Vale - Dr Harry Gardner (1927 - 2018)


Sadly, our great friend and valued life member of our club passed away peacefully on 18th February 2018. Harry will be greatly missed by everyone in the Victorian Folk Music Club.

Harry had fought his illness with tremendous determination, resourcefulness and his significant intellectual ability. He amazed us all that he kept going so long.

As an honorary life member of the VFMC, Harry made a tremendous contribution to the club over many years. He served as President, hosted innumerable rehearsals of the Billabong Band and a wide range of music playing nights. His active encouragement of youth involvement resulted in some new performers and bands. His meticulous attention to detail is seen in the music scores in publications such as Peter Ellis' "Waltz, Polka and all Kinds of Dancing", and "Music Makes Me Smile". The resource of music scores and sound files for learning the tunes, embodied as the Fireside Fiddlers section of the web site, represents many, many hours of careful work, and is appreciated by folk music enthusiasts around the world.

From Harry's daughter Gayle:

A memorial celebration for Harry’s life will be held at the East Ringwood Community Hall, Knaith Road, East Ringwood this Saturday, February 24 at 11am. Following the formal proceedings, musicians are welcome to bring their instruments for a general session and wake at the Hall.

A private internment will take place at Springvale Cemetery on Friday 23 February.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Cancer Council of Victoria. Envelopes will be available at the hall.

This page is being developed rapidly and will be updated as more information becomes available

Personal Tributes

We said goodby to Harry this morning in the best way we knew. He died peacefully, surrounded by love and his spirit rose to the sound of the flute and fiddle. Thank you for making his final week filled with music and friendship and supporting us.


It has been a great pleasure to work with and to play with Harry for many years and in many roles. His tenacity and positive attitude have been inspirational.

Only recently, Harry helped me to purchase a violin, and encouraged me to play with him. Alas, that chance never came.

We will miss you Harry.


Harry was a man of passionate feelings about folk music. While he had a strong feeling that the aural tradition was what defined "real" folk music, he was accepting of others who did not share this view.

I've spent many hours making music with Harry -- I'll miss him.

The hours that he's spent building the collection of tunes and songs on this site are a real gift to the future.

Don G

Sadly Harry Gardner passed away peacefully last Sunday morning after a long battle with cancer.

As a former president and Life Member of the VFMC Harry will always be remembered for his enthusiasm, particularly for Australian tunes but also tunes from other cultures. He loved sitting down with young people and encouraging them to play music.

Those of us lucky enough to have visited his house will always remember the aroma of home baked bread & selection of cheeses but only after a great night of music.

His passing will leave a big hole in the club. He will be greatly missed.


Our sincere condolences - Harry touched so many people - We will miss the sound of Harry’s fiddle as we will him.

Helmut and Barb

Harry was a delight to know, always gave me a cheerful hello. He will be sadly missed.


Harry has been a great friend and mentor and very supportive to myself and many others, all who would in turn happily support Harry at any time.

Harry courageously followed his personal and musical ideals, and was open to learning even as his health deteriorated.

We have shared many tunes and songs and chats, and rehearsals and sessions at Harry's were eagerly looked forward to.

He enjoyed tremendous respect with the traders and shoppers in East Ringwood, and left us to keep playing when he would stop mid song for an elongated chat to one of his many friends.

As well as his fiddling, Harry was a keen singer. Late last year we were lunching in Emjays after busking and the cafe was packed. Harry was inspired to pull out his fiddle and play and sing a rebel song. His voice was strong and powerful and his performance was masterful, and enraptured all the diners.

A special memory is the last time Harry was lucid, awake and chatty in hospital during my visits, and joined in the singing of Pretty White Lilies.

Harry was inspirational in showing how to live life to the full despite advancing years and inevitable physical decline.

Harry, so much to sing and play and say that will be left incomplete. Miss you.


He told me he was an Atheist but, he was the best dang Christian I ever knew.

(Tribute to Harry Gardner)

Apparently in his working life he was a scientist
but I knew him for his fiddling at this he was the best
Give him any folk tune and he wouldn't rest
until he had it so good he would pass any test

I speak of Harry Gardner who sadly passed away
a kindly man who gave himself and to everyone who would play
his chosen instrument the fiddle day after day
and teach it to anyone without any pay

He told me he was an atheist and expressed it was true
but he to me was the best dang Christian that I ever knew
for when he was with you, you knew he was true blue
oh Harry my good friend we'll really all miss you

I know it is a bit cliche but he definitly was a treasure
his influence on Aussie music you really couldn't measure
and to play with him at any time was a pleasure
so we all hope Harry you are fiddling somewhere at your leisure

David O'Brien

We’ve known Harry now for over 30 years.

Our close association with Harry started through our daughter Colleen whom he used to transport to the Scottish Fiddle Club in Heidelberg when she was 9 years old.

He has always encouraged anyone with music but especially children. Colleen has had a close association with Harry over the years. He played his fiddle at her Wedding at the Cuckoo. He’d brought a spare violin along for her too and they played on stage together. She remembers him visiting her in hospital when she was 17 and just had her gall bladder removed. He brought in two violins again (I don’t think she managed to play that time though!).

Bill and I have been playing music with Harry since we first joined the VFMC in 1988. Over that time we have had many discussions about folk music and playing music by ear or ‘the dots’. We’ve also experienced Harry’s great hospitality and of course bread making. A couple of times he’s brought me over some bread when my children or I were sick.

Harry was always trying to get young people playing music in the folk club and over the years he succeeded on many occasions. In 1996 he was the instigator in getting Greg O’Leary to teach about 6 young people who answered an advertisement by the Club to learn the fiddle in our Club rooms . Over the last few years he’s been trying to get folk music into schools and the Folk club.

Bill and I have both been on the VFMC committee with Harry and experienced his enthusiasm and energy. Harry started the President’s Corner on the website so he could inform VFMC club members what was going on. His work on the website was an amazing help for us organising programs for the Balls and gigs. I only had to refer members to the Fiddlers’ section on the website and there they could download all the programs and music.

Even during his last 12 months, Harry invited Bill and I a couple of times to play with him at his favourite Japanese Restaurant in Ringwood. He was obviously well-known to the proprietor, and enjoyed playing traditional Japanese music, along with the meal. He was hoping to do the same at a local Chinese restaurant but that didn’t eventuate. He was very busy right up until a couple of weeks ago playing his fiddle in the Billabong band in nursing homes. He even went busking in the last month in his spare time.

He enjoyed being President of the VFMC from 2013? till 2016? and only relinquished his role when it became obvious he needed to manage his illness, which he undertook the way he does everything, without leaving a rock unturned. He had such energy and enthusiasm. He can’t be replaced and won’t be forgotten.

Maree Buttler

Please forward your tributes to 'enquiries' at this VFMC web site.

Official site of the Victorian Folk Music Club Incorporated (Reg No A2511Y)

Last Updated: 2018-02-19