dying song?
And gorse respond, like toneless flutes, with sighing sad and long?
The harshness in the holly’s note which may escape your ear
And the low moan of the grasses with falling cadence drear?
Oh the wind the great musician! What can his magic be
That stirs the sound in silent things, in grass and bush and tree?
And there’s a greater One than he who can make his music roll
In splendour and in loveliness through any human Soul.
I flew home, I flew home; across the heart of my Mother continent. I flew home to drip the Dionysian libation upon my ground, upon my Mother land. Before the water of the house, before the bridge to cross to appease, ease Dionysus.
Dionysus has ruled my house, my men. Some of the women, too. But I come with new understanding, having spent time on the trail of pain, wisdom growing, understanding. I take dry grass and light it, offer it in cleansing, blow it across perhaps empty water courses cleanse the home, cleanse the hurt souls, cleanse the land.
Dionysus, your lessons are deep, they are cruel. I know now how to honour you. I pour your libation upon that portion of Mother that my doorstep rests upon. I offer the pain of the drinkers, father and son. Their strange love to you I offer and cleanse. It is the job of woman, her spiritual duty to pick up the bones, to lick them clean and cast these bones afresh. The fire of grasses cleanses, the intention of my soul refreshes.
Dionysus met Ariadne on Naxos’s famous beaches. I meet you, Dionysus, and offer my libation on the Mother’s Earth before I enter my door.
This has been done; good voyage to the deepest love of my life.
My heart’s love and thanks go out to Margie and Dutchie, Karu Kali, all my wonderful friends, to The Echo, to the Byron Shire community who came forward to share our grief, to offer their support and love through this tragic time. Thank you all.
Faced with the charm and communicative powers of my brother my own expression becomes crippled. To some extent we all live in the shadows as well as the sunlight of people we love and of people who influence us. So it should be, the dappled variations of the light are the subtleties that create our lives along with the storms, the night and the blazing light of others.
To talk about him, to ‘sum him up’, is a task I am not equal to and cannot attempt. He was a loving, infuriating, exasperating, joyous brother and one of the greatest pleasures of my life has been the intensity of being with him again after long periods of absence.
I have been terrified of Nicky’s death since he was ten years old and the reality of it is shattering; it has broken my heart. I came here to make my peace with him, to say goodbye to him and you, all of you, have mended my heart. I take it home healed with the dynamic, the energy, the care and yes, let me not forget the hospitality but above all the healing of his friends. Thank you, all of you, may the longtime sun shine upon you and light your way home.
From All Souls Night, by W B Yeats:
… his elements have grown so fine
the fume of muscatel
can give his sharpened palate ecstasy
no living man can drink from the whole wine.
I have mummy truths to tell
whereat the living mock
though not for sober ear, for maybe all that hear
should laugh and weep an hour upon the clock.
We loved, despaired, learned and cried with him and through him.
Throughout this tragedy of Homeric proportions I can sense a thread of growth and hope emerging.
As we come to realise when somebody dies their life and work is not lost – their influence lives on in each of us. The opportunity for individual change and growth is painfully available. Embracing this is part of the challenge of the living.
… of a fun-loving Uncle to Andrew, Peter, Suzie and Tiggy.
… Nicky as a very young man arriving on our doorstep in London every morning and coming in with the milk to participate in the boisterous family breakfasts.
… the expectant father when Sebastian was being born, defying death to drive through Smithfield Meat Market towards the hospital to avoid a traffic jam.
… his overwhelming love and delight at Sebastian, the baby, the young child, and the growing man.
… the birth of Aslan in Coopers Lane, such delight, Aslan now a beautiful young woman with a strong future. Aslan whose bond with Nicky was wholehearted, doubly returned and a source of great joy to them both.
… the ongoing quest of Jane and Nicky and shared and assisted by so many others for answers and outcomes for Saffron. That Saffron was and is loved and respected there is no doubt.
… the preparation of a ‘hair-raising’ van that we waved off on their trip through Asia, with Sebastian, six months old.
… the recounting of amazing adventures that Nick and Jane embraced on that journey.
