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May 23rd 2009
Vale: Pierre Henri le Grand (1943 - 2009)

Peter le Grand with Linda Wootten Earlier this month a man who left an permanent and indelible legacy in the heart of the Magnetic Island community and many other parts of Australia passed away. Pierre (Peter) le Grand is remembered for many achievements and, with the assistance of his widow, Linda Wootten, Magnetic Times has put together this article for Peter which we hope other readers who knew him will add to with their comments.

Peter made some very important contributions to the wider Australian society with a particular passion for the arts, social justice and the environment.

Many who knew Peter may not be aware of his French & Nederlander heritage and for somebody who was dubbed, Mr le Thesaurus, due to renowned vocabulary, it is worth noting that he arrived in Australia at the age of 6 without a word of English.

Linda Wootten told Magnetic Times, "He worked hard to be accepted and didn't like anyone, but me, to call him Pierre. It was dangerous to be called Pierre in 1950s Australia. Things haven't changed much as his nephew Jean-Pierre, named for Pierre, has the same problem and is known as JP.

"Pierre made sure his English language skills increased and went to Uni of Sydney to study Fine Arts with one major being English. He also studied Architecture (Sydney) and Industrial design (Adelaide) as well as Psychiatric Nursing (Townsville).

"Peter's immigrant experience was similar to that of Alice Domelow, having arrived in Australia from a Netherlands background at the age of 6. Pierre was born in Arnhem in 1943.

"The difference was that his father was of French background and Pierre identified with his French Huguenot grandfather who was also Pierre Henri le Grand. Peter and his mother lived with his French grandfather and then his Nederlander great aunt and uncle (on a farm) to survive the war.

"His father Henri le Grand was a Master Potter and has pots in the national collection. His mother, also a potter, started the first private Art Gallery in Canberra, called 'Noondah', local Aboriginal word for North. Peter was co-founder of Narek Gallery, with his first wife Karen Beaver.

Mike Reynolds, former Mayor of Townsville, State Member for Townsville, Minister and Speaker was Peter's employer since 1995 until Peter retired last year.

Mike Reynolds told Magnetic Times, "Peter was a great inspiration to me. His strength and philosophical commitment to environmental sustainability and social justice for indigenous people was extraordinarily valuable in campaigns for me as both Member for Townsville and as a Minister.

"Peter had an amazing ability to empathise with people who required assistance or advocacy and the important part of his relationship with me as a politician was his ability to work collaboratively to seek good solutions for people.

"I especially want to recognise his extensive knowledge and skills in working with indigenous people. Work he did with me on injustice on Palm Island and generally with indigenous issues at a local state and federal level was phenomenal.

"Peter will be remembered by national and state indigenous leaders as someone who fought with them in their struggle and will long be remembered by them as someone held in great esteem.

"Peter was also very well known for his battles on Magnetic Island over the last two decades and, typically, he was fighting up to the weeks before he died - still writing to Ministers over World Heritage and seeking to quickly resolve Unallocated State Land (issues) on Magnetic Island

"Peter was a person I held very dearly. He was a special mate of mine."

Peter's best known legacy to the Magnetic Island community was, to many, his role in establishing Magnetic Island Community Care (MICC) an Island organisation which provides a wide range of services (including the much loved Tuesday Club) to elderly Islanders supporting their capacity to continue living in their homes and, importantly, to remain on the Island.

Mr Phil Landon, President of Magnetic Island Community Care (MICC) told Magnetic Times, "It was through Peter's intellect and strong feelings for the local community and vision to see the need for something for the older community that drove it (MICC) into existence.

"His attention to detail, drafting the rules and getting it registered as an incorporated body was very significant and led to him becoming MICC's first president.

"He had such a strong belief this was needed and he had the guts and determination to make it happen and, after leaving, he supported the Association with good advice when necessary.

"He was generous to a fault - always helping people out. He spoke much sense and was all round a solid citizen, a lovely bloke and busy as a bastard."

