|A Eulogy to my good friend Mark Leabeater
by Sol Ramana-Clarke (formerly "Ant")
Mark was born on the 17th of August, 1955 in Sydney to his parents Beryl
and Neville and grew up in Parramatta. In his school years, he developed
his passions for Art, English literature and writing, and even though
he would never let Mary say so ....I just can't resist saying he was dux
of his high school year in these subjects...
I met Mark in the summer of '75 at Alexander Mackie College of Art Education
in the Rocks, Sydney. In those days, Mark's gentle but keenly observant
eyes peered out at the universe through a big mop of blonde hair and a
wispy beard. I was drawn to him as a friend immediately...maybe it was
that universal perspective on things... Here was someone I could share
the journey with....the journey of infinitely discovering infinity and
hopefully arriving at the beginning again..
His art at the time was paintings of intricate worlds within worlds and
he spoke of worlds within worlds. I didn't always understand his musings,
but that never mattered - probably because he didn't either... But we
both understood that we were microscopic beings in all this vastness -
just awed by all the ever-present mystery, intensely curious, and using
art as a medium to express our discoveries. We had lots of special times
at art college and also travelling down the South Coast before I dropped
out of and left for the US.
After over a dozen years without contact, I sent Mark a talking cassette
tape from Los Angeles in 1988 and was overjoyed to receive one back. It
began with the most cosmic greeting I have ever received! "Ant! Ant!
...Hello! Hello! helloooo!....." - echoing through the lost years
to the tune of 2001 Space Odessy going through a time warp. My wild and
loyal old friend was back in my life! He went on to tell me the diverse
way he had spent the last 12 years. Here's a summary from his words. He
finished Art School in 1980 and during his time there he developed a steady
market for his beautiful paintings. After graduation with a Bachelor of
Art he continued to paint "fanatically" and did a post graduate
art course at the City Art Institute. He supplemented his income with
a job in a library.
In the early '80s he also studied yoga with Swami Muktananda and his
spiritual quest led him to travel extensively through India, Nepal, and
Thailand where he lived with a young Thai woman called Rose who immersed
him into the "ill-defined frontier land" of that fascinating
In India, an inner spirit voice spoke to him of how all the events in
his life would be his teachers. After returning to Australia, this inner
guidance continued in times of need, but he rarely spoke of it, not wanting
to sound like "religious dogma" or to set up himself as different.
Instead, he consciously "recognised everybody as the Buddha"
and realised that that state of being would sometimes bring out the innate
"Buddha Nature" in others.
He got a job at the Sydney Teacher's College Audio Visual Library and
decided to channel his creative talents into music. He lined up with 30
other drummers to audition for a mostly 60's cover band called "The
Men From Uncle" and got the job. The band got a lot of work in Sydney
pubs and clubs before being offered a job to be the backing show band
for a club performer called Eddie Daniels in mid '85. This break allowed
the band to live comfortably on their earnings, but also required "heaps
of determination", and many late nights of rehearsing and performing.
This was not without its cost on Mark's personal life:- Also in mid '85
he fell in love with a woman called Karen who he laughingly described
as intensely beautiful, but "a bit manic". She inspired him
to open up to the thought of settling down to family life but after 13
months she eventually became tired of waiting and left him for another.
It was his first experience of a broken heart and he described it as a
real crossroads... and only explainable with a sense of "destiny".
He had chosen his path of music and this was a painful outcome. Then,
in his words: "The band got sacked from the show and I was left with
This began a period of intense soul searching and reflection. He realised
that his need to follow an artistic passion had become "fanatical"...and
that "determination is one thing, and insanity is another..."
In November '86 he got a job at the Bondi Junction Post Office to pay
the bills. He also put a studio together and learnt the new art of creating
music using a sampler and digital synthesisers. He composed and recorded
14 demo songs, advertised for musicians to play them. Thus, "X-Ray
Delta" was born. The band rehearsed regularly, and by August '87
it had a sizeable repetoir of original material together, but then Mark
was brought down with a motorcycle accident. A woman ran a stop sign across
his path and he ended up with a smashed knee. He dropped everything, and
the band fell apart while he took about 6 months to recover.
During these years he had a special holiday retreat at Colecliff, just
south of the Royal National Park. This old wooden holiday home was rented
by his good friend Alan and was situated in a wild garden that extended
right to the cliff's edge overlooking the ocean below. It provided Mark
with a much needed retreat from city life.
By early '88 he was back delivering mail on his postie and was once again
determined to get his musical creativity flowing again. He began rehearsing
with friends Michelle and Ray who developed a program called "Musikey"
that became the basis for much of Mark's musical compositions. In June
'89 he teamed up with Hamish Walsh to form a unique band, also called
X-Ray Delta. In Mark's words: "It ain no duo - it's a very full loud
rock and roll band using the digital sequencer." They worked hard
rehearsing to get over two hours of material together and performed cutting
edge gigs incorporating a slide projector projecting onto themselves.