… their arrival in Australia, the next step of the journey.
… Christmases in Melbourne with the all-night forays and arguments that fuelled the nights. Vale Nick.
What a fabulous tribute to Nick – your very loved friend and colleague and my very loved god-uncle-father (as he liked to describe himself!). I just wanted to pass on to the community in Mullum and Byron my sincere appreciation for the love and support shown for Nick’s family and my recognition of what a significant loss Nick is to the community there. Just as Ill never forget Nick – I will never forget his absolutely wonderful farewell!
Received by email from the feedback form.
Uncle Nicholas you gave so much
and sort nothing in return, now it’s my turn
Today I lent that Safford has been offered
A brand new one-bed flat in Mullumbimby, so hopefully
what you started well come in two being.
We had Joy we had fun we drank claret all
Night long and the raves that we had were
The lifeblood of your life.
We had Joy we had fun we had seasons in the sun
And the children you bore were the greatest love of all
I will .iss you a lot peace and happiness always
Tributes From Friends and Associates
I draw the attention of the House to a tragedy that occurred recently in my home area in the north of New South Wales. Nicholas Shand, a well-known personality in the town, editor and founder of a local progressive newspaper, the Byron Shire Echo, died in tragic circumstances a few days ago…
Nicholas Shand is someone who the community will miss. He was very much a respected member of the community and the alternative community an example of the type of person who evolves from living on multiple occupancies and caring for the land. He has certainly left his mark as an esteemed member of the community.
He was respected for his views, he was consistent in his advocacy through the newspaper and he was consistent in searching out the best available in the community and the people that exist within it. He will be extremely sadly missed by a large number of people.
He was always very fair, friendly and warm to many people, me included. As a newspaper journalist he was strong, forthright and very fair. He is a great loss to a community that I belong to and a great loss personally. I felt it appropriate to raise this matter in the House.
MLC Ian Cohen
Address to Parliament, October 30, 1996
There was a newspaper clipping I once pinned to The Echo’s noticeboard, or more likely sticky-taped to a spare piece of brick wall. It was a review of a dictionary of biography and it quoted a legendary editor of the Irish Times, and I wish I had it with me now.
This editor used to arrive at work in a green opera cloak and yell to his journalists, ‘Gentlemen, it is past midnight, and the strumpets are not yet painted!’, or something to that effect.
It did not take me long to realise that in working with Nicholas Shand I had also found the stuff of legend (though of course now I’d settle for the stuff of life).
Unlike the Irish editor he was not so much a literary gentleman in the grandstand but more a Damon Runyan character in the street. But mere similes will not serve to pin a real human poignantly to the page.
Nicholas’s tastes were simple. A plate of bacon and eggs, a good drop of claret, a game of tennis or cricket, and an engaging conversation.Could he talk? Trying to get written copy out of him was excruciating but getting him to talk was like getting a salmon to swim upstream to spawn a matter of instinct and urgency.
It’s been said that Oscar Wilde verbally pissed much of his talent up against the wall. In some ways Nicholas was like that, but in his art of conversation he inspired many to keep on keeping on, to kick out the jams and roll over the obstacles.
Late at night, after a few jars of Chateau de Burringbar Street, the conversation would turn to raving. In the early days of my friendship with Nick, and in the early hours of the morning, I would passionately oppose some point he was making. The next day I would discover he had no memory of the argument at all.
What did he ask from us? Nothing much, which may be why he got so much. We were his friends first, peers second, drinking partners next and employees last. Nicholas’s genius was in appreciating us for what we were and letting us get on with it.
In part it was his understanding of the value of eccentricity that led him to create a unique newspaper. He knew that individuality cannot be franchised and rolled out on a conveyer belt.
Nicholas’s life was plenty of indication that he was likely to leave us without saying where or when he was going first. (How many times have the receptionists said, ‘Nick is expected in shortly’?) In a way he had already given me all I would allow him to give.
But one more bear hug would be just fine.
