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  • Writer's pictureBill Manning

Characters I have known Part 3

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.

Jim Dunstan

I have known Jim for many years and he has featured in my previous blogs. Most notably he featured in my blog of 15 Oct 2019 and 13 August 2020 among others, He won the Sydney to Hobart race in 1982 and was a previous Commodore of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.

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Jim Dunstan winner of the 1982 Sydney to Hobart race, ex Commodore of RSYS and a professional engineer

As a result of the 1986 census in Australia, a journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald by the name of Jenny Chater phoned me at Coopers and Lybrand. She asked me to comment on a story she was assigned to work on ‘Do the men of Mosman (a suburb of Sydney) work longer hours than other people in Australia?’. I said to her “Is this the first job you have been asked to work on?’ She replied in the affirmative.

Well, have I got a story for you. The men of Mosman do work harder than others in Australia, and the reason is their wives are so demanding. You can see them at the Mosman Rowers club on a Friday afternoon in their tennis gear. We all know them as members of ’Club Mosman’. They drive Volvos and have blonde hair. Their men all have large mortgages to pay, and to keep up they have to work long hours. If you look closely at the figures you will see the men die earlier than the women presumably from overwork and heart attacks.

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’Do you live in Mosman Mr. Manning’ I was asked. ‘No’ was my reply. ‘Can you tell me a contact who does live in Mosman’. After some thought, I said Jim Dunstan lives in Mosman. ‘By the way’ I said ‘I would prefer you did not mention my name.’ As you will observe she did mention my name and as a result, I was phoned for a week later by Mosman divorcees and widows rather upset at what was said about Club Mosman.

Richard Gibb

A similar occasion happened with Richard Gibb, my boss. He was the partner in charge of New South Wales for Coopers and Lybrand (accountants) and was about to retire in 1996. At the time Australia had won the right to stage the Olympic Games in 2000. In a casual conversation he mentioned to me he would like to work as a volunteer for the Sydney Olympics in his retirement.

Well on the first evening at a partners conference on the Gold Coast I was phoned up by a reporter from the Sydney Daily Telegraph. The announcement of the awarding of the Games had just been made and I was asked to give an opinion as to what attributes a suitable person should have to manage the event and how much should that person be paid.

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Richard Gibb

Never mind my reply but talking to my fellow partners that evening with a few drinks under my belt we spoke about the phone call. I joked we could get rid of ‘Gibby’ by shopping him to the Olympic organising committee as the manager and splitting his pay among us all. The next morning at breakfast with me suffering from a hangover Richard Gibb approached me with a very severe look on his face. ‘What did you say to the Daily Telegraph?’ ‘Buy a copy and read for your self’ I replied. He found on purchasing the paper nothing was said but he took it in good humour.

Don Logan Australian Wallaby No 439
Don Logan Australian Wallaby No 439

On another occasion when I was a Director of the Gordon Rugby Club I organised a $5,000 donation to the club from Coopers and Lybrand. This had to be signed off by Richard Gibb. Predictably he asked why are we giving all this money to the Gordon Rugby Club. Ha ! because Bob Mansfield played for Gordon and went to Barker College. Bob at the time was the Managing Director of Optus, a million-dollar client. I got the money approved.

Next, I had to extract a cheque from Diana McKenzie the accounts payable accountant at Cooper and Lybrand. She looked after the cash as if it was her own. ‘Did Mr. Gibb approve this’ she demanded? I then took the cheque to Chatswood oval on Saturday and gave it to the President of the Club Don Logan. Don phoned me on Monday to say that the cheque for $5,000, unfortunately, was in his shirt pocket and was sent to the laundry. This meant I had to front Diana McKenzie again and I was not looking forward to it. I approached Diana and told her the story.

‘Not the Don Logan’ she cried, ‘my father's best friend’. It is a small world I said to myself as I left the room with the replacement cheque in my hand.

Trouble at Chatswood Oval

Chatswood Oval is the home ground of the Gordon Rugby Club. Ken Yanz was an ex Wallaby player and a long-time member of Gordon. A story that has become club folklore surrounds a match at Chatswood Oval in the 1950s between Gordon and Sydney University. In those days the final whistle was the signal for the playing of the national anthem – God Save the Queen – and religiously the players stopped and stood rigidly to attention as they left the field.

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Ken Yanz Australian Wallaby 437

This particular day Ken Yanz had been in holts with a University rival who by chance happened to be standing beside him, arms stiffly by his side, as the anthem was played. Yanz couldn’t help himself, darting out a left jab which felled the University player. As the student lay prone, Ken resumed the rigid attention stance that the anthem demanded, eyes dead ahead, and nobody moved until the music stopped. It was the last time they played the national anthem at a home game. I played with Ken at Gordon.

On another occasion, my fellow player Jim Baker was the side linesman (Assistant Referee) in the first-grade match versus Randwick. Now Jim at the time was also a Gordon first-grade cricketer, the third-grade rugby fullback, and the Company Secretary of a large Sydney Brewery. An upstanding lad.

On this day on the western sideline, in front of the grandstand, Dennis Cleary was allegedly seen in be kicking Jack Hoyle (see Characters I have known Part 1 and 2) to the head. So infuriated was Jim Baker that he ran onto the field of play and hit Dennis over the head with the linesman’s batten. Young McGain the ball boy threw the spare ball at Dennis. The net result of this farce was that Dennis got a two-match suspension however Jim Baker was banned for life from playing or officiating rugby. This was a travesty that has never been addressed.

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Gordon third grade team 1965 me back row 2nd from right and Jim Baker second row third from left.

Micheal Sharpe AO

Michael was a senior partner at Coopers and Lybrand who never hid his ambitions at the time to be Chairman of Coopers and Lybrand, President and of Cranbrook School and Lay Canon of St. Andrew's Cathedral. On the occasion of his Australian award, the partners of Coopers and Lybrand had drinks for Michael in the Partners Bar.

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Michael Sharpe AO

With a few drinks under my belt, I said to Michael that it was a pity he did not achieve the award when Malcom Fraser was the Prime minister because at that time he could have been knighted as Sir Michael Sharpe.

Well, Michael flew into a state of frustration with me. He said that I did not know anything about the Australian awards and that there we no titles associated with them. At this stage, Michael had me up against the wall of the bar with his finger at my chest. To my rescue came to my fellow corpulent partner Barry Lancaster. The same fate awaited Barry, in no time he too was against the wall.

Well, Michael flew into a state of frustration with me. He said that I did not know anything about the Australian awards and that there we no titles associated with them. At this stage, Michael had me up against the wall of the bar with his finger at my chest. To my rescue came to my fellow corpulent partner Barry Lancaster. The same fate awaited Barry, in no time he too was against the wall.

Time passed and no doubt tweedle dumb and tweedle dee had got under Michael’s skin. He took the time to phone the awards officials in Canberra to check out what we were talking about. He was then advised that under the Fraser Government that two Knighthoods have been awarded, both of them already holding Knighthoods under the old English system namely Sir John Kerr and Sir Garfield Barwick. Thus the public was rarely aware of these awards.

There days later Barry and I received a three-page letter from Michael offering his apologies and thanking us for bringing the matter to his attention. I apologise for not keeping the letter to publish now!

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