Prince Charles has led the tributes for former NSW premier and Howard government minister John Fahey, who is being farewelled at a state funeral at Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral on Friday.
NSW Governor Margaret Beazley read a letter from the future king, who said he would always remain grateful for Mr Fahey’s courageous actions to save him from an armed protester on Australia Day in 1994.
“Coming to my assistance as he so valiantly did on that Darling Harbour stage on Australia Day 1994, John demonstrated not only characteristic selflessness and valour, but also the hallmark of athleticism of a former rugby league player,” he said in the letter.
“I was as fortunate to have him on my side that day, as the people of NSW always were to have him on theirs.”
Mr Fahey was NSW premier from 1992 to 1995 and played a key role in the bid for Sydney to host the 2000 Olympic Games before going on to become federal finance minister.
He died on September 12 after a battle with leukemia.
About 100 mourners – including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and former prime ministers John Howard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull – sat socially distanced as Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher led the two-hour requiem mass.
The service was streamed online from 11am as COVID-19 restrictions have limited the guest list to invited family and friends.
Mr Fahey’s daughter Melanie, who lives in the US and was unable to attend his funeral in person, paid tribute to her father in a video message.
“Dad, you are our fearless leader, light bulb changer, huntsman spider killer, the wind in our sails, our commander in chief, and compass in all things, especially our faith in God,” she said.
“You were never happier than when all of your chickens are in the nest. What a shame all your chickens are not in the nest to go through this day together.”
A hometown memorial event will be hosted at Chevalier College in Bowral, likely probably next year once COVID-restrictions allow for large public gatherings.
Mr Fahey will be buried privately after the mass on Friday away from the media spotlight.