Greg Quicke: Celebrating the life and legacy of Space Gandalf, Kimberley bush astronomer

Katya MinnsBroome Advertiser
Quobba blow holes, circa 1998/99.
Camera IconQuobba blow holes, circa 1998/99. Credit: Supplied

A trailblazer who brought the galaxy closer to the Earth, Greg Quicke — affectionately known as Space Gandalf — touched the lives of many with his profound wealth of knowledge and unyielding passion for astronomy.

His journey from a life riding his motorbike on the road as a mechanic to becoming an esteemed astronomer and educator came from many nights spent in a swag under the vast Kimberley skies.

He immersed himself in the movements of the Earth, galaxies and constellations without formal academic training, but a Penguin Dictionary on Astronomy, a telescope and immense curiosity.

Quicke’s passion for the stars eventually led him to start Astro Tours in Broome, handing out fliers around town after being encouraged by his friends to share his newfound passion.

Within two weeks, he was booked seven nights a week.

Greg Quicke founded Astro Tours in 1995.
Camera IconGreg Quicke founded Astro Tours in 1995. Credit: Supplied

Quicke’s daughter, Lizzie Quicke, recalls the humble beginnings of Astro Tours in 1995, helping her “best mate” on the weekends set up for his tours.

“We started off in Reddell Beach car park doing tours, and I think there were maybe five people on those little metal foldout camping chairs,” she said.

“I used to go out and make the hot chocolate for people at night time on the tours and then I’d go to sleep and my swag while he packed up.

Greg and his daughter Liz Quicke in Broome, 1991.
Camera IconGreg and his daughter Liz Quicke in Broome, 1991. Credit: Supplied

“He’s had a few different sites all around Broome and then finally ended up on like that bigger space out of town which he got to set up as a full arena, just how he had pictured it always being.”

From starting with just one telescope and some binoculars to having a 40-foot container full of telescopes, Quicke invited people from all walks of life to gaze at the night skies and learn of his findings.

A sponge of knowledge, Quicke’s teachings were influenced by Nyikina man Paddy Roe and often discussed the Aboriginal stories and their connection to the stars in his tours.

“He’s an absolute wealth of knowledge; to see Saturn’s rings and just experience watching him in his absolute element sharing his knowledge with people was amazing,” Quicke’s friend Lisa Barber said.

As an active member of the Broome community, including protesting against the controversial James Price Point gas hub and carrying the head of Sammy the Dragon in Broome’s annual festival Shinju Matsuri each year, Quicke became a beloved figure within the coastal town.

But it was his television appearances, particularly ABC’s Stargazing Live with Professor Brian Cox, that saw him rise to national and international prominence — affectionately being dubbed Space Gandalf.

“We all tuned in to watch it because it was all so exciting seeing Dad on TV, then he called me the next day and goes I think I’m trending on Twitter, but what’s Twitter?” laughed Ms Quicke.

“It was so funny. That was about six or seven years ago and from then he still says look - I’m still going as Space Gandalf!

“He was always very humble and used to say he’s got Broome to keep him humble.”

Quicke’s enthusiasm for the cosmos and ability to explain the intricacies of the universe made it approachable for many, including celebrities such as Australian actor Hugh Jackman who took an interest in the Kimberley bush astronomer.

Greg Quicke with his good friend, Mark Jones.
Camera IconGreg Quicke with his good friend, Mark Jones. Credit: Mark Jones

“He knew a lot of famous people but he also was as comfortable around all of those people as he was with people that were on the street,” Quicke’s long-term friend, Mark Jones said.

“We met Hugh on Quickie’s tour and then he invited us to his show in Perth.

In front of the whole audience, he (Hugh) wax lyrical about Quickie and how much Quickie had changed the way he thought in that brief tour he had and that was a very special moment.

“(Quicke) was very stoic but he took it in his stride. It was the same with Professor Brian Cox... he was just like any other human being. He treated everyone with the same warmth and spirit.”

Right up until his untimely death, Quicke remained spiritual and connected to the environment he spent most of his life exploring. His last words were to confirm the timing of the new moon.

On June 6 after a short battle with cancer, Quicke passed away surrounded by family in Cowaramup, aged 62.

When news of his passing broke, an outpour of tributes from close friends, acquaintances and locals who were touched by his tours was shared.

“Very sad to learn that Greg Quicke ‘Space Gandalf’ has died... I love what he wrote on seeing the solar eclipse in 2023: “My body spent, my heart full, I crash into a deep eclipse fuelled communion with the other worlds,” I hope that’s where he is now,” Professor Cox wrote on X.

Australian actor Hugh Jackman pays tribute to Greg Quicke.
Camera IconAustralian actor Hugh Jackman pays tribute to Greg Quicke. Credit: Supplied

“Oh Greg, an extraordinary life touching so many people the world over,” said Broome local Gaye Wotherspoon, who helped Quicke with his first bookings of Astro Tours.

“It was a privilege to share many special moments with you over the years.

“Now one with the universe you loved so much. Tears rolling down my cheeks. We will miss you.”

“I was lucky enough to spend some cherished time with Greg in the past few months,” another close friend, Penny Arrow said.

“He did what he has always done - passed on simple and masterful learnings.

“His message to me was — in death, there is life — that dying is living, and in the end there is only one thing - love. Forever my guide.”

On July 6 — a new moon — there will be a paddle out on Cable Beach, south of the surf hut at 8am, to honour Quicke.

All are welcome and encouraged to bring kayaks or boards.

There will be a gathering at Gantheume Beach at 3pm to continue celebrating his life.

Tribute to Greg Quicke in Broome.
Camera IconTribute to Greg Quicke in Broome. Credit: Alan Gray
Greg Quicke in the Broome Mangroves with a mud crab, circa 1987.
Camera IconGreg Quicke in the Broome Mangroves with a mud crab, circa 1987. Credit: Supplied
Greg Quicke embraced the Kimberley lifestyle when not running his Astro Tours.
Camera IconGreg Quicke embraced the Kimberley lifestyle when not running his Astro Tours. Credit: Mark Jones
Greg switching from the usual Akubra to a beanie in Venice with his daughter Lizzie.
Camera IconGreg switching from the usual Akubra to a beanie in Venice with his daughter Lizzie. Credit: Supplied
Greg Quicke, affectionately known as Space Gandalf, passed away aged 62.
Camera IconGreg Quicke, affectionately known as Space Gandalf, passed away aged 62. Credit: Nic Duncan
Greg 'Space Gandalf' Quicke.
Camera IconGreg 'Space Gandalf' Quicke. Credit: Nic Duncan

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