Nick Shand, fearless warrior, his pen mightier than the swords of the rapacious, the bungling and the bamboozlers. Feared by few, for good reason, and loved by all who really knew him, Nick’s heart was in Byron Shire, deeply rooted and alive. He was on the frontline of keeping Byron unique in a de-natured world, reporting the polarised points of view of an eccentric, dynamic community. Nick’s intelligent journalism, his passionate stance for independent media and his heartfelt commitment to Byron Shire are gifts to us all. I celebrate Nick for his dedication to his family and his community.
Nick’s spirit flies freeŠ his inspiration lives on.
Take your mind back to 1990, March in fact. 1989 was the last year of Maurie Summers’s presidency of Chincogan Fiesta and the chair was vacant. Nobody wanted to follow Maurie’s act!
The unsuspecting Dubbers, new in the area, and seemingly retired after the sale of their printing business in Sydney, were ‘conscripted’, via the Rotary Club, to ‘serve time’ on the Fiesta Committee.
What was the Chincogan Fiesta?
We had arrived in Mullumbimby April 1987 but had never been to a Fiesta. Where to start!
Nicholas Shand, Megan Richardson, a cardboard box full of paperwork, a leisurely lunch over a couple of bottles of red on our back verandah was the beginning of a firm friendship between two blokes, each still with the smell of printer’s ink up their noses! Worlds apart but with much in common.
In the first year 1990 we had no major sponsorships except for the generous donations from shopkeepers, business houses and townspeople. There was much to do learn the ropes in a hurry, formulate a budget, put together a program, competitions, entertainment! Nick was always there to advise, publicise and help in any (every) way we asked. Chincogan Fiesta, Billinudgel Frontier Day, Nick loved them.
What has changed for Fiesta over the following years: major sponsorships beyond our wildest dreams, tourism awards, huge amounts of cash support for many and varied beneficiaries. Many changes in committee people, also ‘serving time’, but nothing had changed because Nick and his beloved Echo were still there, backing up, supporting, lending a hand, giving the benefit of his knowledge and at times a shoulder to cry on or someone to whinge to when the going was tough. He was always fair, seeing both sides of a story, never mean-spirited.
The history of Chincogan is long, but for Keith and me it started with our first one in 1990, and I cannot begin to imagine what Fiesta will be like without the input of Nick. Who will fill the roll of Parade Compere, which he did so well because he knew everyone? Chincogan Charge commentator, race caller (the facts and figures of the race from year to year stored in his head).
They say that no one is indispensable, life goes on, Chincogan will continue as it has done in the past, well into the future, because it is part of this great community we live in together but Nick certainly did more than his share towards Chincogan’s successes and I guess the tables have now turned and it’s up to the rest of us to be there for the new committee taking over in February 97, same way Nick was there for us.
It is a great sadness that Keith is not here to mourn with the rest of us the death of his friend, but I can assure you that his head and his heart are here in Mullumbimby this week, to share the grief but also to celebrate the life of Nick Shand and the time we briefly spent here together.
The saying that ‘No one is indispensable’ does not apply to the loss of the awesome warrior for individuality that the Byron community got so used to over the past decades.
The other Thursday I saw him with Jeff on the Jonson Street sidewalk. They were there talking about a photo to be taken of the gutter as graphic comment about what is going down it these days. Another social and environmental issue being exposed.
And I said passing by, too busy to stop: ‘Good to see you guys in the streets.’ Now of course those last words to Nick come back loudly; that’s where he always was… about in the streets, cafes… court rooms, BEACON meetings, Chamber of Commerce meetings, Council… all the places where people are interacting. And always there was Nicholas, in there swimming in the essence of the people issues, always questioning how this or that affected the quality of our everyday lives and the community.
He was the common denominator of many people’s spirit. He lived in and for the focus of our community spirit. Now people are saying: What will happen with him not being here? My answer is that what he stood and lived for he articulated and demonstrated most eloquently. It’s going to take a big bundle of our combined energies to see that the spirit and energy he poured into our community lives on.
Love you for ever, Nicholas Shand.
I’m proud to say I knew Nick Shand. Personally. The last hours of his life were happy ones, spent with people he loved and who loved him.
He died in the place he loved, Coopers Lane, under a full moon, doing something he loved to do. It was a good death.
