Vale John McColgan

REST IN PEACE: A fourth-generation Highlander and well-known historian John McColgan recently passed away. Photo: supplied

REST IN PEACE: A fourth-generation Highlander and well-known historian John McColgan recently passed away. Photo: supplied

There’s always regrets when a good friend passes on, especially if you’ve known them half a lifetime.

The questions: why didn’t you call in? Why were you so busy you didn’t make that phone call; why did you forget the email sending good wishes on their birthday?

And of course, if they moved from the Highlands during retirement, then you have the perfect excuse.

Life is simply too busy these days.

An old Mittagong resident, in fact a fourth-generation resident of the Southern Highlands, John McColgan, passed away in Port Macquarie on Saturday, July 15.

John’s family dates back to his great-great grandparents James McColgan and Catherine Gannon who lived at Bong Bong Village beside the Wingecarribee River in the 1840s and were married in Berrima on November 15, 1850. John’s great legacy to this district was his love of history resulting in his interesting and often quirky stories of a long-gone era in his book the Southern Highlands Story.

One of his stories was about the opening of the Harbour Bridge. Mittagong Town Band, under the direction of Bandmaster Mr George Green travelled to Sydney for the official opening.

Premier Mr T.J. (Jack) Lang went to cut the ribbon when Captain de Groot galloped up and beat him to it.

When the ribbon was re-joined for the ceremony to be continued, Mittagong Town Band quietly formed ranks, began to play and proudly led the march across the bridge.

John said the band’s ledger recorded expenses for the Sydney Harbour Bridge trip had been five pounds.

John and his wife Asta raised their children (Maxine; Diana(deceased) Johnno; Becky and Kate) in Leopold Street. He was a member of the Mittagong Town Band until it ceased to exist, and also Mittagong Jaycees and Lions Club.

Born in the 1930s he lived in Melrose, on the Old Hume Highway and attended St Michael’s School.

John never lost his love of the Highlands. He and Asta moved to be with family but he often talked nostalgically of times past.

From his book: “There is a beauty and timelessness and an almost spiritual ‘presence’ in the Southern Highlands that goes beyond words or description.” 

So many people who have lived here beforehand, find themselves drawn back once again. Rest in peace John McColgan.

-Robyn Elliott


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