Where are they now – Peter Mackey (SPC 1966-70)
November 30, 2021
We recently reconnected with Old Collegian Peter Mackey (SPC 1966-1970), who has kindly permitted the College to share his story, which was published in a reunion book produced by the Class of 1970 earlier this year. The cohort was due to celebrate their 50-Year Reunion at the College this year, however their celebrations have now been rescheduled to early 2022.
Peter spent his working life as a family lawyer, and many of Peter’s classmates will still remember the unfortunate incident at his Year 12 Dinner when Peter was about to deliver his leavetaking speech.
Years at SPC: Five – 1966 until 1970.
Status at SPC: Boarder.
Family: I married Bronwyn in 1979. We have one son Luke, a beautiful daughter-in-law Lauren and a very active grand-daughter Isla.
Luke and his family are based in Orlando Florida, where he is employed by Golf Australia, as a strength and conditioning coach, and performance manager (and part-time caddy) for Australian golfers (elite amateur and professional) who are based in the USA and Europe.
Current occupation: Retired/Gardener.
Post secondary education: Arts/Law degrees – Monash University.
Career: Family lawyer.
In 1976 I was an article clerk to my brother John in his law firm and admitted to practice the following year. I was made a partner in Ryan Mackey & McClelland Solicitors in 1979.
I became an accredited Family Law specialist & Independent Child Representative; and loved my work, despite high stress levels at times. I got to meet people from all walks of life, at one of the worst times of their life.
For many years I served on legal referral services in Heidelberg & Greensborough and enjoyed being a member of the Family Mediation Lawyer panel at Relationships Australia, and the Child Support Agency Advisory panel.
I relished the collegiality of fellow family lawyers, family counsellors and child psychologists, and spent over 25 years on the Family Law Section Executive of the Law Institute of Victoria.
My election to the Law Institute Council for nine years was one of the highlights of my career.
I was privileged to represent suburban lawyers in London, for renewal of professional indemnity insurance with Lloyds Underwriters, & the subsequent establishment of a self-insurance scheme.
Other highlights include presenting papers at law conferences in Australia and overseas.
My legal career came to a dramatic finale in mid 2008 when I was diagnosed with stage 3 throat cancer. The side effects of radiation treatment (and strong medical advice from my ENT surgeon) prevented me from jumping back into the maelstrom of family law.
Subsequently, I mentored young lawyers, and did some voluntary work and short-term living and learning courses.
Gardening and landscaping at home and for family & friends has always been a real passion. This hobby was a stress circuit breaker throughout my working life, and cancer journey.
I feel singularly fortunate because I had a fulfilling and rewarding career (although cut short) and a real sense I dodged a bullet with my health.
Personal History: Bronwyn and I have travelled extensively in Australia and overseas, with an emphasis on walking trips. Our highlights include Picos de Europa mountain range in northern Spain; Machu Picchu trail in Peru; Annapurna circuit Nepal; Patagonia on the border between Argentina & Chile; Milford Track New Zealand and Cradle Mountain Overland Track Tasmania.
Camping in Botswana; walking down the narrow siq canyon to Petra; feeling the spray of Iguazu falls; and exploring the Kimberleys are other wonderful memories.
I played competition tennis for three decades post SPC; but now only socially.
Golf twice per week has kept me out of mischief in retirement, and I have learned three things about the game. (1) To hit a truly awful shot in golf, mere incompetence is not enough-you really need an audience. (2) No matter how badly you are playing, you can always play worse. (3) All current problems can be traced to previous solutions.
I was a long-suffering Melbourne supporter. I long suspected Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Famila, would be well and truly completed before the Dees won another flag, but I am very pleased to say that, that all changed in September this year.
Best memory of St Pats: I have many memories, mostly good, relating to sport and staying with my very good mate Allan McKinnon, at his parent’s dairy farm in Ecklin South, near Terang, on school holidays. I met Allan on my first day at St Pats in 1966, and we have been best mates ever since. I was honoured to be Allan’s best man when he married the love of his life, Noemi.
I should add, Allan is the current President of the SPC Old Collegians Association, which helps Old Boys & their families in a myriad of ways.
One memory I cannot erase occurred in December 1970 in the old dining room. It was the Year 12 Dinner. As School Captain, I was supposed to deliver a short speech reflecting on my time at St Pats and thank our teachers. But I didn’t deliver the speech, because our guest of honour, Monsignor Bill McCunnie, dropped dead next to me.
