VALE: Remembering a Mackay identity, John Mitchell.
VALE: Remembering a Mackay identity, John Mitchell.

Johnnie 'The Walker' has proud history

For my departed brother, John Charles Mitchell (1925-2016)

Born at Mackay, the sixth of seven siblings who then resided on a farm known as "The Cedars", just seven to eight miles north of the town, where our father was employed by Howard Smith's shipping company for nearly 30 years, on the Pioneer River - that is until the outer Harbour was constructed.

This was a significant factor for John's education as dad was able to drive us all to school each day, having purchased the Chevrolet in 1926 - a bequest from his deceased father's estate in Fremantle.

My brother became a fully qualified fitter and turner at the Farleigh Sugar Mill where he served his apprenticeship after achieving a good pass in the Junior Public Examination at the Mackay State High School.

Later he worked for a time as chief engineer at the Proserpine Mill. He was very talented and highly regarded by his friends and old classmates.

As children, I do recall John and I were happy playmates; living on a farm, he constructed a billy-goat cart in which I took many a spill.

Later, we used it to sell sweet pineapples to the council road workers during the depression - for threepence each, or five for a bob (or shilling for anyone unfamiliar with the language of that time).

Sundays were very special. If not at church, all the family could play cricket down the lane. John excelled! While I would fox the balls.

He was a tease, but was also kind-hearted, giving me a double all the way to church which was no easy task on his bike, against the wind, uphill and down dale.

A favourite past-time at the bench at Eimeo would be collecting soft drink bottles. When we cashed them in we could earn a florin - big bucks!!

Some time later, John enlisted in the Air Force, and, as I understand it, was injured during training activities, eventually being discharged as being mentally unfit to continue.

He never regained his full potential and his lonely path for many years since then has been very rugged.

Credit must be given to members of the Mackay Police for watching over his safety and welfare, and to other members of the community, known and unknown, as well as several relatives, younger, closer, and more able than I was.

Recently, the officers of the Queensland Trustees and the appointed Public Guardian were successful in persuading John to accept help, shelter and care, thankfully ending his long years of self-imposed isolation and discomfort.

MANY, many thanks to all those good Samaritans, whether acting in a voluntarily or official capacity for John's well-being.

May God now give John the comfort, rest and peace he has long been seeking. Amen.

- Contributed by Ruby Mitchell


Readers tributes

THOSE who knew John shared their memories on Facebook.

Glen Hall from the Mackay Historical Society and Museum said: Vale to the late John Mitchell, passed away aged 91 years. I remember John many times when I worked for an agency many years ago. A man of not many words he came in every fortnight. As far as I know he was born in Mackay and his parents owned a cane farm near Richmond or the Cedars on the North Side. Many a rumour about how he become homeless but was an old soul who never hurt anyone. RIP Mr Walker.

Liz Nugent Falconer: Dear old Mitch. All workers in the City Heart had a soft spot for him. I started at Mathers Shoes aged 16 in 1993 and befriended him straight away. He would come and visit for a chat during the day, as I'm sure he did with many other workers. I'd often sit with him at the chinese restaurant on the corner across from Billy Baxters/The Post Office while he had his dinner and me a spring roll, before I caught the bus home. One afternoon he said "let's go to Goodna!". I said "sure why not!", thinking he was pulling my leg. Sure enough, the next day, Mitch was waiting with 2 x McCafferty's bus tickets!! RIP dear old friend, you will be missed xx

Sam Jefferson: He used to come into the Great Australian Ice Creamery, buy a carton of milk, pay with a $50 note, drink it from the carton and leave. Once in a while he'd get a single vanilla cone. All that walking did him good to make it to 91.

Majella Daley: He was around when I was a young girl in the late 70s working in the cbd. My friend worked at David Jones and he used to bring in lumps of rock. Every business used to accept these. Everyone always treated him with respect. He was a very proud man and always liked looking good. RIP Mr Mitchell. Well that is what we all called him way back then. Many a story about him but he has taken all his secrets to the heavenly highway. Rest easy as you put a lot of smiles on a lot of people's faces over all those years. Thank you.

Sandi Walsh: He used to sleep at the back of my old dance school hall, way back in the early 90s!! We bought him food as little ballerinas one day & he was worried he was scary to us, we never were scared, we were always curious & I was worried he couldn't be eating good food if he was sleeping there. You can stop walking now Johnnie, rest safely now

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