Characters I have known Part 1 2021
These blogs are anecdotes of characters I have known from Barker College, Roseville Junior Rugby Club, Gordon Rugby Club, Sailing and Coopers & Lybrand (PricewaterhouseCoopers). Read on.
Joining the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron
Deirdre Manning (Crichton-Browne, nee Burke) in the early 1980’s made application to join the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron (RSYS) in Sydney. In those days one had to have a nominator, a seconder and six referees from members of the RSYS. As the nominator I requested Malcolm Levy to write a reference for Deirdre on the referee form provided by the RSYS.
On the form there are questions which the referee is required to answer. Typically these are, how long have you known the candidate? where did you meet the candidate? how well do you know the candidate? is the candidate of good character? Malcolm answered the questions and faxed the completed form for me the review.
When it arrived in my office the answers to the questions were ‘How long have you known the candidate?’ “a long time”. ‘Where did you meet the candidate?’ “behind the boatshed”. ‘How well do you know the candidate?’ “intimately”. ‘Is the candidate of good character?’ “It depends on what is meant by good character”.
My 18 year old secretary at the time was Haroula Vitogiannis the real hero of this story. On reading the reference I said to Haroula to phone Malcolm’s office and say ‘Thank you for the fax, Mr Manning is not in at the moment, but it has been sent to the wrong place and I have faxed it directly to the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. I am out and cannot be contacted.’
Well, with that all hell broke loose. Malcolm was immediately on the phone. “Mr Manning please”. Haroula said ‘I am afraid Mr Manning is not here at the moment and will not return until later this afternoon’. “This is rather urgent where can he be contacted?”. ‘He is with a client but I do not know which one’. “Did you send the fax”. ‘Yes’. “I am Where did you send the fax to”. ‘To the RSYS at 1030’. “I am going down to the Squadron”.
Malcolm then spent an hour at the RSYS standing by the fax machine. When he departed he left instructions that if a fax arrived from himself or Mr Manning, no one was to read it and he was to be contacted immediately. He then called Haroula back and said are you sure you sent the fax to the RSYS? Has Mr Manning called in? Do you know where he is? Call me when he calls in. ‘Yes Mr Levy”. She fielded many calls that day.
Haroula is a very reliable friend to this day. She has been very loyal and always a joy to have lunch with. I have written about Malcolm Levy often enough. See my previous blogs ‘Racing North in Polar Bear 1984 to 1998’ April 2020 and “Shenanigans in Hobart following the race’ October 2019 for example
Other friends I have lunch with
When Anne Pender and I were at some of our first consulting assignments in the 1970’s the client would frequently remark “Why have you brought your secretary with you?” Anne is a qualified psychologist!
At a performance review in the early days with the consultant Doreen Cheong, I asked if there was anything else she wished to ask me or tell me. She mentioned a client, a sales manager man from the USA invited her to dinner to talk about her report. She went home and changed then met the man at the Wentworth Hotel, opposite the Coopers & Lybrand building in Bligh St Sydney. On arrival the man said, “What is that?” referring to her brief case. “That is the report” Doreen replied. “I am not here for that” said the sales manager. I said ‘But you did discuss the report’. “Yes she said.” Talk about focus.
In early 1990 Norma Nader asked me “What should we do with our house in Lebanon, we don’t seem to be able to sell it?” ‘Norma that is a subject which I am not up on at the moment’ was my reply. She said this month that the Lebanon house is still not sold.
Malcolm and the debt collector, Tim Bristow.
By way of a complete contrast Tim Bristow went to school at Shore School, was a member of the Gordon Rugby Club, a one time policeman, a bouncer at the Newport Arms Hotel, a debt collector and a guest of The NSW Prisons Department. He was over 2 metres tall and over 100 kilos in weight.
In the early 1980’s Malcolm Levy could not collect a debt of about $40,000. He had his own business as an architect/builder and he discussed the problem with me. I then put him onto Tim Bristow. Tim met with Malcolm and came to an arrangement. Firstly the debtor lived in Newport which was convenient as Tim also lived in Newport at the time. Secondly Malcolm said that he did not want any blood spilt. That increased the commission to 25%.
The next thing that happened was the debtor was awakened at sun up with the sound of crashing on his front footpath. He rushed outside in his underwear and turned around to see Tim on his roof tearing tiles off the roof and throwing them onto the front footpath.
