Winston Edgar Taylor
12/02/1919 – 07/12/2003
Winston was placed in a locked institution at the age of seven in 1926. He was released in 1990 to become a profound source of peace to those who took up his care. He died in Wynyard, Tasmania in 2003.
We first met Winston Taylor, in the cavernous corridor of a decaying institution, in 1990. A tiny, frail man of seventy caught in the melee of residents jostling to touch the visitors. He was working feverishly to remain upright and shield himself from the excited crowd. Even when the struggle subsided, his fear filled eyes darted backwards and forwards trying desperately to cover every corner. To us, he was only just surviving. We had to remind ourselves that he had been struggling in this state of vulnerability for sixty four years.
He was introduced as ‘Squizzy,’ no doubt, after the infamous Melbourne gangster of the 1920’s; a cheap shot at his expense. This imposition of a disrespectful identity could not have been further from the truth.
The real Winston Taylor was obvious the first day we met him. Every hour of his presence since did nothing but strengthen that first impression. He was Winston Taylor – Gentleman, in the truest, oldest and most elegant sense of the word.
Winston was institutionalized at the delicate age of seven. Nothing remains to tell us of his early home life, scant medical notes bare sole witness to his decades of institutional living: all memories lost in the dispersal of those who cared for him. The anecdotal history that now turns us away in disgust at this misguided method of care gives some indication of a life that would have been bleak, to say the least.
Somehow, with all the odds stacked against him: his size, frailty, silence, delicate health and loneliness, he made it through these harsh times.
Governmental concerns about wasting a place in the community on one so old have been completely vindicated. Winston defied all medical prognoses. He turned the few weeks he was often sentenced with into many years, enthusiastically embracing every day.
His last thirteen years of life in our community were rich with discovery and experience. He engagingly endeared himself to all who entered his presence. Watching him discover and relish fine food, a glass of wine, motoring holidays and restaurant jaunts with his favourite lady friends remind us to be ever grateful for life’s simple pleasures.
We do not come to this world by accident and once here do not stay by default. Somewhere in the elusive scheme of things there is a purpose.
We all come bearing assets and gifts. For some of us they are openly revealed to shine for a lifetime. For others, like Winston, they are carried in darkness awaiting an appreciative discovery.
What did Winston carry all those years to finally share with us?
Winston was cast into one of our unkindest journeys without promise or expectation of anything better. Like a true sage he maintained the purity of his patience, tolerance and trust against odds that most of us will never face in our fortunate lives. A week of Winston’s institutional life would be enough to send most of us into a dangerous spiral of irretrievable despair.
Although he never spoke he offered us one of our greatest challenges. His extended hand and gentle clasp confronted us with the ultimate test at a time when it is needed most. This was a gesture from a man who had seen the worst of what we can inflict on each other and still be able to believe in and search for the goodness in his fellow man. His gift was an unmistakable challenge to all of us – I am small and frail and need to trust you with the life in which I delight.
Winston waited sixty four patient years for his place at life’s table. We had only thirteen to serve and share with him.
We thank him for the test and hope we measured up.