In a class of his own

There will be a great many people in the community saddened to hear of the death of Chappie Munn, of Merimbula, an iconic figure, intimately connected with the history of the town.

Chappie was in hospital in Canberra when he died on Sunday, January 6, aged 88.

Chappie was born December 11, 1924 and married Ethel Warne on May 5, 1947. They had six children (including two sets of twins) and 20 grandchildren. 

Chappie was an entertaining and engaging man with a fund of interesting stories who came from a well-known local family. His strong historical connections with Merimbula meant that he was involved in every aspect of the celebrations when Merimbula had its centenary in April 2012.

Chappie’s connection with Merimbula went back to his great grandfather, Matthew Adam Munn, who was the first family member to step on Australian soil in 1857 when he arrived in Melbourne from Scotland. 

Sir Thomas Sutcliffe and Matthew Munn bought out the Kirkwood Flour Mill which was established on land between where the Lakeview Hotel and Monaro Street exist today and formed Munn’s Maizena Company.

In 1873 Matthew Munn’s son, Armstrong Lockhart married a Pambula girl and together they moved into Munn Tower (called Courunga Tower at that time) which was built for them as a wedding present in 1873.

Chappie was brought up on the family’s dairy farm on land where the Sapphire Valley Caravan Park and Berrambool sit. When Chappie’s elder brother was sent to school at age seven, Chappie had to take over his brother’s milking duties on the farm. Chappie was keen to start school himself but although he tried to attend he was sent home as the starting age was seven. Eventually the teachers gave up and allowed Chappie to be the first six-year-old, in a class of his own at the school. 

Munn’s dairy had a milk run in the area and the ever-resourceful Chappie taught himself to drive when he was nine and by the time he was 11 he was delivering the milk around Merimbula. 

In 1943 he joined the Air Force and retired with the rank of wing commander.

Chappie was a founding member of the Merimbula RSL Sub Branch in 1946 and was also the patron and life member of the branch. He attended regular meetings and was present at the last meeting of 2012 on December 17.

Fellow RSL Sub Branch member, Alan Browning, of Merimbula, said: “We have lost an icon of the area. He came from a very well-known family and had an amazing memory.”

Chappie was active and involved in local life in many ways including through the Freemasons of the Daylight Lodge, Pambula.

Master of the Daylight Lodge, Fred Rubly, said: “Chappie was my introduction to freemasonry and as my guide and mentor opened my eyes to its many mysteries. He endeavoured to make good people better by encouraging them to lead their lives by the principles of morality, truth and virtue so they may live respected and die regretted.

“His lodge brethren will always remember Chappie for his kindness, courtesy and mischievous sense of humour and as a shining example of a life well-lived. He is a character who will be solely missed.”

His family history meant that he was sought out by the members of the local historical society. 

Shirley Bazley, of the Merimbula Imlay Historical Society, said: “With the passing of Chappie Munn we have lost the oldest direct descendant of Matthew Munn who founded the private village of Merimbula. 

“Chappie was extremely proud of his heritage, had an immense knowledge of the history of the area and was always very supportive of those who are interested in preserving that history for future generations. The Merimbula-Imlay Historical Society is indebted to him for his support and advocacy.

“Last year Chappie and his wife Ethel (Et) were centre stage in many of the events which were organised for the celebrations of the centenary of the Village of Port Merimbula, of the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the S.S. William Dawes and the launching of the book, “People of the Lake”. He shared his love of the area with the community on those occasions and his legacy will live on in people’s memories and in the oral and written records which have been compiled during his long and productive life.”

Typical of his wry sense of humour, he recently commented: “In 1867 there was one grocery store here for 129 people. There are 5000 more people now and we’ve still only got one grocery store.”

The funeral service is expected to take place in the middle of next week, possibly on Wednesday, January 16. At the time of going to press, details had not been finalised. Check www.merimbulanewsonline.com.au for more up to date information. 

• Chappie Munn with the painting of Courunga Tower, the family home.

• Chappie Munn with the painting of Courunga Tower, the family home.

The funeral of the late Chappie Munn, of Merimbula, will be held on Wednesday, January 16 at 2pm at St Joseph's  Church, Main Street Merimbula  with an Anglican  service  and followed with a burial at the Pambula cemetery.