BEST MATES: Nev Callaghan and Norm Diplock during their national service days. The pair were hardly separated during their 75-year friendship working together and bringing up their families in Rockhampton.
BEST MATES: Nev Callaghan and Norm Diplock during their national service days. The pair were hardly separated during their 75-year friendship working together and bringing up their families in Rockhampton. Contributed

Friends remember Nev: 'We were very lucky to have him'

Respected Rockhampton businessman and league icon Nev Callaghan passed away on Saturday. Friend Norm Diplock paid tribute to his mate, reflecting on 75 years together. Read more about Nev's life here.

THEY met 75 years ago on the daily walk to school and soon became inseparable.

The friendship forged between Nev Callaghan and Norm Diplock never faltered and saw them standing side by side through national service, marriages, families, business and retirement.

Although Norm will now this week a final farewell to his best mate, he wants Nev's life to be remembered for the happiness and generosity it brought to those around him.

The pair grew up in South Rockhampton, with their strong bond forged through daily walks to and from Allenstown State School.

Norm joked it was in the backyards of both their family homes playing on a bare patch of dirt that Nev cut his teeth as a footballer.

"There was him and his two brothers, Peter and Keith, and myself," Norm said.

"The four of us would play once or twice a week in his backyard or my backyard.

"There was many a bloody nose and a ripped shirt."

He would later go on to represent Central Queensland and the state, as well as playing with Fitzroy Football Club locally until 1959.

 

Nev in action
Nev in action conributed

The pair were separated after primary school when Norm started work and Nev went through to Rockhampton State High School.

But they were never apart for too long, regulars at the Wintergarden Theatre and at dances held around the city every night.

"Our favourite haunt was the Embassy Picture Show, which was just around the corner from where we lived," Norm said.

(Dan Murphy's now sits on this site).

"Nev and I shared things, so we'd check our finances and make sure we'd both get in and share whatever we had left for interval or fish and chips after the picture show."

But the boys made sure their pennies stretched as far as possible in the old theatre, which had a section of more expensive canvas seats alongside a cheaper wooden section.

 

ALL SMILES: Norm Diplock, Ted King, Stan Farrell and Nev Callaghan get ready to go to the Rockhampton Show.
ALL SMILES: Norm Diplock, Ted King, Stan Farrell and Nev Callaghan get ready to go to the Rockhampton Show. Contributed

"Of course, we couldn't afford to go into the canvas seats," Norm said.

"So we used to sneak in from the wooden seats.

"Right on when God Save the King finished before the news started there'd be complete darkness and that's when we'd move to the canvas seats.

"We made sure when we were coming out, we'd jump back over and come out the wooden side."

The pair went to every dance they could, although Norm said they always made sure to obey their strict 11pm curfew.

Splitting the cost of movie tickets wasn't the only things Norm and Nev shared.

"We shared our pushbike first and then we shared our car," Norm said.

"We only had one between us. If one of us were lucky enough to go to a dance and take a girl home, one had to walk home and the other had to take the car.

"Or we waited down town at the Capitol Milk Bar."

 

Norm and Nev ready for their national service.
Norm and Nev ready for their national service. Contributed

At 17, the pair were called up for National Service on the same day, serving with the same company and platoon.

Later, Norm's dad gave Nev an apprenticeship at Well Done Panel Works.

It was at this garage Nev met Mick Docherty, laying the foundation for the partnership which would go on to build DC Motors from mechanical garage to full automotive dealership.

But history could have taken a different path had Nev and Norm's original plans for a business partnership run smoothly.

"It was my dad's intention that when Nev came out of his time (as an apprentice) and I turned 21, we'd start our own business," Norm said.

"Unfortunately my dad died a month before I was 21 and things just got left."

Although their business was not to be, the pair did work together to restore many motors once they earned their driving licences.

Their first was a B-model Ford utility and they continued to trade up with each car they made over.

Norm continued his work as a panel beater, ending up working in close proximity to Nev's business on several times.

The first house Nev and wife Noela bought as a married couple also backed onto Norm's Berserker house block.

 

Nev Callaghan in 2014.
Nev Callaghan in 2014. Allan Reinikka ROK

"There wouldn't be a day or a week we didn't keep in touch with each other," Norm said.

"He never, ever had a cross word about anyone.

"There are a lot of people in this town he would have helped, financially and other ways, and they'd never know.

"There probably wouldn't be a sporting club in town he never supported financially."

Norm said Nev built a successful life the hard way, from humble beginnings.

"If anyone had the relationship we had and the friendship we had, then they're very lucky people," Norm said reflecting on decades of mateship.

"We were very lucky to have him as a friend and I think our lives were a lot better for having him as a friend."

Relatives and friends are invited to attend a service to celebrate his life at the East Chapel, Rockhampton Crematorium on Wednesday from 10am.



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