For the record, an brief outline of some of Peter's achievements follows:

Master Craftsman - Recycled timber with a passion for octagons -
Derailed and Talented Timber
Founding member of the Arts Council, ACT
Designer - Architectural, commercial, industrial and anything in timber
Person with a passion for language, design, architecture and archaeology
Advocate for the rights of motorcyclists through Road Safety Council and Australian Touring Motorcyclists Assoc.
Founding member of Magnetic Island Arts Coop
Founding member of Magnetic Island Nature Care (MINCA)
Founding President of MICC's Mates (MI Community Care Assoc)
Member of the Infrastructure sub-committee for MI Community Development Assoc Inc
Ministerial adviser to Hon Mike Reynolds MP - portfolios: Emergency Services and Child Safety
Advocate for respect, honour and justice for the Traditional owners of this land, which we are privileged to inhabit.
Honoured to be accepted as a friend by the resilient and much beloved people of Palm Island.
Advocate for the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat on Magnetic Island.
General Workaholic

Peter was the much beloved husband of Linda Wootten, who has shared his life for 33 years. Son of Henri le Grand and Hendrika le Grand Rademaker (Potters) Brother of Christine, Harry, Michael and Marietta Uncle to Ariane, Cameron, Matthew, Louisa, Robert, Cal, Tash and JP.

Born 19 September 1943 (Arnhem, Netherlands) Died 12 May 2009 (Magnetic Island, Australia).

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Vale: Pierre Henri le Grand (1943 - 2009)
Chris Chappell
May 23rd 2009
Thanks for publishing this Linda and George.

Coming back from Peter's wake only minutes ago I thought of how appropriate it would be for the record to be published.

For me, Peter will always be an old leftie who fought the good fight with great integrity and skill – that, and a great coffee companion.

He was a good man who’s life was well lived. Gone too early

Trish Hamilton
May 23rd 2009
Those who knew and loved Peter le Grand are looking at the great hole that he has left behind. His warmth and generous actions, his many skills, his cheeky sense of humour, his love of all things natural.
Words are not enough. So it is up to us to fill that hole and hold on to his inspirational ideas, and follow them through. Hang on Lindi love, we are here. Trish.
Jenny Stirling
May 23rd 2009
I met Peter once and was touched by both his warmth and his genuineness. Now having read about his life I am sorry I did not have the opportunity to know him better. A great loss for the whole community.

My condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
Bindy O'Connor
May 24th 2009
I remember many conversations with Peter on the ferry, a wonderful man who always had a smile and a sense of humour. My thoughts are with you Linda. Bindy
Wendy Tubman
May 24th 2009
Chris and Trish seem to have summed up the thoughts of many. Peter's practical and conceptual contributions to many in the community were widely and highly respected. He gave a lot; he faced his end bravely; he went too soon. As I heard my dad say to Peter on the many occasions that he helped out" 'Good on ya mate".
May 25th 2009
Words are inadequate when a good person leaves us too soon, but it is obvious that Peter was a great man and a good Samaritan, as well as a fine artist and supportive partner. I will miss his good conversations and insightfulness. To paraphrase the above "Well done, mate".
george Villaflor
May 26th 2009
Goodbyes are hard.Final ones impossible to accept. But accept we must. Forgotten, never & we can still cry at times over that loss. Peter & Lynda have been with us in Canberra ever since Sally & I left the Island back in 2003 (& now have Julia -almost 3). Peter's funiture is the last thing we see at night & the first in the morning. It is in our bedroom. He was a remarkable man & Lynda his all. One day travelling we stopped at the town of Binalong; I stopped & took a photo of the old railway station, overgrown with bush. Peter & Lynda once lived here the locals later told me; they were excited to know where they now lived; I went back & took some more photos. I could write long on his commitment to Indigenous issues but we all know that, Peter & lynda will not be forgotten because they are good people & we all know that as well.

