Class of 1951

John made news from the age of 15 in the local and national papers every time he won a swimming race, and sometimes when he merely competed.

Losing his leg at the age of 11 in an accident at a dam near his home in Waroona was certainly an event that changed his life when he hit a concrete block on the way down a 20ft jump. John had a compound fracture and was taken to Pinjarra Hospital in a makeshift ambulance comprised of a “truck with the door unscrewed and used as a stretcher”.

He came to Aquinas College as a boarder in 1947 and learned a great deal more than how to cope with a disability. He was spurred into achieving over and above the odds by a disparaging remark from Br Michael “Reddy” Redmond who spent three or four minutes running the 1st XVIII Football team down when describing a defeat to Hale. He called them useless loafers and said they played like “girls in skirts… they were all useless, just like Salerian”. As John said when telling his story later: “I chewed on that. I thought ‘how can I make him eat his words?’ he was sports master, and I did not play any sport.”

John was the son of one of the state’s most prominent farmers. Driven by a passionate need to prove “Reddy” wrong, John took to practicing swimming every day in the long strip of creek at Waroona. He came second in his first race at school after the holidays, and subsequently excelled as a swimmer, making headlines regularly. John captained the team in his leaving year and was also a prefect.

Incredibly, rather than take an office job as doctors had advised him to do, as the only son of a farmer John returned to Marri Farm at Waroona and continued dairy farming until 1978. From then, he switched to beef production and bought a school bus which he ran for many years. He and his wife Val had three daughters and one son, John Jr, who also went to Aquinas College.

Looking back, he sees his fortunes very clearly: “Reddy gets the credit. The best thing that happened to me was what he said. It set me up for the rest of my life.”