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Catching up with new OCA president Allan McKinnon

author: Lorrie Liston

9 May

Catching up with new OCA president Allan McKinnon

The College catches up with Allan McKinnon (SPC1966-69), the new president of our St Patrick’s College Old Collegians Association.

I spent the years 1966-69 as a student at SPC. I came off a dairy farm from a little place called Ecklin South, which is just south of Terang in the Western District. I was one of many boarders who came to SPC from Terang and district and one of the many “McKinnon’s” from that area who came to St Patrick’s.

My four years at SPC left me with many memories. Some were good and some not so pleasant at the time, but fun to reflect upon years later. I can clearly remember on the third day at SPC, I was so homesick I stood out by the red mailbox  with my “Gladstone” bag and contemplated which way Terang was. After pondering for a while, I decided I was better off to return inside.

No doubt playing in the first eighteen was something I will always have fond memories of. Like many “Old Boys” I still have my jumper. But then that had a down side too. We were beaten by High School in 1969 in the BPS grand final. One of the stars for High School that day was Greg Wood, the owner of Le Espresso. The Brothers did not speak to the members of the team for a week or two, such was the disappointment. The same year we played against East High. It was almost snowing and I was playing in the back pocket. The coach at the time (Brother Guthrie) would not swap us around so we could at least get warm. We were at least 20 or 30 goals ahead. When we got back to school, those of us who played in the backline had to get other boarders to undo our laces. Our fingers were frozen! A more pleasant sporting memory I have was winning the 4x100 yards relay at the BPS. The three other members of the team were Shane Woodford, John Shanahan and Andrew Wood. I believe we broke the record which still stands. The reason being the next year it changed to metric distances…. or so the story goes!

Another memory I have was standing under a cold shower in the winter time washing off the mud after football training. Unless you got to be first in the shower line, hot water at the end of the line was pretty problematic. Year 12 was not a problem for hot water. Whilst Kenny House was not as attractive as McCann House, it at least had a good supply of hot water… and possums in the roof.

One of the other aspects of my years at SPC that I will always remember was the dedication of many of the Brothers and teachers. Brother George Frances developed in me a great love of history. Peter Morris was another incredibly dedicated teacher. Peter taught Year 12 Geography in 1969.  It was a huge class, more like a university lecture group. We were missing a key textbook on Japan, so Peter would come in most weekends and scan pages from the one copy he had. There was no digital technology in those days. It was plain dedication and hard work. Enough has been written about the food by boarders over the years except to say, I enjoyed everything except the tripe which was served one night and never again.

After I left SPC I went to Geelong Teachers College to study primary teaching. It was a last minute decision. I did get into Monash to do Law. But I just did not have the resources to go to Monash and the thought of a studentship swayed me into teaching. At Teachers College, I took up professional running, a career that I enjoyed for a number of years. I managed to get into two semi-finals of the Stawell Gift. My best distance however was the 400 metres and I ran in many finals, winning some, losing others. I also competed in a number of Victorian and Australian pro running 400 metre championships. Quite often I would run against another old boy “Sam” Gerard Sullivan. In fact when I moved to Ballarat to teach, Sam was also living in Ballarat so we would train with each other. Gavin Walsh, a former teacher at SPC, now at Damascus, would also train with us.

After Teachers College, my first teaching appointment was a four-year stint to a place called Simpson which was located on the Heytesbury settlement. Two of the students I had at Simpson were SPC Old Boys Peter Leonard and Michael Leonard. For most of that time I shared a holiday house with another teacher in Port Campbell, a sleepy little coastal village. It was an idyllic existence. After Simpson, I moved to Ballarat and taught at Creswick, Snake Valley Mount Clear and finally the last 20 years, I spent at Linton as principal. During my teaching career, I continued to study. I obtained degrees and further qualifications from Deakin University, Melbourne University and Australian Catholic University. I have always been a believer in lifelong learning. I retired in 2012 after a career spanning 42 years.

Since moving to Ballarat, I have been involved in the following community organisations:

  • Member of the Rotary Club of Ballarat South since 2003: President 2014-2015: 2015 2016.

  • Board member of the Rotary Club of Ballarat South: 2011-2017

  • Member of Ballarat Legacy

  • Member of the Ballarat Legacy Board

  • Member of Welfare Committee of Ballarat Legacy.

  • Education committee Chair of Ballarat Legacy.

  • Member Ballarat Commemorative Days Committee.

  • Member of the Board of Centacare.

  • Past Member of board of St Francis Xavier Primary School.

In 1995 I got married (took a while) and moved to Mount Clear. My wife Noemi is a Systems Analyst and is currently working for TPG. She has been with the company since it was Neighbourhood Cable. Before that she was working at University of Ballarat (now Federation University). Prior to coming to Australia, Noemi was a partner in a computer software development company in the Philippines.

My connection in recent years started when our son James, pictured with Allan above, started at SPC in 2010. I watched how his time at St Patrick’s formed him into the young man he is today. In 2015 he was vice captain and had a number of other leadership roles as well. One he really enjoyed was being captain of music. He is now at the Conservatorium at University of Melbourne studying for a music degree. Given that I and my son enjoyed our time at SPC, I thought it was time if I as a former student and parent could give something back to the College. So I guess for this reason, SPC is still very important to me. Since coming into the role as president of the SPCOCA Association, I have been trying to get myself fully up to speed with the strategic plan and see what parts can still be developed. I have also been trying to become familiar with the various Old Boy components of the College i.e. the College Foundation, the Chris Yeung Foundation and the groups who run/administer these Foundations. I want to continue to foster this great spirit of caring that is being developed amongst our “Old Boys” it is something that can only enhance the reputation of the College in the years to come. I think the SPCOCA has to be something more than just where blokes get together. That is important, but so is reaching out to others who have passed through the College and perhaps are suffering in some way.

I wish to thank the committee for giving me the opportunity to be president of the SPCOCA. I also wish to thank past President Michael Kearney for all the help and advice he has given me so far.

Finally what advice would I give to fellow “Old Boys”:

  • Get involved.

  • Attend reunions.

  • Come to the St Patrick’s Day Luncheon.

  • Be supportive of the College.

  • Enter a team in the golf day

  • Connect with other Old Boys.

Most of all, look back and remember the good times and ask yourself “is there something I could do for SPC Ballarat”.