The St Patrick’s College Old Collegians Association invited me to deliver the speech 48 years later, on St Patrick’s Day 2018, to mark the 125th anniversary of the school. The attached link here is my speech titled: “If you cannot be a good example then serve as a horrible warning”.
On that day, I reflected on why I was sent to St Pats. I took the opportunity to comment on momentous issues in my days at school. For example, whether tongue kissing was a mortal sin; whether there was a more idyllic place for three mates to have a cigarette than in the Bishop’s Palace under the beautiful rhododendron plants; corporal punishment with the leather strap (aka’the gat’); the highs and lows of sport; how D. H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” awoke something in me that F. Scott. Fitzgerald couldn’t do with “The Great Gatsby”. I also “fessed up” to some inadvertent tagging in the chapel whilst an altar boy.
More importantly, I was grateful to be able to belatedly acknowledge the extraordinary service of particular teachers who taught and coached me.
I appreciate, from convivial catch ups with my old school mates at the Emerald Hotel and elsewhere, we all have a unique perspective on our former teachers, influenced by indelible memories of particular interactions and how they made you feel at the time.
I have also learned since leaving St Pats that some of my cohort thought the school culture favoured the sporting “jocks” and/or Boarders. That may have been the case. I can also recall the cruel chants of “Dobber O’Shea” and “Turtle head” used on the school cleaner.
But for my part, I’m lucky there is magic in the memory of school friendships. As I am typing now, random memories are flooding back, such as:
- The nervous, self-conscious and rapturous feeling of meeting girls from Loreto and St Martins, for dance lessons & socials. Wearing Old Spice Aftershave was de rigueur.
- The bizarre “ Cheeso Frere” forewarning, given by students to mates having a smoke behind the handball courts.
- Paul Woodruff getting sprung by Br Guthrie for eating his first serve of banana custard, whilst he was standing in the queue for seconds.
- Danny (“Spock”) Cashin having a cigarette in one of the toilet cubicles near the handball courts. A patrolling Brother walked past and said “Having a little puff in there?” Spock said “No Brother” despite smoke billowing over the door.
- Nield Schneider saying out loud “Yes Brother” in the Chapel, when Br Fogarty told us “Kneel” after singing a hymn.
- Being mesmerized by teacher Peter Morris’ showy cuff links in class.
- Getting out of school early after lunch on Wednesdays, to play First XVIII Footy.
- The fresh cut grass-smell wafting in my nostrils, on the main oval in spring, whilst watching others run a lot faster than me during athletics.
- Getting out of school early after lunch Friday to play First XI cricket (and then all day Saturday).
- Throwing rocks at a passing armoured tank at Puckapunyal, whilst we were there for a cadet camp, causing the tank to stop; and the driver to pop his head out the turret, whilst we scurried away.
Finally, I have learnt post school, a simple truth put succinctly, by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “One of the blessings of old friends is that you can afford to be stupid with them”.
Effects of Covid:
Bronwyn and I have managed reasonably well with the lockdowns:
- We have a large garden to keep us busy, which we started over 40 years ago. There is always something of interest in flower. I should acknowledge that I use Australia’s best quality lucerne supplied by school mate Shaun O’Shannessy, for mulching.
- Shaun has also provided me with some old harrows to add to my collection of antique farm equipment, which I use for garden sculpture. Other items include a century old Hay Rake, Mouldboard Plough and Chaff Cutter. My wife now says she is surrounded by old rusty stuff, me included!
- Vegetables planted out in the first lockdown, have come to fruition in the second lockdown. Growing our own food is a simple but rewarding pleasure.
- Apart from reading and binging on excellent Netflix series like “Homeland” and “Line of Duty”, the Covid-19 lockdowns have opened up new forms of entertainment, such as online tours of famous gardens and museums around the world.
- Youtube comedy sketches and wacky memes have been a useful distraction to politicians playing the blame game, and epidemiologists blinding me with science.
- We have regular WhatsApp video calls and Zoom meetings with family and friends.
- We are missing our son, daughter-in-law, and grand-daughter terribly. We cannot wait to visit them again in the USA or have them return to Australia, when international travel opens up again.