Dave Sigley might not look the showbiz type, but the South Australian pig-farmer-turned-pastor is the son of Australian TV royalty, Ernie Sigley.
- Ernie Sigley was a famous radio and TV presenter for more than 50 years
- The pioneer of Australian television loved the country, a passion he passed onto his son
- Dave Sigley worked on farms for 20 years before becoming a pastor
Ernie Sigley was a pioneering presenter on Australian television and radio for more than 50 years.
Known for his larrikin spirit, Sigley had a deep love for the country and would often take his family, including son Dave, on holidays in Mount Gambier, SA.
“He liked down-to-earth people so he loved hanging out with country people,” Dave Sigley said.
“He loved getting out in open spaces … he ended up buying some properties in the country as we grew up.
While Ernie never moved to regional Australia permanently, Dave relocated the first chance he got.
Growing up in inner Melbourne, Dave knew he wanted to be a farmer and as soon as he turned 18 he left to go jackarooing in Bendigo.
“When I went to the country it was almost like I was on a holiday … I was pinching myself,” Mr Sigley said.
In 2007 he saw a job in that town he loved from his childhood holidays, Mount Gambier, and jumped at it — his wife Tania and their then two children in tow.
His famous dad would later buy a house there to spend more time with the family.
‘People feel that they know him’
When Ernie Sigley was growing up the television industry did not even exist yet, but by the time Dave was born, his father was synonymous with the box.
After an early start in radio, in 1957 he scored his TV debut, fronting Teenage Mailbag, which led to hosting a catalogue of shows including Wheel of Fortune, Adelaide Tonight, The Ernie Sigley Show and In Melbourne Today.
Growing up with a Gold Logie winner, Dave was used to the TV studios, famous friends and excited fans.
“We’d go to restaurants and people would be asking for autographs … I used to get a bit embarrassed.
“Dad loved giving people time, he loved having a chat about the footy, about anything.”
Preaching to different crowds
Dave Sigley found a different way to use his same love for people and conversation, as a minister for the Uniting Church.
“We live in a time where there doesn’t tend to be a lot of hope.”
He first learnt about God going to church with his parents.
“To him, God was just that big guy in the sky … he used to call him ‘the Big Fella’.”
Dave Sigley dappled with ‘the Big Fella’ growing up but nothing stuck.
“Faith back then was more something you did, it was more tradition, it wasn’t personal faith,” Mr Sigley said.
A calling to reconnect with faith
When Dave Sigley moved to the country any faith he had was pushed aside.
That was until a bad drink-driving accident nearly ended him.
He ditched the bottle for a time but the “strong calling” to reconnect with his faith did not come until 2011.
“I discovered what grace actually means and all that legalism and all that guilt … this image of what God was like dropped at the wayside and I felt so free,” Mr Sigley said.
In 2017, his church congregation asked if he would consider filling in as minister.
What was meant to be a six-month stint turned into three years.
He eventually made the tough decision to leave farming.
“If someone dies on the Monday and you’re at the piggery, you can’t wait till Thursday,” Mr Sigley said.
‘Dad gave so many people joy’
After announcing Ernie Sigley’s Alzheimer’s in 2017, his family made the tough decision to put him in full-time care.
“He doesn’t know my name but the love that me and him have will never go. It’s an important thing to remember and hold onto.
“One thing that gives me joy is that he gave so many people joy.”