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Obituary: Jim Mangan

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Back in 2014 ... Jim, then 90, and Maurice Mangan, then 89, with a sketch of their father, Gallipoli veteran Michael (Mick); a gully just outside Nanango was named Mangan Gully in 2015 in honour of Mick (Photo: Clive Lowe)

At the ABC Local Radio broadcast from Ringsfield in 2015 ... Alexia and Jim Mangan

December 22, 2017

On September 25, the South Burnett lost one of its best-known and loved identities, John James “Jim” Mangan.

Jim was born on March 9, 1924 in Nanango to Mick and Hermione (nee Lonergan) Mangan..

He was the second eldest of a family of five. He had two sisters, Ella and Leila, and two brothers, Maurice and Dennis (Dinny), all of whom pre-deceased him.

(Maurie died just 17 days before Jim).

Jim was educated at Bucklands State School, a one-teacher school with about 40 students in multiple primary classes. He started school early to accompany his sister Ella on the walk from their South Nanango property.

Jim left school after Grade 6 and went to work on the farm and then as a “nipper” on the Main Roads.

He was reared during the Great Depression which was a time of great poverty. Jim’s father, Mick, was an original Anzac and after the 1914–1918 War the family settled on a “virgin” block reserved for a soldier settlers at South Nanango.

His father built a slab hut from scratch which was their family home for many years until a house was eventually built and the hut became a grain-shed.

(Mangan Gully, just outside Nanango, is named after Mick).

He met his wife-to-be, Alexia Jean Pollock, in late 1953 at a Catholic Youth Club concert.

Alexia had just been appointed as a teacher to the local Nanango State School.  Romance blossomed and  the couple was married on January 7, 1956.

They had nine children: Michael, Margaret, Peter, Stephen, Pauline, Kevin, Catherine (Kate), Imelda and James. There are now 24 grand-children and 16 great-grand-children, with two more expected by May.

Late in 1955, Jim and his brother Maurice purchased the cut, snig and haul contract from Don Smith in Yarraman for transporting mainly hoop pine thinnings from East Nanango Forestry to the Nanango Sawmill.

In 1956, the brothers and their respective wives, Alexia and Elma, began a working partnership of 20 years known as Nanango Transport.

They employed cutters and sniggers, some of whom in the later stages were members of their own families.

The snigging was done at first by using draught horses and then later by tractors.

In 1977, Jim worked at the Nanango Sawmill, just before it closed down, and the timber was transported elsewhere. This was the only time Jim worked for someone else as he was mostly self-employed or a contractor.

During his long life, Jim did many things – he cut timber, worked as an owner-operator truck driver on Council and Main Roads jobs, used small dozers to build dams and contour banks, traded in scrap metal.

For about five years when Tarong Power Station was being built, he sold real estate for Joe Anderson Real Estate. He was a very successful salesman because of his knowledge of the local area and his honesty. Jim would rather lose a sale than sell a client something that he knew would not be suitable to their needs.

After his stint at real estate he bought a tip truck and did work at Tarong for Thiess, Rio Tinto and other contractors.

When Jim retired, he made several short trips around Australia most of them of two to three weeks’ duration. His longest was seven weeks. All of these routes he charted with a black marker on a large map of Australia.

Most of these trips were done in a green 1983 Toyota LandCruiser, sleeping in the back along with two 44 gallon drums of diesel, jerry cans of water, bedding, cooking utensils, gas cooker, clothing and his notepads. Jim loved talking to anyone and everyone and exploring new horizons. The notebooks were records of his trips and inspiration for his favourite hobby, poetry. He took lots of photos on these trips.

He even talked his way into a one-week trip with the “flying nun”, Sr Anne-Maree Jensen, as she ministered to the women on far-flung properties in western Queensland.

He did a 10-day driving trip around Tasmania and enjoyed an 18-day guided trip of New Zealand shouted by his family to commemorate his 70th birthday.

Jim bequeathed the old green ute to his grandson Kieran, so it is still in the family. The ute is widely known as “Jimmy” or “old Jimmy” and as part of that recognition it was the second vehicle in Jim’s funeral cortege.

Jim was very out-going and heavily involved in community affairs. Some of these included:

  • Inaugural President of Nanango State High School P&C
  • Volunteer at Nanango Visitor Information Centre
  • An announcer for local Pioneer Festivals and Nanango Shows, together with Bill Andress
  • Volunteer at Ringsfield House where he would meet and greet busloads of visitors, provide them with the history of the House and of Nanango and entertain them with his Poetry
  • Inaugural President of Nanango Landcare

Jim was a driving force behind the local Poets’ Breakfasts. In the Sesquicentenary Year of Nanango, he organised a very successful Poetry Competition which attracted some 300 or more entries from around Australia.

In 1988, following the devastating Cooyar Floods, he organised and compered a charity concert raising money for the people of Cooyar.

For many years Jim visited Nanango Hospital every Sunday morning to deliver newspapers provided by the St Vincent de Paul Society and engaged people in conversation to brighten their day.

As a lover of classical music, he organised a Chamber Music Concert in the Nanango Catholic Church to allow locals to experience such an event live in their own town. The performers were a group who performed annually at Taabinga Homestead for about 25 years.

Jim received the Nanango Shire Citizen Award in 1999 in recognition of his community involvement.

Jim Mangan will be remembered for many things but his poetry is recorded in a Mural Walk and on some of the sculptures in Nanango streets. Whenever there was any important event in Nanango, Jim was called upon to pen a poem which he always managed to do.

He seemed to be the local Poet Laureate.

Jim started writing poetry in the late 1930s, scribbling ideas on the marble-topped wash-stand beside his bed in the dark of night with a soft lead pencil. He would then copy his ideas into a notebook by daylight.

He sent many poems to the annual Winton Bronze Swagman Award competition and had many highly commended poems published in their year books. He also published two books of poetry, “To Hear, To See, To Speak” in 1989 followed by “Allow The Poet” in 1996.

Jim and Alexia also worked together to compile the official book for the 75th anniversary of  Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church, Nanango.  It was a huge effort, as acknowledged recently by Liz Caffery, who put the book together for the 100th anniversary.

In 2001, Jim published a book of short stories, “Fight To The End”.

The title of this book was apt for Jim, who did fight to the end  through lots of adversity and serious health problems.

From August 2015 until his death, he was virtually bed-ridden but he bore it all with relative patience sustained by his strong Catholic faith and the love and care of his large family.

Jim lived and worked for his family all his life and he was so proud of his children, grandchildren and great-grand-children and their achievements. He did all he could to help them achieve their goals and instilled in them a strong work ethic.

He was always pleased that all his children were employed and that he had never had a day’s dole in his long life.

Jim genuinely loved people. His was a rich life despite many of the hardships he endured especially in the last two years of his life.

With Jim’s passing at the Kingaroy General Hospital on September 25, Nanango has lost a true icon who will be sadly missed by many.

Lex and Jim Mangan surrounded by children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and numerous friends at Jim's 90th birthday celebration (Photo: Clive Lowe)


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