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Darren Lyons: “I Wish I Had Inherited Some More Of My Dad’s Humble Nature.”

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Darryn Lyons has always had big ambitions. It was a chance meeting with Rupert Murdoch that propelled his career from regional newspaper photographer to the king of paparazzi as the founder of the UK-based media agency, Big Pictures. Back in Geelong, he became Mayor of his home-town from 2013-2016 – a role that brought him back to his roots, and the dad he loves.

“I can’t remember what it was for, but I got into trouble for something with Mum, and it was one of those ‘wait until your father gets home’ moments. We had a strap at home and Dad would use it reluctantly if pushed to – Mum definitely wanted to use it on me more often. I remember him very unwillingly whacking it across my buttocks but I’d put a couple of footy cards in the back pockets of my pants to cushion the blow. There was no pain whatsoever but I made out that there was. He hated doing it. I remember having an incredible, respectful fear of my father but not in a negative way. You knew you were letting him down before he even said a word to you.”

“My work ethic is bred from my father
, in no uncertain terms. He taught me that life is never being given to you for free, you have to go out and work and earn. And I did. I worked at the supermarket, filling shelves and clearing trolleys after school, and I worked for free at the Geelong Advertiser during the school holidays to try and get a leg up into journalism.”

“I was ambitious, and when I left Geelong for London, I wanted to work with the best as a photojournalist all over the world. It was the romance of Fleet Street that lured me, and when I got there, it was everything that I imagined and more. I had sad endings in the UK but up until I was 25 years old, my life had been quite uncomplicated and positive.”

“Dad was incredibly positive about me going overseas at such a young age – but then, he probably just expected I’d be gone for a couple of years. Not 25. I think he went at a similar age; the only difference was that he went by boat back then. I think he got as far as Adelaide, but then rang his mother saying he wanted to come home because he was so sick, going across the Great Australian Bight. She encouraged him to keep going.”

“My own experience was different – nothing could have stopped me from leaving. Since starting my career in newspapers at the Geelong Advertiser, I was determined to make it in the UK. There was a terrible time many years later when my first marriage broke up – a big moment in my life – and I came back home then.”

“I know Dad was very disappointed. It was an old-fashioned view and I don’t think he would have felt the same way had it happened today, but I grew up in a strongly Christian household and religion is very important to my father. I ended up going back to London and getting very much into the rock and roll lifestyle part of my life, in terms of sex, drugs and living a wild life.”

“Then, when I got to breaking point, I came home, walked up the driveway and explained to my mother what I’d been going through and the problems I’d had, telling her that I’d got through it myself and that it was over. Her response was a big cuddle and a lot of tears.”

“My dad didn’t really understand – didn’t want to understand. He’s good at that. When he doesn’t want to understand – if it’s all too hard – he simply won’t do. He has always been, essentially, a man’s man – you know the sort of thing: ‘You’ve got to look after yourself and if you do things like that, you’ve got to accept the responsibilities.’ He’s a very private person.”

“You never know what Dad’s actually thinking at times – more so now. He still keeps very much to himself. You never knew which emotions were bubbling away inside him.”

“Dad’s a very simple man and not materialistic at all. I’m definitely less materialistic now than I was. My ambition was clear – I always wanted to be a millionaire before I was thirty, and the drive to achieve that was a huge push.”

“I wish I had inherited some more
of my dad’s humble nature. Instead, I’ve had this burning ambition to achieve the unachievable and I can be my own worst enemy because I don’t always realise the value of what I already have.”

“I remember having this €1000 pair of Dolce & Gabbana jeans when they first came out – and they were all slashed across the legs. I walked in, back at home, like the biggest, coolest thing to walk about in Geelong, because people would have never seen anything like it, and my father just said, ‘Can’t you afford a decent pair of jeans?’ I remember telling him the price of them and him saying, ‘What? Who would buy jeans with holes in them and pay that kind of money?’ He just thought that I was insane.”

“Dad is not one who pats you on the back very often. But I’m also a typical Leo, obsessed with people complimenting me – which is a terrible trait that I actually can’t stand. He is an enlightening but also a very quiet character, whereas I’m very different and out there – you know, ‘look at me’ kind of bullshit. Dad is the opposite – very humble. I don’t believe there’s anyone with more integrity than my father.”

“What else do I share with my father?
Love for each other – that and an incredible respect for each other. Not in a lovey-dovey kind of way but it’s definitely there. I’ve got a love for fishing from my dad, a passion for cricket, and an admiration and love for people within my community.”

“His biggest legacy, in my view,
is bringing up an incredible family. That is one of the most underrated achievements in modern society; one that many people have lost pride in doing. It’s important because it helps the next generation to become decent people. Humanity’s greatest tragedy is that we don’t see it as special. Dad was exemplary in delivering three good children and being a loyal, loving father. People don’t get too much credit for that – I mean, you don’t get an Order of Australia for that, do you? And you should. I’d give him one.”

This is an excerpt from Things My Father Taught Me, by Claire Halliday that features interviews with a collection of Australian identities talking about the impact their relationship with their dad had on their lives. Buy it here