A champ in all facets of life
OBITUARY JOHN MAJOR WRITTEN BY LESLEY MAJOR
JOHN Leslie Major was born in Mount Morgan on April 17, 1938, second son to Les and Gladys Major, younger brother to Colin and Noelene and big brother to Jean.
He spent his formative years at The Brigalows near Kokotungo – a place forever in his heart – and then in town in Baralaba, helping out at L Major and Co.
He attended Baralaba State School and got into lots of mischief. By his own admission – “I think I was probably a bugger of a kid”.
In 1953, John started boarding at Rockhampton Grammar School, where he made many life-long friends and excelled in every sport to which he turned his short but muscular legs. In 1955 – as a junior competing against seniors – he won the senior 100 yards, the 220 yards, the 440 yards, the high jump, the board jump, the 120 yard hurdles and the shot putt. He also made records in three of those events, and his long jump record wasn’t broken for another 23 years.
John loved sport. As a participant, as a spectator, a referee, a coach, and an arm-chair commentator. His love of rugby league, swimming and athletics and the contribution he made to sporting life in Baralaba and Central Queensland cannot be overstated.
He coached junior and senior rugby league teams (the mighty Baralaba Panthers), refereed games throughout Central Queensland. He was heavily involved in the sports grounds at Baralaba and coached many young Baralaba athletes to perform at regional and state competitions.
His love of the spectacle, mateship, and sheer sporting excellence was on display every four years at the summer Olympic Games. This passion began in earnest with a trip to Melbourne with brother Colin in 1956. Heading out from Baralaba in Nana Major’s Austin A70, it was an event and an adventure that he held dear all of his life. And he got to another Olympic Games – in Sydney 2000, with his Joy and three of his daughters.
The Olympic motto is faster, higher, stronger and I think this represents a part of John for which everybody will forever be grateful and that is his enormous encouragement and positive attitude towards everything.
No matter what decisions we made, ideas we had, creations we came up with, John was our greatest enthusiast and supporter. He would take the smallest nugget of an idea and make it happen, with energy, dedication and leadership.
He was the busiest man we ever knew. He thought nothing of slipping up to Rocky in between sets of tennis to buy a Christmas present for mum and probably put on a bet or two at the TAB.
A few years ago, John started to write down some of his memories and history and it’s very evident he learnt this mighty capacity for hard work from the man he thought the world of, his dad Les.
I’m a fairly ambitious person and Dad once said to me that “most people would be happy with a job at Mitre 10”. I was so cranky with him then. But I now understand what he meant and I am so grateful for the lesson. Take what you are given and make it the very best you can. Take a house in the sticks in the middle of Central Queensland and turn it into a beautiful home, take a ramshackle bunch of young men and make it to the grand final. Run until your heart bursts. Give it all you’ve got.
Mum and Dad built the most beautiful home together at Nonda, and Dad loved Nonda and Baralaba almost as much as he loved Mum and us.
Our years growing up in that community were halcyon days.
Saturdays at the races, Sundays at the footy, barbecues at the Baralaba pub, card nights at both Nonda and at Marshall’s house, pianola and cards at Colin and Tinny’s, barbecues at the crossing, poetry around the campfire, songs sung and harmonicas played. Ambulance Christmas fairs, concerts and cabarets at the RSL hall, where we often slept under the table on a blanket brought especially for that purpose. As we got older and no longer slept under the table it was a feast of vegemite on toast when we got home, no matter how late the hour.
Dad was involved in everything. The ambulance, the sports grounds, the fire brigade, school events, football, tennis, building the Neville Hewitt weir at Baralaba, the Lodge and anything else that was going.
Dad was an incredibly hard worker, with the strongest work ethic I have ever known. Growing up, he almost always had two jobs. When beef prices slumped he worried about how he would find the money to send us to boarding school and he didn’t hesitate, telling Mum he would have to get another job “or we’re gonna be in trouble”. He worked at the Moura Mine, and sold insurance for AMP, as well as getting up at dawn to tend to the running of the farm.
Dad was not perfect. It’s safe to say he was a bit of a show off. He had the attention span of a five-year-old and absolutely no attention to detail. His handwriting was appalling, and he spent far too much time at the Baralaba Pub, the Red Lion in Rocky (with his great mate Leo Jefferis) and in later years, at the Mapleton Tavern with his new community.
He was a man of very simple tastes. Despite a wife and four daughters of remarkable style, Dad was far more comfortable in an old pair of Broncos footy shorts – the shorter the better – and of course, his signature hat.
There was no better breakfast in the world than two slices of toast slathered with butter and tomato sauce, and no better dinner than corned meat or a steak. And when I say a steak, I mean, just a steak on a plate.
Apart from his love of us which we all felt profoundly, Dad’s other great loves were bush poetry and country music.
As a child, Dad had a stutter, and this is what brought him to bush poetry. What an incredible achievement. What focus, dedication, commitment, self-belief and passion.
When Dad retired, they built another beautiful home called Dawson after their beloved Dawson Valley, at Mapleton on the Sunshine Coast. Mum loved the green rolling hills, and Dad couldn’t believe how much it rained. It was a wonderful 10 years.
VALE: John Major. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED