Where are they now - Reg Fenton (SPC 1953-1956
author: Lorrie Liston
The College reconnects with Reg Fenton (SPC 1953-1956), a full-time boarder, who recalls witnessing SPC’s first 1st XVIII defeat in 60 years in 1954.
Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?
I initially gained employment in the Motor Registration Branch (Carlton) of the Victorian Police Force but mum took seriously ill in 1959 so I made a decision to return to Queensland. In 1961 I joined the airline industry with Queensland Airlines (subsidiary of Ansett Transport Industries) as a junior “executive” and this was the start to a most interesting and enjoyable career spanning 22 years.
In 1962, I met my future wife, Patricia, who was employed as an air hostess with Ansett-ANA and we married in1963. During this period I showed an interest in the military and in 1965, I was accepted into a 16-month officers course (OCTU) in the CMF (now Army Reserve) – the second such course to be held in Queensland – and graduated as a 2nd lieutenant serving with 41 Bty 11 Fd Regiment Royal Australian Artillery.
TAA (Trans Australia Airlines) gained parity of operations into QAL’s lucrative coastal ports in 1966 so Reg Ansett decided to absorb the airline into Ansett ANA. As luck would have it, I was offered the position of 2IC to the Gold Coast manager and in 1972, I was invited to open up the new branch of Weipa.
This was an opportunity too good to miss as my ambition was to manage my own branch of the airline, so with Trish and our four children we headed into the then little known mining township of Weipa.
In 1975, I was offered the Mount Isa management position and then to Townsville in 1979.
Rupert Murdoch (of News Corporation Limited) and Sir Peter Abeles (of TNT Transport) were successful in making a takeover bid for ATI (Ansett Transport Industries) in 1980 and the ethos of the organisation quickly started to change and, quite frankly, I did not enjoy the direction it was taking. As a consequence, I resigned in 1983.
On leaving the aviation industry, I have been involved in many different industries. Trish and I were offered the challenge of opening up a new resort at Mission Beach, and encountered a category three cyclone called “Winifred” in March 1986 which held up the opening of the resort but we still managed to open it a couple of months later.
I have worked as a hotel licensee and in senior management roles in the medical, transport and retail industries. I have worked with the long term unemployed, and went back to study in the late 1990s and later managed a retirement village in Condon. I was preselected to stand as candidate for the National Party in the state seat of Thuringowa of the Queensland parliament at the 1989 elections. Again in 1991 I stood as candidate for the National Party in the state seat of Mundingburra. On both occasions the Labor Party won the elections and I failed in my bid to enter parliament.
On retirement in 2005, Trish and I bought a caravan and we travelled extensively around the eastern states of our fair country. During that time, we undertook some caretaking on rural properties, firstly, at “Kings Plains”, a cattle and sheep property located west of Glen Innes, NSW, where there is a three-storey replica castle (built by a ship’s surgeon at the beginning of the 20th century) and now marketed as a rural B&B. Our next stop was a beef cattle property situated at Somerset via Esk in south east Queensland. The third and last of our forays into “caretaking” was on a droughtmaster cattle stud property, near Blackbutt, also in Queensland. We spent about a year at each property. After some six years on the road, we sold our home on wheels and moved to Margate on the Redcliffe peninsula.
We have five children and help them on a regular basis, volunteer our time at St Vincent de Paul and I also help as a Justice of the Peace at the Redcliffe courthouse.
What are your favourite memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?
I guess mateships formed over the four years living in a boarding environment; plus the fact we had all amenities instantly at our disposal and the ability to call upon others to participate in sporting and other activities such as marbles, playing cards and reading all the episodes of Biggles and his heroic feats against the German enemy in SPC’s well equipped library, to name but a few.
Which teacher from your time at SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?
Without a doubt Brother Coyne had a profound effect on my education. I attribute the fact I passed my public exams in English Expression and Literature to that man’s efforts, I found him to be a very caring person. I must also mention that doyen of St Patrick’s – Brother Bill (O’Malley).
What was your favourite college event?
A hard question to answer as there were happenings in my life at St Patrick’s that I considered eventful. All 1st XVIII Football games against our nemesis Ballarat College. I was unfortunate to witness SPC’s first defeat in 60 years (1954). St Patrick’s Day was celebrated with a feast in the refrectory – good food oh! glorious edible good food. Another annual event I enjoyed was “Head of the Lake” rowing, which happened to be my favourite sport, however I never made, nor ever looked like making, the 1st Four. All rowing events of the 1956 Olympic Games were held on Lake Wendouree, and I now admit to crawling under the wire fencing to view a couple of events.
How has your education at SPC shaped your professional life?
Although never academically inclined I do readily acknowledge the fact that St Patrick’s and its Christian Brother educators helped and guided me onto a path that led me to achieve anything I may have in life, including the core values I hold.
How has your time at SPC shaped your personal values and your family life?
I guess the only way I might attempt to answer this question is that ‘Trish and I have been married for nearly 54 years and our love for each other is still as strong as it was those many years back. We have successfully reared five children each who are now achieving their own objectives in life and we currently have 11 wonderful grandchildren. I still practice my Catholic faith even though I had to reluctantly leave my bed on a cold Ballarat morning to attend daily mass, with the exception of Tuesday and Thursday we were allowed to sleep in. Apart from my family upbringing I must attribute SPC and the Christian Brothers for assisting me form my moral tenants.
If you could pass on one message to the students of today, what would it be?
My advice to today’s students, particularly those who, like myself are perhaps, a little lazy and indifferent to a good education is to please take advantage of the opportunity you have been given and “soak it all in” as I can assure you it will be the ticket to help you achieve your personal and career goals and ambitions in your future life.