Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, A Life Of Service

The spectacular Gullfoss waterfall in Southern Iceland photographed, through the spray, during the afterglow that followed a beautiful sunset.

It was with a sense of deep sadness that I received the news that Dame Elisabeth Murdoch had died last night aged 103. I only became aware of this remarkable woman a year or so ago while watching an ABC TV documentary on her life. I was immediately impressed with her erudite, positive and happy nature. What's more, despite her considerable age, she was as sharp as a tack.

An Enlightened Being

I remember thinking how her face appeared etched in a mixture of joy, experience and wisdom. It was as though I was viewing a living tapestry depicting a life so well lived that even the spaces between events were filled with remarkable detail.

Surely this was living art created, with care, through the hands and heart of a selfless individual with a deep sense of compassion, tolerance and justice. Grateful for the opportunities life had given her and aware that there is no greater sense of joy or purpose than the act of helping others.

Dame Elisabeth was, indeed, an enlightened being. And she'd earned it through a life well lived, by which I mean a life of service. 

A Life of Service

Born Elisabeth Greene in Melbourne on February 8, 1909 she married Sir Keith Murdoch in 1928. Over time the couple welcomed four additions to the family, including media baron Rupert.

Her husband Keith presented his new bride with Cruden Farm, a 54ha property at Langwarrin as a wedding present which, over the years, Dame Elisabeth has opened to the public. As a result millions of dollars have been raised for charity.

Together with Sir Keith, Dame Elisabeth became a significant supporter and patron of the arts.

A tireless advocate for those in need Dame Elisabeth was a major force behind the establishment of the Royal Children's Hospital and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. While it's unlikely that the full depth of her charity work will ever be known, Dame Elisabeth was said to have directly contributed to over 100 charities.

A True Aussie Icon

An icon of generosity and compassion and one of Australia's greatest citizens, who lead through action and example, Dame Elisabeth will be missed by many thousands of people and remembered through a most considerable legacy.

The Journey Home

Photography has the unique ability to transform what it describes and the practice of photography provides the artist with a measure of control over that transformation. Just as Dame Elisabeth helped transform the lives of thousands of people I wanted to include a photograph that, in some way, speaks to the beauty of life and the great journey we are all undertaking.

The photo was made, under fading light, at Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland. It's said that a river's journey ends when it reaches the sea. Could it not also be said that it is at that very moment, when the river joins with it's greater self, that it has, finally, come home.

I'm sure you'll join with me as I send my condolences to the Murdoch family at this most difficult time.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru