Francis (Frank) Hoban (SPC 1964-66)
August 2, 2022
We are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden and peaceful passing “under the stars, in the landscape he loved” of larger-than-life Old Collegian Francis (Frank) Hoban (SPC 1964-66) on 9 July, 2022 while on an interstate camping trip.
A memorial is being planned for a later date. Family members remembered Francis as a “bushman, loud, generous, compassionate, friend to all with a nickname for everyone, keeper of family stories and yarns” and “such a special person”.
Fellow Old Boys Ray Ball, Gerry Dale and Xavier Maher paid tribute to their great mate “Buck”, describing him as a “lifelong friend. A wonderful, original character. Irrepressible, irreverent, outrageously funny and generous to all of those in need”.
Francis was a boarder from Kyneton. He received a scholastic prize in his matriculation year for geography and also for Roman history in his leaving year.
Frank was a member of the First XVIII football team in his matric year and was named in the best straight away during his first couple of games. In the 1966 College Annual, Frank’s impact was described in the following way; “Frank forced his way into the team early in the season and became an automatic selection for the back pocket. A player with fine judgment and a pair of trusty hands, he was a tower of strength, and his kicking improved as the season went on”.
Frank also played cricket in the senior house competition and again gained mention in the 1966 College Annual with his performance; “Frank Hoban, in his unorthodox attire, often showed great fire, both with ball and bat”. He was also a handy athlete and runner.
We thank classmate John Larkins (SPC 1961-67) for also putting together this tribute to his great friend.
‘So be easy and free when you’re drinking with me
I’m a man you don’t meet everyday’.
The above was quoted in The Age death notice by Robyn Strachan, a long-term friend of Frank’s and is apt to describe my task in doing justice to the memory of a man I first met in 1961 as a fellow Year 7 student at SPC.
Frank died suddenly in the outback on 9 July, 2022. He was accompanied by old mate Martin O’Hehir (also a former classmate at St Pat’s), Martin’s partner Joan and Frank’s beloved niece, Katherine Davis. All who knew and loved Frank are still in deep shock and trying to come to terms with so sudden a death. The only consolation is that he was in a place he loved and apparently didn’t suffer.
To return to 1961, Frank was the talk of the class. A red head who spoke of Chairman Mao (a man of whom I, being from the Colac back blocks, had heard little) and who had a capacity to annoy and frustrate a long list of his teachers. A couple of examples:
Re ‘barnyard’ noises in the quadrangle – ‘You, son, are the Village Idiot!’
‘Chairman Mao’ became his first nickname later replaced by ‘Buck’ and later still by ‘Ra’ (a whole other story). What must be recorded in this context is that there was no more legendary exponent of settling on and propagating a nickname than Frank himself. Just a few: ‘the Hermit’, ‘the Jude’, ‘the Stoat’, Ambrose Crow was ‘the Museum Piece’ (he was a ‘Crow’ but had red hair!), all Armstrongs became ‘Legweaks’, the ‘Wombat’, ‘The Owl’, ‘Injun Joe’, ‘Oat’ Grano, ‘Spock’, ‘Ra’, ‘Barn Owl’ – the list was never-ending.
But let’s not overlook Frank’s more conventional achievements at St Pat’s – a significant number of academic subject prizes and as a very effective back pocket in the 1966 First XVIII.
The other thing it’s hard to do justice to is the bond between those young men who grew up at SPC from a very young age. Frank contributed memorably to the development of a whole subversive culture and form of anarchy through his unique, irrepressible personality and refusal to accept any form of boredom. In many ways, given the exigencies of boarding school life, he kept us sane.
In later years, we have all had the experience of being out with Frank as he kept bar staff entertained with stories and language references they found impossible to understand but seemed to accept as a lot of fun. To be with him at a restaurant when (asked to provide a name) Frank announced himself as Ray Gabelich (again a whole other story) and was addressed by the long-suffering staff for the remainder of the evening as ‘Ray’ was a ‘joy which passeth understanding’.
There are many other perspectives with regard to Frank: Cistercian monk, sometime Law student, army conscript, passionate Collingwood and Manchester United supporter, lover of rock and country music, test cricket lover, ancient wireless collector, amazing traveller and photographer, hard worker and many others. Most of all, he was a generous and loyal friend.
Those who knew him and loved him are all going to miss his presence in our lives. This presence took many forms-in recent times and more conventionally, a text regarding something he had read in the newspaper. In earlier more immediately post school times, a ‘Raaaaaa’ which turned him purple but could be heard (particularly, as was most often the case, in the early hours of the morning) across multiple suburbs. If one had responsibilities the next day, to know that he and Gabelich (the late John ‘Darby’ Munro) and Doctor Stanley O’Hehir were imminent was a chilling realisation.
Our ‘old mate’ (a favourite phrase of his) had his own ways of keeping in touch. A phone call, a birthday card or a post card (sometimes ‘suggestive’ in nature), communication with our mate took many forms.
Pre tracing phone calls technology and mobile phones, Frank was an inveterate and obsessive phone caller and had mastered the art of no-cost calling from a public phone box. No one was safe. Particularly the late Mr Bjelke Peterson in faraway Queensland whose ready availability and propensity to answer his home phone (again in the early hours) impressed Frank immensely.
One concession I think we should make is that there are several of Frank’s long suffering teachers who, having achieved a well-earned place in the peace and tranquility of paradise, may not welcome the noise and tumult of this latest arrival at the pearly gates. Brothers O’Brien and Kelty come readily to mind. We’re trusting Br Tuck to keep the worst disturbances at bay, something he was very good at!
We are much the poorer for his passing. Frank was truly one of a kind whom we will miss dreadfully. A surrogate and outrageous ‘godfather’ to my children (a renowned babysitter back in the day), I know that he will have talked his way into any paradise that exists.
We’ll see you on the other shore old friend.
John Larkins (SPC 1961-1967)
With input from F.X. Maher (SPC 1961-1967).