DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER.
WEEK 17 2018
MONDAY, APRIL 23
Nostalgic day in Lismore, where I was born, and where my parents, Jon and Lola Ricketts (nee Kelly) grew up, met and married. My wife, Marie (nee Donnelly) and I are staying with Marie’s sister, Carolyne Soward, in her unit, near Lismore Golf Club. I walk from Carolyne’s, to the town centre, via Magellan Street, where my mum grew up, and a number of my aunties and uncles lived. My wife and Carolyne travel to Casino to see their uncle, Jim Donnelly and aunty, Nancy Landrigan (nee Donnelly). Jim has a green thumb. His tomatoes are to die for, unlike those in the supermarket. Nancy, a widow, loves a punt on the races and has a good strike rate, so much so that her tips are featured weekly on the notice board of her local pub. Nancy gets a free meal for her troubles.
At Lismore Golf Club, there is a wake for 70-year-old, Ken Rose.
TUESDAY, APRIL 24
Lunch at Marie’s brother, Kevin Donnelly’s place at Alstonville. Kevin’s wife, Beth cooks a lovely quiche. I visit Terri Duncan, a remarkable lady, who was close friends with my mother. Terri is in her 90s, but travelling well. She has seven grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. One of the grand children is champion diver, Brittany Broben, who won silver at the London Olympics. Terri recalls the time a dog was locked in my car at Kingaroy, and virtually destroyed the interior (see ‘Dash It All’, on this website).
At the golf club, Toby Daley updates me on my former St Carthage’s schoolmate, Jeff Jones, who has had his health battles.
At Mooball, in the Tweed Shire, the Victory Hotel has closed after 83 years. It was named ‘The Victory’ as the result of a court battle, won by the original licensee. The Victory is right next door to the village store, which I also believe has closed. My father was ‘Santa Clause’ at the store in the early 1960s, when it was run by the Kelly family.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25
Anzac Day march in Lismore is reasonably well attended. Get coffee beforehand at busy ‘Dragonfly’. My wife and her sister, Carolyne are sporting Australian flags (for the parade), but a hippy looking, middle aged bloke fronts them and says: ‘The ANZACS did not fight for that flag’. The march is disappointing, in that there is only one band, and no military presence. Lots of local schools march, including Woodlawn College, where my father, Jon was a boarder. Woodlawn, based just outside Lismore, had a strong army cadet unit. Carolyne later plays two up at East Lismore Bowls Club.
Putting a face to the sacrifices of our men and women at war, brings home the enormity of their deeds.
Here is one example, of a former Woodlawn student, Corporal Bill Campbell, who never returned to his homeland.
Early in 1944, Campbell went with a party of guerrillas on a secret mission to Singapore. He was listed as missing in action.
Campbell enlisted early in the war, saw action in the Middle East, and was a ‘Rat of Tobruk’. Later, he was wounded at the Battle of El Alamein. After returning to Australia, he was posted to New Guinea, where he took part in heavy jungle fighting.
Campbell attended Woodlawn in 1934, ’35 and ’36, and proved himself a solid student and outstanding forward in the Opens rugby league side.
When he left school, he worked on a station at Cunnamulla, in western Queensland.
Woodlawn’s ‘The Eagle’ magazine described him as “a popular companion and a good lad”.
Harry Moore, the manager of our town house estate at Grange in Brisbane, had an uncle shot down by the Germans, chasing Doodle bombs. He is buried at Calais in France. One of our former neighbours, Arthur (an Englishman) used to sound the air raid alarm from the rooftops in London.
Marie and I return to Brisbane, via fish and prawns at Chinderah, where controversial former rugby league player, Anthony Watts is a customer, at the same time.
Learn of the passing of former Australian Rugby League general manager, Bob Abbott, aged 90. I had a lot to do with Bob during my career as a league journalist.
THURSDAY, APRIL 26
Our grandson, Ethan has, what is supposed to be, routine surgery, at Brisbane Private Hospital. But one of the instruments malfunctions and burns and slices both sides of his mouth. The surgeon is devastated (not half as much as Ethan’s parents) and furious. The anesthetist says the problem was a faulty product.
FRIDAY, APRIL 27
Ethan is home. His parents sent a sad pic of him in his Spiderman outfit, putting on a brave face.
Sunday-Mail columnist, Peter Cameron picks my brain, re refs for the State of Origin. Peter recalls having a session at a pub in Mullumbimby, in Byron Shire, where cannabis farmers were celebrating a harvest. I wonder if they get drought assistance.
SATURDAY, APRIL 28
Brothers belt Natives 42-6 at Gibson Park in Second Division Rugby League. Natives tackle hard, but don’t have a lot of skill with the ball.
There are report Burleigh Bears may become Jellurgal, the indigenous name for the area. Would they then become the Jellurgal Jaguars?
Photo 1: Corporal Bill Campbell
Photo 2: Woodlawn cadets in 1945
Photo 3: Woodlawn College march in Lismore in 2018
Photo 4: Sisters, Marie Ricketts and Carolyne Soward at Lismore Anzac Day March, 2018.