Some of Terry’s paintings with photographs of Terry and other treasured items at the Park Café in Redfern.
Photo: Lyn Turnbull

Remembering Terry (1970-2021)

Terry James Irving (17/6/1970–10/6/2021) was a valued member of the South Sydney community. Those who knew him best remember a proud Bundjalung man, fiercely loyal, quick-witted – a lover of animals, music and painting.

On Tuesday, February 15, the community gathered to honour Terry’s life and to pay respects to his family. The memorial service at the Park Café on Chalmers, one of Terry’s favourite places, included spoken and musical tributes, tears and laughter.

Aunty Narelle Lyons gave the Acknowledgement of Country.

Uncle Colin and Aunty Nita Lyons conducted a Smoking Ceremony, and Aunty Melva Kennedy shared stories of Terry’s struggles and triumphs. “He was always respectful to me,” she said, “he called me Nan – and I will always remember him.”

Mike Simpson and Jane Linwall from St Vincent’s Hospital Homeless Health Service (which includes Tierney House) paid their respects, as did Tiffany Forsyth from the Haymarket Centre, where Terry lived for a time.

Barista, Dee, performed an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” – “Won’t you help to sing / These songs of freedom? / ’Cause all I ever have / Redemption songs …”

Owen Roberts, who busks with his guitar in the park, offered a moving rendition of the folk spiritual, “Wayfaring Stranger” – “I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger / Travelling through this world below / There is no sickness, no toil, nor danger / In that bright land to which I go …” – before joining with Uncle Colin on yidaki for an impromptu “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”.

Several people stepped forward to give thanks, paying tribute to Terry’s faith, generosity, vulnerability, dignity and courage.

Miriam Pepper, Andrew Collis and Abner Cox shared musical tributes on behalf of South Sydney Uniting Church.

Miriam said, “Terry loved the songs of Jimmy Cliff and ‘Peace’ is a song we have learned to play” – “How is there going to be peace / When there is no justice, oh no, oh …”

Abner chose a composition by Gerald Finzi called “Fear No More the Heat of the Sun”. The lyric by William Shakespeare concludes: “Nothing ill come near thee! / Quiet consummation have; / And renownèd be thy grave!”

With thanks to Elly and Peter at the Park Café for hospitality, including sandwiches and muffins, coffees and lemon myrtle tea.

Blessings upon you, Terry. Rest in peace, dear friend.

Tributes and prayers

Allison Forrest
I met Terry while I was working with South Sydney Uniting Church in 2020-21, and I will never forget him. Terry had an open, honest and vulnerable spirit. Terry allowed me to be a friend and companion, and trusted me with his stories. I mourn the ending of Terry’s life with us, treasure my memories of him and give thanks for his life. May he rest now, in deep peace.

Anne Jordan
When I think of Terry the first image that comes to mind is of him sitting outside Woolworths and the smile that lights up his face as he recognises me on approach. The hug that followed each time is held in my ‘body memory’ and still warms my heart.

Through all the ups and downs of cleaning or repairing his home, trying to keep in touch so his medical team or court support could help him over the next hurdle, Terry had a great appreciation of his friends and I am honoured to be known as one of them. I loved listening to him and Jason sharing stories of their childhood days in and out of each other’s houses. Adulthood was more complex.

My life has been blessed through knowing Terry over many years. For this I give thanks.

Miriam Pepper
Terry taught me that there is always hope and not to give up. Terry was always good to my dear dog Rango, and one of the first to offer condolences when Rango passed away. He used to call Rango “Uncle Rango.” Terry is the reason I went to McDonald’s just once in my life. I remember we played a rhyming game there.

Anne Camac
I will always remember Terry’s beautiful smile and his love of chocolate milk.

Heather Robinson
Terry used to be guided by his ancestors at the times when he most needed them. They comforted him. I liked his smile too, talking with him and his whimsical use of words.

Cathie Harrison
Terry was creative, he loved to paint. He loved to share his paintings with us. He was so proud when he completed the rehab course at Weigelli. We were so proud of him.

Andrew Collis
Terry was a loyal friend. He was always respectful to me. He was honest and intelligent. Always good to have a conversation with him. Terry had a passion for justice and for music (reggae and desert rock). He was a strong, vulnerable and faithful person. He was open to the Christian tradition — gracious and generous. We talked about Jesus and his ancestors walking together.

Claire Chehade-James
Terry made me a better person.

Naomi Ward
I will miss his beautiful smile and he will be sorely missed by all the community. Terry’s smile lit up the whole room.

Pamela Briggs
I remember Terry’s dignity and the feeling of respect I received as an aged person from him. 

Robbie Casey
Remembering how Terry lived in the moment and treasured small joys, cigarette, organic apple juice. I wanted to share a lovely memory of when I first came to SSUC and had a chat with Terry who was playing with Victor’s dog Biggie at the back of the church. I thought how wonderful it was that Terry felt so at home there, and it made me look no further and join the church soon after. I will cherish memories of Terry always.

I will miss Terry very much. I would see him pass almost on a daily basis. We always shared a smile and a chat at my fence. May he rest in peace.

Terry loved animals, especially dogs. He would often mind dogs for people while they did their shopping. He was very good to my dog Archie. Archie loved Terry too.

Peter and Elly at the Park Cafe, Redfern
Sending condolences and best wishes to all the family.

I hope the angels are with Terry. He was true to his principles. It was good to talk to him. He was honest.

I remember Terry’s eyes – warm and intelligent. His intentions were good, you could always feel that.