A for­tu­nate life for Frank McMahon

Euroa Gazette - - NEWS - By WILL MUR­RAY

AT one of last week’s Re­mem­brance Day cer­e­monies, I was lucky enough to be in­tro­duced to a man by the name of Frank McMahon.

Frank, who is in his 90s, is some­one for whom Re­mem­brance Day holds spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance.

A sec­ondary teacher for most of his life, Frank very nearly en­tered the Sec­ond World War as an air-gun­ner.

How­ever, he was spared his de­ploy­ment into com­bat thanks to the ceas­ing of hos­til­i­ties fol­low­ing the drop­ping of the nu­clear bomb, and the un­con­di­tional sur­ren­der of the Ja­panese Em­pire.

“I had just fin­ished my train­ing down at Somers, and was about to be posted when the war ended.

And that God it did, be­cause I saw what hap­pened to the other air-gun­ners, and I have no doubt I would’ve been killed.

In­stead of fac­ing that life, or per­haps that death, Frank would live what he de­scribed as a charmed life.

Frank was the head teacher at the tiny Tra­wool school when he was called up to be­gin his train­ing dur­ing the war.

At just 17 years of age he was made head teacher, in just his sec­ond year of stu­dent teach­ing.

“That’s just the way things were dur­ing the war,” Frank ex­plained.

“When all the men were away ev­ery­one else had to step up and fill the void.

“I don’t think I looked any older than the stu­dents!”

Af­ter the war ended Frank re­turned to Mel­bourne, where he had com­pleted his teacher train­ing at Mel­bourne Univer­sity years ear­lier.

He spent the ma­jor­ity of his teach­ing ca­reer in the east­ern sub­urbs, teach­ing English and French.

“I moved quickly through the ranks as a teacher,” Frank said.

“I had a good re­la­tion­ship with the stu­dents, whom I felt I was able to get the best out of. I never put a kid down, you see. I be­lieve that any teacher who teaches for power should not be al­lowed in the class­room.”

The rapid pro­mo­tion came at a cost, in Frank’s mind.

His pas­sion was for the class­room, and any fur­ther ad­vance­ment would likely mean en­ter­ing into the ad­min­is­tra­tion side of things as a prin­ci­pal or deputy.

“I knew if I had stayed they would’ve given me the job,” Frank re­mem­bered.

“So I re­signed and took off over­seas. I knew I wouldn’t be a good prin­ci­pal. It’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand your­self and know your abil­i­ties, and mine weren’t in ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“Vir­tu­ally no sooner had I landed when re­turn­ing home than they of­fered me my job back.”

His abil­i­ties in the class­room to con­nect with stu­dents trans­lated onto the ath­let­ics track.

Frank was a great run­ner and steeplechaser in his younger days, com­pet­ing at an A-grade level for the Oak­leigh Ath­let­ics Club.

He was a very good ath­lete, but he was a great coach.

As the head coach of Oak­leigh, he led them to great suc­cess in the school championships, and was ap­proached by a num­ber of the top run­ners and steeplechasers for tu­ition.

The names in­cluded Trevor Vincent, an Olympic Steeplechaser, and Ron Clarke, the ac­com­plished mid­dle dis­tance run­ner who set no fewer than 17 world record times dur­ing his ca­reer.

“I was re­garded as one of the top run­ning coaches at the time,” Frank re­called.

“I think a lot of the suc­cess I had with the young ath­letes was to make train­ing fun.

“I had kids flock­ing to train­ing with­out any coax­ing at all.”

Frank bought a house in the Dan­de­nong’s, where he would train ath­letes to run around the hills in Mel­bourne’s outer-east.

“Aer­o­bic train­ing is the key. Anaer­o­bic stuff will get you fit quick, but you go off it just as fast,” he said.

While a top run­ner then, Frank ad­mits he could barely man­age a fast walk now.

He has lived in Vi­o­let Town for the past 28 years, a time he de­scribes as the best year’s of his life.

“I love Vi­o­let Town. The peo­ple look af­ter you so well, and I couldn’t think of a bet­ter place to spend my re­main­ing years,” he said.

What lit­tle money Frank has, he gives to or­gan­i­sa­tions like the Vi­o­let Town RSL.

Pres­i­dent Ross Walker be­lieved that the do­na­tions he has made to the RSL over the years would be well into the thou­sands of dol­lars.

“I’ve been in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate in my life. I sur­vived pneu­mo­nia as a child, the Great De­pres­sion, was never sent to war, and was able to do what I loved. “So I’m happy. “I’ve been a bach­e­lor, but I never re­gret­ted that, be­cause I think with my run­ning I wouldn’t have had the time to do both.”

Re­cently, Frank has also re­ceived another slice of good for­tune; be­ing able to see his beloved Dog­gies win the pre­mier­ship in 2016.

Un­like many long- suf­fer­ing sup­port­ers, for Frank, this is the sec­ond Dogs flag he has wit­nessed.

Truly charmed.

CON­TENT: Frank McMahon, a top run­ning coach and for­mer sec­ondary teacher, who has called Vi­o­let Town home for the past 28 years, con­sid­ers him­self to have had a most for­tu­nate life.

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