I feel privileged to have witnessed the Last Supper and to have spent the evening with Nick, talking, laughing and, indeed, reminiscing, something that I know many people would love to have done had they known the events to closely follow. One thing I particularly remember is him speaking well of some of those who recently maligned him and his paper.
Sure he had his faults but if ever phrases like ‘pillar of society’ or ‘upstanding member of the community’ applied, it was to this man.
It is impossible to separate The Echo and Nick. It wasn’t just a job, a way of making a quid, it was his life’s work and his energy, commitment and integrity shone like a beacon for all to see. While The Echo lives so does Nick Shand’s spirit.
Long live The Echo.
An ordinary sort of bloke a larrikin with a big heart, a fine mind and a quick wit everybody’s mate and ours.
If there are defining moments then there are defining people. You Nick, defined this special place to which we came. You generously shared your friendship and your wisdom with us. You gave us a forum for our thoughts. You gave us a vision and you gave us the courage to pursue it.
On Sunday this community lost one of its heroes and for many of us, someone we loved dearly. Mullum and our world will never be the same.
Wherever you are Nick, you will not be resting quietly. You will be both surfing the waves and making them. Because, mate, you always were an extraordinary sort of bloke.
Hugh Ermacora & Joyce Lillyin
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon lunch. The sort that confirms we all made the right decision to live here.
Nicholas Shand and I bumped into each other as we always seemed to indulging in a spot of raconteuring.
We once more picked up on a David and Goliath idea, that over lunch one day soon (’soon’ had been going on for about six months), we’d be able to plot usurping a multi-national newspaper.
It was a folly that appealed greatly. After all, there’s no harm in folly is there?
Passing up Nick’s invitation to join The Echo table post-lunch, I said goodbye with less attention to the matter than hindsight suggests was appropriate. For a man whose writing was always thought provoking, Nick’s final act has left us with a lot to ponder.
A migrant to this region fleeing Sydney in early ‘93, I started working at the Lismore Echo soon after. At that stage, the 18 months old, A4 newspaper was still finding its feet and looking towards its older Byron sibling for inspiration.
We still do.
The incessant demands of newspaper publishing made it difficult for Echo Publications to devote time needed to Lismore, so at the end of 1993, Nicholas, in consultation with his partners David and Jeff, magnanimously sold the paper to the Lismore staff for a nominal amount.
Underneath the occasional bluster, he had a quixotic nature.
Like most children striking out on their own for the first time, we were keen to show our parents how it was done.
Over the next three humbling years, Nick always found the time to help and answer questions (we have to admit to ourselves we didn’t have the answers), as well as encourage us as both independent, community newspapers faced the challenge of a better-resourced competitor.
Everyone at the Byron Echo has continued to help us, even though we are separate businesses. That camaraderie has been a great support to us.
The staff and directors of the Northern Rivers Echo send their thoughts, love and deepest sympathy to Nicholas’ family and the close-knit team at the Byron Shire Echo.
You had a marvellous, sometimes infuriating (and those infuriated generally deserved it!), always charming leader who inspired a great many people. That death is so fickle about who it chooses shows it sadly lacks Nick’s ebullience.
I can’t get the voice out of my head ‘Hello, it’s Nicholas here!’ (of course it was! Who the hell else boomed down a phone line like you?!)
And now you’re not.
We’ve all lost one of the reasons we love living here.
I hope they serve a decent red wherever you are Nick.
Simon Thomsen and the staff of the Northern Rivers Echo
The news of the tragic death of Nick Shand has shocked all who have come to know him over the years that he has been a member of our community.
The fact that Nick died in a motor accident accentuates the tragedy to me personally as it was during the years that I was president of the Brunswick Valley Rescue Squad, in the early years of The Echo, that I met and came to know Nick.
Nick was a great supporter of the Rescue Squad and an admirer of the unselfish voluntary work performed by the Rescue Squad members attending accident scenes and assisting people in distress on land and at sea.
I recall the numerous times in those early days that Nick generously assisted the Rescue Squad in promoting fundraising activities through the pages of The Echo that enabled the purchase of new and essential rescue equipment.
Nick was always accessible and never said no to a request to provide assistance.
The community of the Byron Shire has lost a great friend in Nick Shand.
We have all lost a very dear personal friend and advocate with the untimely death of Nicholas Shand. When I heard the rumour on Monday morning I prayed that it was a mistake and David and I were devastated when that rumour was confirmed.
Nick, as we fondly referred to him, has been personally known to all the Llewellyn family since the early eighties, when he played the part of the reporter in the play ‘Inherit the Wind’ for the Pacific Players. It was not long after that when he really did become a reporter, and started a small community newspaper The Echo. Today there is not a living soul in Byron Shire and beyond who has not heard of the Byron Shire Echo.
Nicholas Shand was a man of vision. He had a dream and through sheer hard work, and with the assistance of like-minded others, he made that dream come true, overcoming all obstacles and critics of the newspaper through his integrity and belief in an environmentally safe shire which could be the benchmark for many other communities. In spite of his paper’s strongly held views, which were, and still are, vehemently opposed by certain sections of the community, The Echo under Nick’s leadership has always been scrupulously fair to all its readers, giving equal space to all public opinions, be they political, environmental, religious or merely items of importance to individuals or interest groups.
To his colleagues on The Echo may I say, Don’t let his dream die with him. Keep up the wonderful example which you have set for all other newspapers, be they large or small, ‘free press’ or ‘controlled’, and go on fighting for those ideals which so many of us cherish for the place we now call home.
We’ll never forget you Nick; your name will live on in our hearts. With deepest sympathy from
Joanne and David Llewellyn
Dear Nick, I am so sad, tears are rolling down my face, I don’t want you to be dead. I really don’t want you to be dead. I knew you for two years but it feels like more because I liked you instantly. Everybody liked you instantly. I don’t like using past tense. I really don’t like using past tense.
At the Echo Awards I watched your charasmatic self drawing people around you like a magnet. Everyone wanted to be in your presence and I told you this and you were ever so humble and modest.
I was in awe of your intelligence, your articulate manner, your humour, your down-to-earth nature, your caring and nurturing ways. I laughed every time you rattled those trays in the office, checking on our progress in the artroom, yelling out about clearing your own message box and ranting and raving that no-one reads your constant stream of inter-office memos. You were so funny and so loveable. We could make fun of you and you always took it good-naturedly. You were your very own unique character with jackets to matchŠ a bit wacky and always crumpled. While you were relieving David as production manager, I would sit along beside you and appease your fear of the technology and wonder how you ever got an issue out, as you were constantly talking on the phone, meeting with people in the office, taking care of Saffron, dealing with ‘outrageous developer villains’, coping with hangovers, and a million other things demanding your attention. When I would leave to go home you would say that you get all nervous and insecure when I’m leaving. I would laugh and say, see you tomorrow Nick and you would get on with the job. Now I feel all nervous and insecure that you’re leaving but you’re not coming back tomorrow or any other day and I am crying and I am so sad and it’s so devastating for everyone in the whole world because it will never be the same again.
Love always, Mandy
I knew Nicholas for just ten and a half years, which is less time than many people here. But during those few years we constantly worked together on The Echo and often spent more time in each other’s company than we did with our families or our other friends.
There were times when we would both lament the intrusion of the newspaper into our lives. But now I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because what started as a business partnership developed into the deepest friendship of my life, and I count myself privileged to have spent that time with such a generous, large-hearted human being.
Because although Nicholas was a man of immense passion you could not create an independent newspaper against entrenched political and commercial hostility without that energy he was also a person of great compassion. No matter how sleazy the people we’ve had to report on or campaign against, he would always feel some human sympathy for them, and play, so far as was possible, the ball and not the man.
In the very first issue we produced he quoted against himself a remark made by a Council senior manager whose performance, Nicholas had pointed out, left much to be desired (yes, nothing changes). The remark was ‘How’s your one eye?’ and far from being offended Nicholas happily took up the name One Eye for use on satirical occasions.
