My maternal Grandfather, Phillip George McKeon, was known as George. One of eight children, he was born on August 31st, 1889, in Hotham (later known as North Melbourne). His father was an Irish immigrant Stonemason.
George married Lillian Rose Marshall when he was 23 years old and she only 17. They had four children. My mother, being their eldest child, had to give up work at the age of 13 to look after her younger siblings when Lillian died from pulmonary thrombosis only 10 days after giving birth. Just 31 years of age, Lillian was getting into a vehicle outside the hospital on her way home after her confinement when she died.
Employed as a driver for Brockhoff Biscuits, George drove the trucks delivering the product. I know he did signwriting too and wonder if he did the signage on the trucks.
George was jockey at the age of 14. I have a photo of a picture he painted on wood of himself atop ‘Bright Beauty’, the horse on which he rode and won the Woodcliff Stakes at Caulfield in 1903 in a field of seven other horses. I have come across a description of that race, with the last sentences saying “Jerry as usual made the play, but this time Maelgwyn was always handy with Patronus and Bright Beauty close up. Maelgwyn looked like winning in the straight, but Bright Beauty, in spite of being badly ridden, won at the finish”. Maybe that is why he gave up racing and not the fact he would have grown too tall to be a jockey (he grew to be over 6ft tall).
George came from a Catholic family and was not impressed that my mother married a Protestant. He even had to give his written consent on the Marriage Certificate as Mum, who was pregnant, was under-age. His discontent with her marriage would show up later in life.
In 1961, when I was 11, my mother and I lived with George in North Melbourne whilst escaping some domestic problems. We stayed with him for possibly 6 months. I was in my first year of High School in Fawkner and each morning left very early with Mum, who drove me to school and then drove back into the City in time to start work.
George’s house was a small, single storey terrace. It had a passage down one side of the house with rooms to the right taking you down to the kitchen, with the stove and copper off the kitchen and the bathroom out the back. I remember feeding the meter for the gas and a lead hanging from the ceiling which Mum plugged the iron into. My bedroom was off the kitchen. I recall being really ill with mumps whilst living there.
I can also remember that it was the time of the 1961 Federal Election and I would have to sit in the lounge room with the two adults and listen to all the election talk on the black and white TV. At my age at the time, this was so boring. It is probably the reason I still find election talk boring today.
Sometime after we returned home to Dad, George came to live with us in 1963 for the last two years of his life. I remember him driving a little green Morris Minor.
Sadly, towards the end of his life, George started getting dementia and began causing friction in the family. He accused my mother of not being married and having illegitimate children, as she wasn’t married in a Catholic Church. He wasn’t nice to my father either, yet my father was the one who would bathe him and provide most of the care for him.
While living with us George lived in a bedroom which had a shared wall with my room. I was 16 and going out with a boy from school who had a car. One Sunday we went out for the day and on my return, George accused me of spending the whole day with my boyfriend in my bedroom as he heard noises all day. That really upset me.
I must admit that when George was put into hospital and died on June 17th, 1965, at the age of 75. I was not at all upset.
I was 16 and remember feeling very relieved that he would no longer be around.
delivering the product. I know he did signwriting too and
wonder if he did the signage on the trucks.”
(Photo titled 'Brockhoff Biscuits Truck' found at https://australianglidingmuseum.org.au/about-us/heroes/53)