I was delighted to read the piece about Major General Mark Kelly in our last Gesta Non Verba. Those who knew Mark at James Ruse and who have watched the development of his career always knew that he would rise to the highest levels of the Army and – watch this space – the Australian Defence Force and the Nation.
I had the great pleasure to dine with teacher Colin Anderson and (Class of 72 Scholar) Christopher Dent some months ago. During that wonderful evening we discussed years at James Ruse, the boss, former students and the recent ’72 Reunion (which I missed). Naturally, our reminiscences turned to the various Gilbert and Sullivan and other musicals including the various roles Mark played over the years. Of particular note was that Mark DID make a stunning Dianna in mini skirt (Orpheus in the Underworld) – but then I guess such things should not be mentioned about a Major General – and certainly not in front of the troops!
Nonetheless, my memories of Mark are inexorably linked to memories of his family. Mark’s parents were both very much loved members of the greater school community and they were particularly supportive of the arts and our musicals. Probably like today, students travelled from all over Sydney to attend James Ruse. In my case I travelled from Scheyville (near Pitt Town) almost every day. So it was therefore not unusual for me to stay overnight at various boys’ homes including Chris Dent, the Mottram family, Bruce Potts, Greg Cowell and of course, the very loving and welcoming Kelly family. Would readers believe that in those days I even stayed with some of our teachers – probably frowned upon nowadays but let me assure all it was much appreciated way back then.
After leaving James Ruse, we boys (as our school was then) went in our different directions; me into agro-politics, followed by agricultural, then mainstream journalism. In something of a brain snap, I joined the Army, became an officer and my path once again merged with the then Captain Mark Kelly. As much as Mark had evolved into a full-blown, stiff-upper-lip and starched infantry officer, I always enjoyed the thought that his sense of humour and wit from the days of James Ruse still lurked below the surface.
Just as I will continue to thoroughly enjoy basking in the reflected glory of Mark Kelly’s advancement within the ADF and on the national horizon so I predict that we will see other “James Ruse boys and girls” contribute to the development of areas such as commerce, medicine, law and the arts. In concert with these traditional pursuits however, I hope that the influence of our school and the heritage we enjoy will have moulded students who have the inherent goodness to improve the lot of our neighbours and make our global community and physical environment so much the better for our being.