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A long haul journey through Life with Michael J. Kerrigan

This year sadly saw the passing from our ranks, our esteemed life member – Michael Kerrigan –

after an extended battle with stomach cancer. He was about to turn 87 yrs of age, and died at Edenhope Hospital on the 2nd of April 2008.

Michael was born on the 19th May 1921, the eldest of four children for ‘Jack’ and Angela Kerrigan. Early in Michaels’ life, the family moved to the Mildura district where his father had secured a job at the new lock downstream from Wentworth. Although it was a remote location, Michael commenced his primary schooling locally and enjoyed life there until the family moved to South Gippsland when he was seven years of age.

Michael’s father had secured a job at a timber mill about 30 miles from their small rented farmlet at Balook. They later moved to Mirboo where Michael completed his school days to Grade 8 (Secondary schooling was not necessarily common in those days – especially in remote country areas). He left school to work on the family farm and to assist with other local farmers and part time seasonal work.

Michael was to see several years of war service, initially drafted into the Army, but then moved across to the Navy, where he secured a position as a boiler stoker and general maintenance worker on the steam warships. He was posted to Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns and briefly to New Guinea, until he was de-mobbed in 1946.

After the second world war, the Kerrigan family moved to Glen Iris, where Michael had several jobs within the district. eg: May’s Concrete, Glen Iris Brickworks and Ireland’s Milk all of which involved him truck driving. This time spent with Ireland’s Milk started a long involvement associated with the milk industry.

In 1952, the family moved way out to Clayton, a fledgling new residential suburb and Michael continued working in several other suburbs, and then for a while at a quarry in the Drouin/Longwarry district. During the mid 1950’s Michael took the plunge and purchased a Morris Commercial tip truck (hoping to get the jump on Lindsay Fox no doubt). The Morris unfortunately proved to be more trouble than it was worth, with poor reliability and several very costly maintenance issues (“the worst day’s work I ever did” – MK.) which forced Michael to sell the truck and thereafter settled into a career niche which focused on the milk industry – initially involving the collection of milk drums – but as time moved on with bulk rigid and then semi-trailer tankers. He worked for many years for Milk Transport P/L in Springvale, initially on collection rounds all over West Gippsland, and in later years (in the 1980’s) he worked as part of the transport support team – nightshift watch, vehicle preparation and cleaning etc – which enabled him to attend clearing sales and machinery auctions by day.
In order to more adequately support Michael’s philosophy of offering a quiet and restful retirement for his expanding fleet of elderly trucks he decided to continue working through until he turned 76 yrs of age (1997). He worked for a glass recycling firm based in Mordialloc.

Time eventually caught up with Michael and after many years of wear and tear on the body frame, he had both hip joints replaced to give him much needed relief and mobility.

Michael was an avid reader throughout his long life, and his special field of interest was history in particular, military, social and especially motoring history. His involvement with motoring clubs was legendary. He had a genuine interest in motoring across virtually every field – including motor sports (speedway and bitumen track racing), vehicle restoration, classic vehicles, vintage rallies, and his most significant sympathy – his love of trucks of all types from all over the world.

Michael’s range of experiences involving trucks was a major highlight of his everyday life, and he was always prepared to share his passion and knowledge of trucking history with anybody and everybody he met.

Over the years, Michael belonged to many motoring clubs, and was renowned for being an active, interested and broad-shouldered contributor to Club life. He was a foundation member of what was to become the H.C.V.C. from its origins associated with “fire engines”. So very fittingly, Michael was inducted as a life member of the H.C.V.C approximately 10 years ago.

Michael’s subscriptions to clubs and interested motoring organizations were Australia wide and from New Zealand, England and America.

Michael kept in touch with his many friends on a regular basis, especially since he moved to Horsham in mid 2004 and it was always a great pleasure to receive one of his beautifully crafted and written letters – sometimes just a short note – but often likely to run for several pages – always concerning something of a technical nature or another chapter of some of Michael’s beautifully targeted ‘Irish humour’.

Sadly – Michael’s departure was a rather protracted affair, but he handled the finality of his life with stoicism, good humour and the sure knowledge that he had done his very best. He was enormously comforted by the close and positive support given to him by his surviving family – especially his niece Mary, and his two nephews John and Paul Walsh.

Michael certainly cut an elegant and highly respected figure on life’s stage, and we shall all – as a Club – miss him greatly.   

September 2008