He was anything but one eyed in his dealings with people. I never saw anyone extend more understanding, benefit of the doubt, and yes love than Nicholas, even when the recipient of his forbearance seemed to me to be malicious beyond redemption.
And yet he was one eyed in one major respect, in the motive which led him to found this newspaper in the first place. He never wavered on the paramount need to protect this Shire environmentally and socially from the destructive forces of mindless development and stultifying conformity. But he never had the vanity to believe he or the newspaper could achieve anything on their own. He always sought to involve, include and empower residents to take control of their own destiny.
He hated secrecy, not because it is the enemy of journalism, but because it is the enemy of democracy. He believed that the more information that could be provided, and the more people who could examine it, the better would be the decision. He would not have considered that to be an expression of idealism, and he was in no sense an impractical idealist. He understood the business of politics very well and was shrewd in his political judgements. Even shrewder in private than in public: the only arguments we ever had centred on his reluctance sometimes to go further in exposing particularly sly, dishonest or incompetent figures. If over the years any such escaped due castigation, they can thank Nicholas’s innate kindness and not their own cleverness in evading his vigilance.
The vision he brought to The Echo did not spring fully formed; naturally it developed by stages. He started with the question of civil liberties, so shamefully trampled on by the police marijuana raids of the early eighties. If the annual invasion, though still unacceptable, is less brutal than it was, we have Nicholas and his fellow workers in that field to thank for it. He was also concerned with the need for a truly local paper to reflect the community after the retirement of Jim Brokenshire and the removal of the Mullumbimby Advocate to Ballina.
But most of all he felt the need for a vehicle to bring local politics to the new and complex mix of residents who had established themselves by the mid-eighties, so that decisions affecting the future of the Shire would not continue to be made in back rooms by small interest groups or distant public servants.
The vision grew with each new energy he brought into the project. It was not by luck that Nicholas surrounded himself so harmoniously with many gifted and dedicated people, it was the grace and spirit of the man himself which made it possible.
In the end it is that spirit we will remember. We are mourning a father, brother, husband, lover, friend, employer, partner, colleague, leader but above all someone who inspired love and friendship and good humour because he exhibited those qualities so abundantly. Before he settled here Nicholas led an extraordinarily adventurous life which included skippering a yacht across the Atlantic and travelling the overland route from England to Australia. It’s no wonder the images of him that come back to me are larger than life, legendary:
Nicholas sitting up all night fuelled by claret setting the world to rights while one by one the rest of us collapse under the table.
Nicholas getting into the spirit of Anzac Day, dead drunk with the diggers just after dawn.
Nicholas in his element on the cricket field, cheerfully dispensing encouragement and ribaldry in equal measure.
Nicholas bravely facing a roomful of angry, misinformed and politicised Council staff who believed themselves unfairly criticised. Nicholas evading pursuing breath police by inspired driving in the maze of streets near the showground (yes, guys, it was Nicholas you nearly caught)
Nicholas at our tenth birthday bash at the Epicentre in June genially bringing everybody into his special world.
Nicholas still typing the last lines of his story while the printer’s courier waits and waits.
Cavorting, carousing, courting death on more than one occasion magistrates please note tilting at windmills sometimes, but more often at genuine dragons, Nicholas has written his last line and it is still hard to believe, much less to bear.
So we’ll go no more a-roving
So late into the night
Though the heart be still as loving
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears the sheath
And the soul wears out the breast
And the heart must pause to breathe
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for
And the day returns too soon
Yet we’ll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.
Perhaps the key to Nick Shand lay in his love of cricket. In the great tradition of the English amateur, his approach to the sport could best be described as random; he was not overtalented in the field, but he had a great knowledge of the game and an immense enthusiasm for it.
As a captain he loved to take risks, but was invariably sporting towards the opposition a courtesy not always returned by some of the more ruthless teams of the area. As a result the stalwarts of The Echo probably lost more games than they won, but always did so with great good humour and invariably made up for it by winning the drinking that followed.
As in cricket, so in life. Nick was a passionate political leftie a combination of new age green and old fashioned social democrat. He never hesitated to state his own views, but was always prepared to listen to the other side. Even his most zealous enemies and his idealism inevitably produced a few could often be seen with him late at night, agreeing to disagree over a couple of dozen beers.