Mark's lyrics were diverse and expansively poetic about life with all
its beauty and all its chaos, manifesting on a planet where nations face
each other armed to the hilt with nuclear weapons - as in the song "Forbidden
Planet"....In spite of his keen awareness of, and commentary on world
problems, he never got lost in hopeless cynicism or blame. He saw our
civilisation's mistakes, as well as our evolution. I think he knew, deep
down, that all life is connected as one phenomena, one learning experience.
He told me in January 1990, on a second tape: "Your state of mind
is so much linked to what's going on and how you're connecting with the
world. I feel well connected in the world now, so the things I tend to
be looking at are the better things ....if you can pick up on that principle
then I think you're with it about what objectivity is and what subjectivity
is: objectivity starts in subjectivity.... and on it goes!"
When I moved back to Australia in early '91 he came down to visit me
on the Far South Coast and we had an amazing trip up beautiful Gulaga
Mountain together with its ancient sacred sites and stayed on my parent's
farm. It felt great to be sharing such a great time together after 16
years on opposite sides of the world. Then, shortly after, he came down
to visit with the love of his life, Mary, who he met in Sydney in mid
'91. They shared a humorous approach to life and I was so happy to see
my old friend in such a happy relationship. They enjoyed Clovelly life
with daily snorkels in the big ocean pool with the giant groper and all
the other friendly fish.
Perhaps he had learnt that the life of a successful musician and the
life of a loving husband were not easily compatible. In any case, at this
time he shifted his creative focus to poetry. He began writing "Prismatic
Navigation", a volume of 66 poems that he completed and published
in 1994. He worked passionately on this project, and also let his post
office job slip by the wayside. He accepted a redundancy payout from the
post office and found himself unemployed. In spite of the book's release,
Mark had to face the reality that poetry was not as financially rewarding
as his previous artistic endeavours in painting and music. I suspect that
this was also a reason why he was reluctant to start having kids at that
time. When Mary was offered a job at her sister's restaurant and bar in
Wellington, New Zealand in 1995, they decided to take up the offer and
move. Mark continued writing and shared his poetry at the local poetry
club, and also got casual cleaning work. The highlight of their time there
was their big family wedding on 20th Feb., 1999.
Just before this time. Mark's doctor noticed a melanoma mole on his stomach.
It was removed immediately, but the operation didn't succeed in getting
They moved back to Australia in 2000 and settled in North Woolongong
near the beach. Mark got odd cleaning jobs while Mary commuted by train
to her job with Hurstville City Council. Shortly after their arrival,
tumours were discovered in Mark's lymph glands and his 5 year battle with
cancer ensued. He was put on a couple of experimental programs with new
drug treatments, and underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation at
different times, but nothing really changed his situation.
Aware that his days were numbered, he undertook the creative task of
completing a second volume of poetry titled: "Flash White and the
Bag of Nails". Mark's old high school friend and fellow poet Les
Wicks wrote this about it: "Bright and Passionate, here is a voice
that will not be silenced, and eye that will not be turned away."
and long time friend Alan Jefferies said: "Leabeater's poems blind
us with their luminescence. He uses every stroke on the keyboard to forge
poems of great dexterity and inventiveness." I have had the chance
to read a dozen of these poems and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
We can all look forward to a published copy befre too long. He also worked
to complete a 3 CD set of poems from "Prismatic Navigation"
set to music which will also be available to us shortly.
In spite of the impending gloom of his predicament, and the downward
rollercoaster ride of successive medical problems, he was remarkably peaceful
during this whole time. He was able to look pragmatically at his situation
without fear, sorrow or desperation .... even though others close to him
may have been feeling such emotions. He told Mary: "Please don't
suffer, because I'm not suffering" and "I've made my peace with
God." Mary told me how he was generous right to the end.
And speaking of Mary, it's not possible to express in words the quality
of her loving care and support, and bravery through this whole challenging
journey. Thank you on behalf of all of us for being you.
Just after they discovered tumors in Mark's brain, I visited him in Woolongong
Hospital with my teenage children Josh and Gwen. He amazed me as he spoke
to my kids calmly marveling at the beauty of life with its cycles: "You
guys are so full of energy and goals and vision - its like you're checking
in as I'm checking out. For me, I feel like this world is a quietly disappearing
dream" - he observed with a smile on his face and a little chuckle.
In the end his love and wisdom shone through him. He was able to listen
to that inner voice that told him that all his life's experiences were
his teachers. He was able to surrender and trust death as a natural part
of life. In so doing, he has naturally helped us all to connect with our
Perhaps most of all he has been a true, loyal and loving friend to all
of us and that has left an ever-present glow in our hearts. Good on ya
Mark for sharing your life so generously with us! Thank you! Thank you!
Thank you! ... and I hope you enjoy the next chapter of your soul's journey