FREMANTLE has lost one of its treasured and true heritage warriors following the death of Ron Davidson last Saturday.
Journalist, author, academic, prominent member of the Fremantle Society and founding member of the Fremantle History Society, Mr Davidson played key roles in the battles to save the port city’s heritage from a pro-development council in the 1970s.
Anne Brake spent many years as president of the history society working closely with Mr Davidson, who did their regular newsletters which were invariably infused with his humorous stories.
“He was just a storyteller, and he had so many of them,” Ms Brake said.
“He was a delightfully quirky thinker who could come up with something a little off centre that made people see things from a different angle.”
She said among his many passions were the Fremantle Prison, where she formerly worked as a curator. She engaged him to help put out a community newsletter and said that time cemented a friendship that endured until his death.
“The thing with someone like Ron was that he had this incredible network of people and he was an ideas man and loved nothing more than to explore things and discuss the merits of whatever was being proposed.”
Ms Brake said despite failing health in his later years, including a bout of cancer that restricted his movement, Mr Davidson kept in contact with his network.
Murdoch University emeritus history professor Bob Reece remembered Mr Davidson for his humour and “whimsical” view of the world.
“As an unusually wicked story bubbled to the surface of his mind, his eyes and then, slowly, his whole face would light up in a beatific smile that drew his listener into a conspiracy against all things pretentious and self-serving,” Prof Reece said.
“Fortunately for us, he recorded his idiosyncratic view of Fremantle’s little world for posterity.
“In his book, Fremantle Impressions, he takes us on a historical walking tour of his adopted but much-loved town, with its pubs, its brothels and its SP bookies’ shops.
“In another book, Divided Kingdom, he describes Connie Ellement’s mother relaying the Saturday afternoon race results from her Mulgaphone wireless in the front room to her bookie pal standing in the street outside with his pencil and used envelope at the ready.”
Fremantle Society president John Dowson described Mr Davidson as a “gentle man of life and letters”.
“Ron and wife Dianne arrived in Fremantle in 1976 to become two of the most engaged community activists,” Mr Dowson said.
“Their input was insightful, lucid and convincing.
“Ron has left a wonderful legacy of quiet diplomacy, success with many Fremantle Society issues, and a collection of his memorable published works.”
Ron Davidson was also one of the Herald’s best friends. As a journalist with newspapers running through his blood – his father was editor of Perth’s “scandal sheet” Mirror from 1935 and WA’s chief censor during World War II – he was the first to notice even the slightest change in style, leading to a cautionary note that it was a
“brave publisher” who fiddled with their masthead. The Herald offers its condolences to his wife Dianne and daughters Emma and Jane.
His funeral will be held this Tuesday at 2pm at West Chapel, Fremantle Cemetery. There will be a procession from the main gate at 1.45pm