This innate openness made him one of the great communicators and connectors within the Shire. Everyone knew him, everyone had an opinion of him, most people liked him, and the few that didn’t respected his honesty and decency. He was a controversial figure, but in a funny way he brought great stability to the Shire as a focus for many disparate groups.
No one is irreplaceable, but it is hard to think of any person or collection of people who will fill the gap he has left. The Echo was only the tip of the iceberg. It soldiers on, but it will only be when we realise how much that we took for granted is no longer there that we will know how much we miss him. It was, as they say, one of the all time great innings. We shall savour the memory.
Letters To The Editor
Letters To The Editor recieved in the following weeks after Nick’s passing
Nick Shand stood for liberty, fraternity and a whole range of other things, including equality. He has now achieved equality through his death. Only during the dying process, which we euphemistically call life, is there inequality. It is a weird feeling to so suddenly not be able to talk to him anymore, listen to him, see him, read him.
He enjoyed himself, his life, to just about if not the very last second of it.
It is totally pointless, if not perverse, to investigate how he died. I’m sure that’s not what Nick would have wanted. After all, in my very first letter to The Echo nearly ten years ago, Nick corrected one word. He changed revenge to vengeance. He knew, what I wanted to say. The context is different now.
To Nick’s family and that’s all of us, isn’t it? Stick together!
Peter van den Berg
My wife, Lois, and I have just returned from a trip to Sydney, only to learn from the front page of The Echo of the sudden and tragic death of Nicholas.
Although not close friends, we have known him for some ten years, since he founded The Echo and addressed a Rotary Club meeting as to why he was taking on the formidable task of establishing a local newspaper.
That he succeeded in his ambition is evidenced by the high standing the paper now has in our local community.
Lois and I send our deepest condolences to Nicholas’s family and friends. He will be sorely missed by the residents of Byron Shire.
Dennis W Davie
I, like many others, will miss you, Nick.
Last week we saw the sad loss of Nick Shand a man with vision and a sense of social justice who allowed our voices to be heard. Let’s not let his vision diminish. We’d like to call on all Progress Associations, action groups and individuals to dig deep and contribute as much as they can to support and keep alive our independent voice The Echo.
South Golden Beach Progress Assn
We’re all in shock (yes, even us lot in readerland who didn’t know Nick that well) and we’ll all get over it together. It’s easier that way.
A lot of people are blasé about death these days, perhaps a swing of the pendulum towards the middle, away from the fear we are unknowingly taught. Sure dying is the next big step, sure it’s a damn bloody shame when someone leaves the game of life, especially when they’re playing it to the delight of others.
The man’s work is his legacy, the best independent newspaper in the country. Well done, Nick, and we will not let them bury the light! Shine on, you Crazy Diamond.
You all did Nick proud on Friday. He must be having a good giggle wherever he is at the turnout of people!
Please – if there is anything I can do to help – even if you want someone to help with phones or hack stuff – let me know. I am at uni on M,T, and Wed but am working at home on other days.
The Echo is so important to our community and you are the only media who has the guts to deal with many of the issues. Please take care – I’m sure you all know that our hearts are with you.
Southern Cross University
I can imagine how cold and lifeless the office must feel at this time without Nick’s great warmth and leadership. All our hearts must work a little harder and each take benefit from the sudden shock of how precious and temporary our lives are. Please push on undaunted, protecting and celebrating life and giving voice to those who recognise what a wonderful gift it is.
The funeral was one of the best days I have ever experienced in my life. Nicholas brought love , warmth and all of our people together. It was like doing 100 workshops and all being beneficial to the soul, mind and spirit. We thank you, dear Nicholas.
His soul flies ever high looking, searching and calculating that special place for re-entry back into our realm of rainbows, happiness, friendships and community debate.
Nicholas Shand lived well on all levels of life.
He contributed much to the ‘voice’ of Byron Shire through a forum, available to all, called The Echo, that reverberated across the land and across the sea and beyond.
He will be sadly missed as a good friend.
