A man so well loved by many people in Australia, especially around Victoria, passed away recently. Keith 'Chips' Whitthread - or 'Old Silver Fox' - was quite an extraordinary man - a storyteller, teacher, craftsman, artist, and tradesman. I knew Chips for 17 years, first meeting him in 1997 when I joined the viking re-enactment Garrison of Dubh Linn in Geelong.
Better known as Chips by all who knew him, he was a master at creating fantastic Viking jewellery, cloak pins, pendants and amulets, Thor's hammers, apron brooches, carpentry, among many of the other talents he was brilliant at.
Born in England, and arriving in Australia at age 14, Chips was a re-enactor, scout leader, elder, and well respected by the Aboriginal people. He attended ceremonies where he blessed rites of passage, weddings, rituals, and thanked the ancestors of the land. A true pagan, priest, elder, heathen and a grandfather to many.
While many people recently, at Chips' funeral, or on facebook, have been telling tales about how they met Chips - most people remember that day - but I find I cannot recall the exact moment. It was sometime around the 1997 Celtic Festival on Geelong Waterfront on the June long weekend. I was going to training sessions and sewing circles before that event, so may have met him then, but it might have actually been at the Celt Fest. I'd always respected Chips, was happy to see him, and enjoyed seeing what Viking artefact replicas he had acquired from his Danish archaeologist friend. He was a very easy guy to get along with and was disliked by no one. Nothing stopped him from attending events he was invited to - from rituals, weddings, handfastings, historical events and parties - the polio he had in his youth had given him bad legs, but that did not stop him from tripping about in his little van, well-known and loved by many.
All pain is now gone, and troubles left behind, Chips is now with the Ancestors, his tribe and his people. The spirits of the Norse and the Ancestors of the Aboriginals have welcomed their brother. You have been honoured. Farewell, Chips, and rest in peace.