18.8.41 - 19.1.96
Occasionally there comes into our midst a singular individual who, by virtue of personality or accomplishments - or both - stands out from others. Such a person was Vernon Cole, who was a member of the Calligraphy Society of Victoria from 1992 until his untimely death in 1996.
Vernon was not much of a one for attending meetings, but members will recall his witty and imaginative pieces in Postscript, and it is through these that his personality emerges. His last contribution - a posthumous one submitted by his wife, Ros - was the August page of the 1997 calendar. While most of the other contributors used quotations or illustrations appropriate to the various months, Vernon chose to describe August as "probably the most boring month ever devised". People born in August, he said, were invariably smug and pretentious, and further, no truly famous person had been born in August.
Freely executed in an adaptation of the Foundation style, the piece is evidence of a person not prepared to be constrained by strict adherence to set formulas or straight lines, and the composition points to one with a developed sense of design and a love of fine hand lettering. His predilection for the nuances of language is apparent in the string of adjectives used to describe this unfortunate month: boorish, derisory, lack-lustre; " at 31 days it is incontrovertible that August is far too long."
The man of learning can be discerned, too, in the passing reference to the anomolous position of August, once known as 'Sextillus' - sixth month - now being the eighth month, which should really be called October. And always there is the quirkish humour that is evident in his work; it is not surprising to find that Vernon was a devotee of Spike Milligan's Goons, with their surreal English humour.
Vernon was born in England, and spent his early years there. In 1972, in the restless spirit of adventure that was part of his nature, he came to Australia. His wife, Ros, recounts how, as a young woman, she met Vernon by chance at a town house in East Melbourne. He was very much the English tourist, suit-case and guitar in hand, looking for somewhere to stay for a week; Ros and a girlfriend were also looking for somewhere to live. Vernon was somewhat unhappy after having had a bad experience with a local taxi driver, so Ros and her friend decided to prove that not every Australian was deceitful and impolite, and set off to show him what Melbourne really had to offer.
It was one of those fortuitous events that willy-nilly shape people's lives. In this case, it was the positive half of the idiom; within six months Ros and Vernon were married and setting off for England for introductions to family, and the delights of the English countryside.
A friend, giving Vernon's funeral eulogy, described him as a rare perfect gentleman, a beautiful gentle man, warm and caring, modest and unassuming but of considerable intellect and with an off-beat sense of humour. He was very much loved and respected by all those who knew him in his many and varied interests: calligraphy, paper-making and music in particular. He recounted how Vernon, at a Creative Writing workshop, on the day before his death, wrote of himself:"I am a qualified primary school teacher by training, an alternative accountant by experience, a paper-maker and calligrapher by choice, and a singer by interest.