Farewell to Nicholas Shand
Wednesday, 30 October 1996
The Echo is in mourning this week following the death of its managing editor and founder Nicholas Shand last Sunday evening. Nicholas, 48, died in a road accident at his property in Coopers Lane, Mullumbimby.
He died as he lived, clowning around and with a great sense of joie de vivre. Throughout his life that bonhomie was accompanied by a social and political conscience, which led him to begin The Echo in June, 1988.
Nicholas was born in England on July 22, 1948. In 1972 he bought 200 acres at Coopers Lane and set up a commune.
He was part of the ‘hippie invasion’, which he described in an article in 1991 as ‘a wave of patchwork colour, an unwashed wave, a laughing wave, a wave of love and confusion, a very hairy wave and very often a stark naked wave; a wave full of new thoughts and old ideals ‘a wave of alternatives’.
Members of that wave ran foul of the law in the 80s. Police behaviour during cannabis raids led to the forming of a civil liberties group, of which Nicholas was a member. That concern for social justice led on to the forming of the newspaper, which published its first issue on June 11, 1986.
Throughout the first decade of The Echo, Nicholas was deeply involved in the social and political life of his community. The thrust of his newspaper has always been issue-based, fighting for a healthy environment and a just society. The man himself was always inclined to forgive and forget, with the Buddhist approach of compassion looming large in his perception of the world.
He was no saint, thank goodness, but filled the rooms of The Echo with lots of laughter and a few alarms. We shall miss him very much as we strive to carry on his work.
Last Monday, residents of Mullumbimby were crying and hugging each other in the streets as they heard the news of Nicholas’s death. No man could wish for a greater tribute.
Family and friends are flying in from around the world for his funeral.
The Echo will celebrate Nicholas’s life in more detail next week, when a little of the shock has worn off.
Echo editor laid to rest
Wednesday, 6th November 1996
Some 1,000 people turned up at Durrumbul Hall last Friday to mark the death and celebrate the life of Nicholas Shand, The Echo’s managing editor. Nicholas died on Sunday October 27 in a tragic car accident near his home at Coopers Lane.
The hall was decked out in flags and flowers, and Mary Doumany played the harp as guests arrived for the memorial service conducted by Nicholas’s friend Paul Jameson. The coffin arrived on the back of a decorated tray truck and was carried to a canopied resting place before speakers addressed the crowd.
Befitting the service for a man who loved politics, all three levels of government were represented in the mourners. As well as several Byron Shire Councillors, Morag Page turned up for herself and her husband, Member for Ballina Don Page, and Member for Richmond Larry Anthony and MLCs Ian Cohen and Richard Jones also paid their respects. Mayor Ian Kingston, a longtime friend of Nicholas, was one of the speakers.
Other speakers included Nicholas’s relatives Age journalist Claude Forell, Annetine Forell, and Andrew Forell, Nicholas’s business partner and friend David Lovejoy, and former Councillor Anudhi Wentworth. Judy Arpana read from Nelson Mandela’s inauguration speech, reprinted on page 9.
Nicholas’s sister Christina spoke of his early days as a mischievous child in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and of his ‘Peter Pan’ qualities, which most speakers agreed remained with him in adulthood. She also recounted Nicholas’s early involvement in the publishing industry through his father, known as ‘one of the four best typographers in Europe, if not the world’.
As well as remembrances, there was music. Jo Jo Smith performed a song she had written on the death of her mother, while a cappella group Allegro Gone Troppo sang two moving songs.
Following the service the crowd was invited to write final messages to Nicholas on small cards, from tables marked ‘Letters to the editor’, and place them in the open coffin.
The coffin was then returned to the truck and a procession followed it to the place on Coopers Lane, marked with flowers, where Nicholas died. From there, bearers carried the coffin in relay to the grave, high on a hill on the Shand property.
Nicholas’s interment was marked by a brief Buddhist ceremony, speeches from family and friends, singing, and the release of coloured balloons. The coffin was lowered into place among flowers and an Akubra hat, and the gravesite piled high with flowers.
Wakes were held into the night at the Durrumbul Hall and the Shand homestead.