Sally Julia & george
Peter F. Hughes
May 31st 2009
On my Magnetic holiday last year there were a few people I wanted to see. Pulling up at Talented Timber I noticed a change from the day I met Peter there for the first time 14 odd years ago.
On that day he was handing over a caravan he had been living in while he was building his home with Lindy. I'd been warned he was an extraordinary bloke and we got on famously from the 'get go'. The land was vacant then except for a pole house which was standing as his final place, indeed, he informed me, 'where I want to spend the rest of my days, working wood and enjoying the peace of the island' (a place he remembered from the 70's but that's another story).
I hooked up his borrowed caravan and noticed, in true Le Grande fashion, he had made a few improvements for free, a gesture to the owner and anyone else who might like to be an owner builder and spend some time in the bush in that van.
Last year I parked in the drive and could harldy see the house for the trees that Peter and Lindi have planted. I knew he was there, a sign on the main house told me he was indeed still performing miracles in the shed.
Over coffee that afternoon, we covered a lot of ground as old friends apart are prone to do. The Mulrunji case, deaths in custody, his years with the Labor party, his plans and dreams.
I have only discovered his death this morning, my own worklife became as busy as Peter's. However, I can never forget the special friendship we had and the influence Peter had on my own life. For me, his biggest achievements are still happening, Coolgaree youth and the fact that his name is held so highly by the people of Palm. Indeed, he gave of his own time so freely for those who needed it most and that in itself will be his legacy.
Last year, Peter retreated to his home, his wife and his shed. His tenure at 'the table' in an official context was over, although he assured me, his laptop would not remain permanently idle.
I felt happy that last time I saw him. Knowing he was working with wood, a coffee on the brew and radio national crackling out over the workshop speakers.
Peter F. Hughes
Linda Wootten
May 31st 2009
It was remiss of me not to mention Peter's voluntary work for the Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) of NSW. Peter was a founding member of the Binalong Rescue Squad which grew out of the Bush Fire Brigade and Secretary of that squad for 15 years. Peter was also State Secretary of the VRA for 9 years, a qualified Instructor and a member of a regional State Emergency Committee for a number of years.
Peter devoted so much of his time to 'Rescue' that he once told me he would not be volunteering for anything when we moved to Magnetic Island. Many of us are grateful for the fact that he remained a dedicated volunteer all of his life.

I would like to thank the people of Magnetic Island, Townsville and further afield who have expressed their admiration for Peter and extended their kind thoughts to myself and our families for our great loss.
Marietta Le Grand
June 1st 2009
On behalf of Peter's siblings and their children, I too would like to thank the MI Community,the Palm Community, and Peter's friends & colleagues around Australia.

There is no doubt he was "one in a million", leading by example;we are bereft without him. But he taught many of us well - gave us the tools and showed us how to use them - I,for one,intend to carry on.
Emma Davies
June 2nd 2009
Peter was an exceptional person and friend. My memories of Peter date as far back as a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. My fondest recollections are staying up late to listen to Peter debate the world with my parents to ringing Peter for information and advice as varied as politics to parenting. Peter was a wealth of knowledge and an even greater source of compassion. I feel privileged to have known Peter. The loss of Peter resonates through my family and even to my children. I will forever remember Peter with a glass of fine wine in his hand an exceptional woman by his side and a shining commitment to justice. Cheers Emma Davies
LInda McCormick
June 8th 2009
Peter what an inspirational human. Your kind and warm smile will never be forgotten thank you for exceptional contribution to life and may it inspire others.
My condolences to your family and friends.
Patricia MacQueen
June 13th 2009
All has been said of this kind and knowledgable Man,Who is going to be missed by so many,
Peter has left his mark and will not be forgotten,
He will live on in the hearts of all who have fond memories of Peter,
Linda only time will mend your broken heart,
You will gain strength from the love and cherished memories that your beloved 'Pierre"
has left you with,
Thank you for being there for Noel and Me,
Stay Strong Love Patricia
George Hirst
July 1st 2009
Peter always had that great knack of drawing the wider social and political meaning from daily events and situations with humour and unparalleled passion. This was, for me, a tonic I never tired of. I didn't see too much of the man after I stopped commuting on the ferry but in every encounter was a conversation that carried real meaning and always rose above the ordinary and the obvious. His is a major loss to the Island community and all of us who knew what he could achieve – so often, quietly, behind the scenes.

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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