“What the hell are you doing’” cried the debtor. ‘I am here to collect the debt you owe to my friend Malcom Levy’ said Tim. “Fair go I have not got the money now I will have to go to the bank”. ‘That is all right, I will be down to the laundry by then’ was the reply. An immediate negotiation then took place.
Tim then met with Malcolm at the office with a sugar bag full of 10 pound, 20 pound and 50 pound notes. He then tipped all the notes on the table and thrust his hand through roughly one quarter of the notes and said that is mine the rest is yours.
Tim Bristow and Lenny McPherson
Four years after the Sydney golden oldies the tournament was to be held in London UK. I was still the manager for The Gordon Rugby Club Golden Oldies responsible for collecting the money, booking airline tickets and accommodation. Tim at this time was not a favourite of the Gordon Rugby Club and Snowy Naughton in particular. Playing for Randwick Rugby in the Sydney 1980’s festival Nick Shehadie (an ex Wallaby Captain) said that he was worried about being arrested for consorting entering a ruck with Tim.
Well, Tim payed a deposit for the London trip and the final payment date was upon us. That evening I went to the Gordon Club in Chatswood with the specific reason of finding out if Tim would make the final payment. Much to my disappointment Tim arrived at about 8pm. But to my absolute horror in to the club with Tim came Lenny McPherson. He was one of the most notorious and powerful Australian career criminals of the late 20th century.
Tim introduced Lenny as a friend and explained that he, Lenny, wished to be out on the country at the time a wanted to join the team. Tim made the two payments in full. I was flabbergasted.
Two weeks later I was crossing Spring St at the Pitt St corner with Doreen Cheong at lunchtime when a large Mercedes 600 horn honked at me. The driver was Tim, he said that Lenny and himself had to cancel the London trip due to a problem with Her Majesty and he wanted the money refunded. When could he have it? “You will have it this afternoon” I said. And he received it that afternoon.
As big and tough as Tim was he met his match in Snowy Naughton. Snowy was the Australian Army Boxing Champion in 1945, but he never fired a shot in anger. Snowy and Tim were members of the very successful 1950’s Gordon 1st XV rugby side. In the late 1960’s Snowy became the coach of the Gordon side. Tim was a nuisance and sometimes had a lady friend in the dark corner south west of the Chatswood oval on a Thursday night at rugby training. This was a significant distraction for the coach and 5 teams training. Snowy called Tim over to the middle of the oval regarding the distraction. There was a confrontation and two thuds, when Snowy hit Tim and Tim hit the ground.
Eventually Snowy became a supporter of Gordon. His wife died and he moved house to the NSW Central Coast. He was a builder and accepted jobs from the northern districts of Sydney to the Central Coast. He won a 6 months job at a Noviciate in Lane Cove Sydney. He was soon chatting with the nuns about the travel time he had to undertake each work day. They then suggested he could stay in the vacant cottage on the property. Well, after a time Snowy had dated the mother superior who had departed the catholic church, married her and took her to see the Gordon Rugby games at Chatswood Oval. Her name was Marie and she crocheted blue and white items in the grandstand while watching the games. Well done Snowy.
Don Logan and Bob Davidson
Don was a great mate of mine and the President of the Gordon Rugby Club. He was also a Wallaby half back. Bob Davidson was a Wallaby Captain and after Rugby went to South Africa as the Managing Director of an Oil Company. However after some years he divorced his wife Faye, remarried moved to Los Angles and caught a fatal dose of cancer. He fell on hard times and his ex-wife Faye and Don Logan organised to raise money to bring him back to Sydney. They co-opted Alan Jones for publicity and successfully crowd funded his and his wife’s airfare back to Sydney and some living expenses.
On the day of his arrival back in Sydney from Auckland NZ he did not show. Indeed, he eventually arrived the following week. He explained that he was looking to purchase a boat in Auckland and sail it with his wife to the barrier reef. This he eventually did prior to his death. But at the airport Don said to him “Fair go Bob we have put in for a funeral not a boat”.
Unfortunately Don also died of cancer in the 1990’s. We scattered his ashes on Chatswood oval (Gordon Rugby’s home ground) on a very rainy day. The oval was flooded do within minutes his ashes ended up in Middle Harbour.