Off the Top of my Head
By Paul Murray
A small gathering of friends assembled at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand to remember our friend Jamie Tillett, who died tragically earlier this month in Dunedin.
There was nothing in the media about Jamie’s passing, so this document will hopefully serve as a memorial to him and help to gain the closure those who new him seek and alleviate the confusion we all feel over his demise.
Jamie’s family came out to New Zealand and held a funeral service for their son. Jamie’s father Stephan said his son, “was cremated at a breathtakingly beautiful spot overlooking Tomahawk Bay, Dunedin.” It must have been a very sad, confusing and frustrating time for them. They had planned to visit Karamea and come to Rongo as well, but found the whole experience so terribly difficult that they decided to return to Scotland and spread their son’s ashes there. I hope they can visit someday and see the memorial we have erected for Jamie.
(Photo of completed headstone)
Jamie arrived as a guest and enjoyed staying at Rongo so much, he eventually joined the team and worked as a volunteer at the hostel and on the LivingInPeace Project and helped on the permaculture farm, which he liked very much…especially working with the animals.
He was a gentle soul with a original, but genuinely funny sense of humour. He had a kind word for everyone and made many friends quickly. Some of the people he met at Rongo were able to come back for the informal memorial service we held to remember him.
Pete Dickinson returned from ski fields at Mt Cheesman where he is now working. Pete met Jamie on his travels around New Zealand and they became good mates…they had plans to travel to Thailand together from New Zealand. While they were working at Rongo in June, 2015, they did a radio show together on Karamea Radio 107.5 FM, a community radio station that broadcasts from the hostel.
Pete and Jamie (aka DJs Kaos and Orda) played their favourite tunes, discussed life in Karamea, the LivingInPeace Project and many other topics…Jamie’s unusual sense of humour is recorded here and we played the show and had a good laugh while we sat in his favourite spot “Runga Lodge” at the back of the radio station, while we talked about Jamie and our memories of him. We are making a memorial headstone for Jamie that will rest in place for him in a warm sunny spot where he often enjoyed sitting.
Hear the Show Here:
Jamie loved to play the guitar and, while at Rongo, he wrote a song about the place and recorded it with his French friends Adeline Thiery and Aymeric Bizard.
Rongo manager Tristan Lockerbie worked with Jamie a lot while he was in Karamea and they had many good conversations over morning coffee and while working together on Tristan’s many projects.
Benedikt (Ben) Mueller worked with Jamie at the Drifting Sands Backpackers in Hokitika and came to Rongo on his recommendation. Ben was working at Rongo when he heard news of Jamie’s death. He was pleased to be able to talk about Jamie with others who knew him.
LivingInPeace Project General Manager Brian “Big Man” Thomson worked with Jamie everyday for about six weeks.
Jamie loved pot-luck dinners, so we decided to have a special one in his memory…Pete, Adeline and Aymeric arrived and cooked up a mighty feast…the food was good, the conversation…a little emotional, but we managed to keep positive as the crew reminisced about their absent friend.
Our thoughts are with Jamie’s parents, his sister Rebecca, other friends and family and all who knew and loved him. While we’ll likely never understand how or why Jamie’s life ended, we’ll always remember how he touched our lives while he lived.
Rest in Peace Jamie.
Three of Jamie’s original songs:
Back in the Day by Jamie Tillett:
Conceited and Wise by Jamie Tillett:
Lord Have Mercy by Jamie Tillett:
Photographs by Jamie’s many friends in New Zealand.