One hundred years ago today, young Walter Mackie walked onto the Lang Lang football field ready to face the visiting Koo Wee Rup team.
Walter Frank Mackie had been born in 1886 to parents James and Ann Mackie at Newstead. In1908 at just 22 years of age he married 19 year old Jane McCaw Rodda from Yandoit and in that same year Walter Frank Mackie junior was born. Two years later Cecil Frank arrived in 1910, in 1912 Ivy May arrived and 1914 saw the arrival of their last child Raymond John. The first three children’s births were registered at Newstead; Raymond’s birth was registered at Castlemaine. Perhaps Jane had gone home to family for the baby’s birth; Walter had remained at French Island.
Walter and Jane were living on French Island where Walter was working as a staff member at the French Island afforestation camp, perhaps better known as the McLeod Prison Farm, when Raymond was born. Walter had recently joined the Lang Lang Football Club. He was described as a “popular player who in a game played nothing but the ball”. In the first quarter Walter played at half forward, apparently very effectively. Walter was roving in the second quarter but half way through the quarter he seemed to stop following the ball and he stood for a moment before falling to the ground. It was an exciting game, his team mates thought he was just winded and left him to the care of the spectators who carried him from the field. When the gravity of Walter’s situation was realised the game was stopped immediately and although everything possible was said to have been done Walter died and was taken from the ground with his horrified team mates following slowly behind.
A report of the match in the South Bourke & Mornington Journal on 10 September described Walter as “a great favourite with his club mates and the general public for his manly qualities and fair play”. It went on to say that Walter was well known in Frankston and Hastings where Walter’s brother Len lived. Walter had been warned three years earlier that his heart was weak and could not stand the strain or excitement of the game.
Walter had died from heart failure while Jane was in Castlemaine Hospital with baby Raymond who was only a few days old. We’re not sure if Jane attended Walter’s funeral on the Tuesday after his death, the newspapers don’t tell us, the Lang Lang Guardian tells us that the team placed a beautiful wreath on the grave and instigated a fund to assist Walter’s family. By the 10th September the club had collected £20, and businesses in Lang Lang owed money by Walter and Jane had wiped the slates clean.
The football association pledged the money normally given to the premier team to the fund and agreed to charge an extra shilling for admission to the finals matches, all of which would be donated to the fund. The Lang Lang Footballers’ Benefit Ball was held in the Lang Lang Hall on Friday 18 September and the gentlemen paid 5 shillings to attend, the ladies were asked to “provide” – the ad doesn’t say what exactly but we’re thinking it was supper! The Lang Lang Guardian of 30 September tells us that the ball raised the satisfactory amount of £8.8.0
Jane married Samuel Brain and had another child, Norman Roy. Jane and Samuel lived in Castlemaine, Jane died there in 1945 at the age of 56. Samuel had died fifteen years earlier in 1930. Walter is buried in an unmarked grave at Lang Lang Cemetery.