Vale John Coughlin

JOHN Michael Coughlin was born on September 14, 1917, the third child of Clara Rubina Coughlin and John Thomas Coughlin.

John was born at Mrs Black’s Private Hospital in Rochester, and baptised in the Catholic Church across the road before being taken home, as was the custom at that time.

He and his siblings, Martin, Bernie, Leo, Beatrice, Janet and Kevin, were all brought up on the family farm at Elmore, and it was John who stayed living and working on the farm, one of his great loves, for his whole life.

John began school at the Diggora South State School in 1922, barely four-and-a-half years old, as it was a brand-new school and they needed the numbers to get the school started. 

The school was located across the road from the north-east corner of the block where the family farm is. 

The Coughlin children walked most days to school, in single file through the farmland. If it was raining they might be taken in the horse and gig. John worked with his father on the family property. 

His early work days began at 5am. He would bring in the horses and feed them, have a rest on the couch before breakfast, then harness the horses and work with them until midday. 

The horses would be fed and watered again and then John would have lunch, followed by working with the horses until almost dark. If you met a neighbour at the end of a paddock during the day you would stop and have a chat to give the horses a rest.

John walked behind the harrows for years, and then had a harrow cart with a seat. Most of the farming implements of the time had a solid cast-iron seat and Dad told us that if you put a jute bag over the seat it felt like velvet. Using early implements such as the mulboard plough, discs, harrows, the drill and the harvester John would sow up to 200 acres of crop each year.

In 1944 a bad drought and lack of horse feed convinced John's father a tractor would be a good thing. In 1945 they purchased a W4 International tractor, one of the first rubber-tyred tractors.

In amongst the hard work John played football and cricket, his top cricket score being 94 not out. His love of cricket particularly continued his whole life, always being interested in who was playing and the scores. John enjoyed going to the dances around the district, and holidaying at Lorne with friends, and faithfully continued to attend Mass on Sundays.

John’s father died in 1950 when John was 32. He took on the complete running of the farm and, though asked to take up a position of Shire Councillor on the Huntly Shire Council left vacant by the death of his father, felt he had too much already on his mind at the time.

The following year he was installed as a Knight of the Southern Cross.

In February 1954 John met Trish at the wedding of Nance and Wal Harney. John was the driver of the bridesmaids’ car and Trish was a bridesmaid. John and Trish were married on August 3, 1957, at St Joseph’s Church in Benalla. After their honeymoon in Surfers Paradise they settled at the family property.

John and Trish worked together on the farm. She was the cook, and when lunch was ready she would stand in the driveway and wave a tea towel when John was driving in a direction facing the farmhouse to let him know.

In 1968 John was again asked to nominate for a vacancy on the Huntly Shire Council. With Trish’s encouragement he stood and was elected, going on to serve for over 25 years. 

He and Trish would discuss in detail the agenda items before the next meeting. During John’s four terms as Huntly Shire president, Trish attended all the functions with him and together they planned the official speeches. 

During this time they met Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Tom Uren, Anglican Archbishop Woods, and Prime Minister Billy McMahon.

John was also a Justice of the Peace for many years and sat several times with the Magistrate at the Elmore Court House. 

In 1974 John went to America with several members of the Rochester Lions Club for a convention. During that time he visited Washington alone for three days. 

A friend, Betty Blain, worked at the Australian Embassy and organised a VIP pass to the White House. John was shown through the Ground Floor of the White House, and escorted through the Oval Office. Whilst there he asked if he would be able to sit in the President’s chair, which he did do for a few moments. 

He was not able to go upstairs as President Nixon and his family were living in the rooms above the ground floor.

John enjoyed his trip to America so much he took Trish in 1984, whilst there attending another Lions Convention.

In 1987 John and Trish moved into 108 Michie Street Elmore. John continued to go out to the farm daily, to drive the tractor, spray weeds, help with the sheep and in the shearing shed, check the sheep and water and do numerous other jobs. He continued to do this regularly until he was 92, when Trish’s failing health made it too difficult.

Dad became Mum’s carer several years before she passed away, being about 90 at the time. The man who had done all the outside things learnt how to cook simple meals, use the washing machine, the dishwasher and even the microwave. 

He did not want Mum to go into a nursing home and he cared for her at home until the last week of her life, when she was admitted to the Echuca Hospital. Mum passed away on February 12, 2011.

Finally Dad decided to leave his Elmore home and in June 2012 moved into a new room in the brand new building at Bethlehem Aged Care in Bendigo. Dad made two good friends there, Gordon and Norman.

Through 2013 his sight failed and later in the year his health declined.

Dad passed away surrounded by family at 6.40 on Monday evening, March 10, 2014.

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