John McMahon and his wife, Joan, of Lismore. John was presented with an OAM award.
John McMahon and his wife, Joan, of Lismore. John was presented with an OAM award. David Neilsen

Honour for bush cricket legend

JOHN McMahon was bowling for NSW Country against England, but it was his baby boy who had the attention of the Tamworth spectators in 1961.

Brian, aged two at the time, had his head stuck between rails in the grandstand and as someone ran to get a hack-saw to free him, John could hear his screams across the pitch.

"No one was looking at cricket they were all looking at this kid with his head caught," recalled John's wife, Joan.

For over 50 years, McMahon has juggled raising eight kids with a serious commitment to bush cricket.

And now the Lismore cricketing legend, generous volunteer, proud family man and all-round gentleman can add OAM to his list of titles.

McMahon earned another title yesterday when he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for over half-a-century of service to cricket as a player, coach and administrator.

The former Northern Star journalist was one of only four Northern Rivers' residents recognised on the Queen's Birthday Honours List, but the 76-year-old was characteristically humble in its reception.

"It's a tribute to all of the volunteers that work for sport in Australia," McMahon said.

"It's a thrill. I think it's just showing the value there is in volunteers.

"It should've been a dual award.
"My wife Joan should've got it as well because she's the one who's had to put up with me for the past 50 years."

But McMahon did not tell Joan until it was printed in a Sydney newspaper yesterday morning.

"The letter came through a few weeks ago confirming I was going to get it and you're sworn to secrecy until it's announced so I didn't tell anyone.

"Not even Joan. I thought it would be a great surprise for her."

Joan said the only hint John gave her was that he told her to check out the sale at a local dress shop.

"A lady from the exclusive dress shop House of Horton came and left a brochure about a discount sale and John said 'you might want to have a look; there might be something important we have to go to'," she said. "I just laughed."

But Joan might have to get a new dress yet, to wear to the presentation ceremony in Sydney next month.

She said after all these years, she wasn't surprised that John didn't tell her.

"He didn't tell me anything about it but John is like that," she said.

"I'm still finding out about his achievements from when he was at school. He would never skite or tell you anything about himself. He never blows his own trumpet."

It's just lucky he had Joan to tell the family.

"I'm a bit overwhelmed. It is very exciting," she said after calling the kids, Brian, Michael, Terry, Kathryn, Patricia, Judy, Maureen and Paul and close friends.

"I am very proud and very emotional about it all; I just didn't believe it at first."

It was unexpected but well deserved.

"He was so dedicated to cricket it would frustrate me at times. He never missed one cricket match in the whole of his career," Joan said.

"He was fielding on the MCG for the Queensland Sheffield Shield side when Brian was born."

He was also fielding in a Lismore match when his second daughter Patricia was born.

"Doctor Harley Roberts went down and walked across Oakes Oval to tell him he had a beautiful baby girl," Joan said. "He insisted on seeing John and delivering the news when the baby was born.

"John was very good with the kids and didn't mind taking them to the cricket. As we got older, we all went as a family."

And that takes us back to Tamworth, baby Brian and the Duke of Norfolk who was English team manager.

"After Brian got his head free he slipped off and we found him sitting in the Duke's chair," Joan said.

"There was never a dull moment in our family."

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