Club History: John Joseph (Jock) Duffy

This continues the stories about the early members of the Moorabbin Rams Rugby Club...

Jock Duffy 

Jock Duffy created a junior rugby team based at Aspendale Technical School in 1963. This team played in a weekday school competition and played in Victorian Junior Rugby Union (VJRU) competitions on weekends. See the Aspendale Tech to Moorabbin Marlins story that was recently published on the club’s website.

Jock roped in Harold Caterson to help him with the Marlins team.... see the Harold Caterson bio that was also recently published on the club’s website.

This is Jock’s story:

Jock came from a family of boxers. His father, Harry “Kid” Lawrence Duffy was the Middle States Champion of the USA and John Joseph (Jock) was born in Gary, Indiana on the 4th April 1927 while his father was boxing his way around the US.  The Duffy family came from a town called Dunfermline, known for its textiles, which is outside Edinburgh in Scotland and where many of his descendants are still living in the area.  Harry and his wife May returned from the USA to Dunfermline, Scotland in 1936 in the shadows of a world war.

Gavin Duffy, Jock’s son, has found notes of Jock’s that were the start to his autobiography. Jock started it with the phrase, “Somewhat mysteriously, the period of time between when I was born, up to 1936 is a total blank. I remember absolutely nothing. I was small for my year’s (sic), very thin and under weight. My attention span regarding study and learning was barely in operation.”

It is interesting to read these words of Jock’s because so much of his adult life was filled with learning and teaching in all areas of his life - art, sport and theatre. Perhaps this is where his drive and passion was derived from.

His young life was difficult. As the eldest of seven children, he was expected to help support the family from an early age and in 1936 as a 9 year old, Jock started work in a fish and chip shop. His father also worked part time at the shop and Jock had to lie about his age to get the job. Jock peeled and chipped hundreds of potatoes, cleaned up, washed up and he never saw a penny of his wages. His father collected them for the family.

Jock left school at 14 and began a plumbing apprenticeship at A.W. Thompson Master Plumbers earning two shillings and sixpence a week for a five and a half day week. He didn’t see this wage either as he handed it over to his mother each week. Additionally, he didn’t enjoy the work as a plumber.

In 1942 Jock’s father was in the British Army and with seven kids in the family, Jock, at age 15, started a part time job as an usher at the Cinema Picture House where he worked each evening as well as the Saturday afternoon matinee session.

When Jock was 16 he fell into a job at the Dunfermline “Hippodrome and Opera House”. He only got this job because all of the eligible theatre technicians were away at war. He was working the spotlights from the back of the theatre. As a side note these were not the electric lights we know today, but rather lights that used vertical carbon rods charged with electricity and as they arced, the carbon rods were devoured and had to be replaced at interval. This led to Jock being roped into acting as Master of Ceremonies for a local jazz band, another paying job.

During his 18th year Jock began body building and this gave him the confidence to take up rugby with the Rosyth Rugby Club where he played wing three quarter and breakaway in 1st grade. Jock played on the wing at the Combined Counties level, however, ballroom dancing was Jock’s favourite pastime.

Jock wrote: “Ballroom dancing is still very much my favourite preoccupation. It was not unusual, after rugby training or visiting the Carnegie Gymnasium to pop into the Kinema Ballroom for the last few dances. As for the many lovely girls I met through dancing, not one ever featured as a romantic item in my mercurial state of sociological misegmentation.  My frenetic drive to improve myself first physically, then socially, now encompassed education and the Arts.”

1953 Jock enjoying his passion of Ballroom Dancing
(click HERE for a large version)

Now a licensed plumber Jock was still looking for his “place” in society and Scotland wasn’t cutting it for him. His rugby club mates had all graduated and moved away and on a trip to visit a 14th century lighthouse on the Island of May he met someone who would change his life forever. He met and spoke to an Australian tourist who was on holiday to Scotland and Jock was soon convinced that Australia was the place to be.

HMT AsturiasHMT Asturias

On Wednesday 30th August 1950 the H.M.T Asturias embarked from Southhampton bound for Australia. It was full of “assisted passage” passengers known colloquially in Australia as a "ten-pound Poms". Jock chose to disembark in Melbourne in September. He found work as a plumber at A.E. Atherton in Latrobe Street, Melbourne but was still not happy working as a plumber.

Another interesting side note is that in September 1957, the old liner Jock had traveled on arrived at Faslane to be broken up. Before this happened though, she was used for deck scenes during the filming of 'A Night to Remember', the story of the Titanic disaster.

Jock continues: “It was while installing radiators at the Melbourne National Art Gallery that I decide to do something positive about my interest in art, specifically, painting. I almost immediately enrolled in the evening art classes , my tutor was Sir William Dargie. Some of the day students whom I got to know in my evening classes became Australia’s leading painters.  Still, I surprised them all when two of my cartoons were published in the Gallery’s Annual Magazine of 1952………It was during that year that Murray Griffin convinced me that studying across the road at RMIT  Art School would really suit my broad interest in the Applied Arts……..Eventually, I attained my Diploma of Fine Art (Painting) and at the age of thirty and also graduated as a Secondary (School) Level Arts and Crafts teacher”.

While doing all of this Jock reconnected with rugby joining the Kiwis Rugby Club whose clubhouse was based on the upper floor of the “Old Buffaloes” building in Middle Park. The St. Kilda Rugby Club occupied the ground floor and the two clubs had adjoining fields at Middle Park.

(click HERE for a large version)

Jock’s first teaching appointment was at Keon Park Technical College; but the combination of Art and Tech school boys did not really interest Jock. So after a couple of different Technical college appointments he applied at a Grammar School as a Senior Art Master and Senior Rugby Union Master. This pattern was typical of Jock as he would spend a few years at a school teach art, introduce rugby and then move on to another school.

Jock met Patricia (Pat) Ramsey (of the Brighton Ramsey Real Estate Agent family) and they married in 1954 and lived in Elsternwick. Later they moved to Sandra Grove, Moorabbin where the family lived until about 1966 when they then moved to Frankston. They had two children Gavin and Gail. Gavin played in Jock’s U10s and U11s.

Jock took a job at Aspendale Technical School in 1960 and it was here that Jock started a schoolboy team that would eventually metamorphose into the Moorabbin Rugby Union Football Club.

Jock was described by many as a live-wire when it came to rugby and he really lived up to this. It was because of this enthusiasm that he inspired so many new players to take up the game.

The original 1963 Aspendale Tech teams were an U16s and an open age team that played midweek in the Victorian Schools Rugby Competition and in VJRU 7-a-side competitions on the weekend.  A number of the players in these early teams were actually only 12 years old. The first jerseys were blue with yellow hoops. There is a photo of their first game at Scotch College playing in the 7-a-side competition.

Among Jock’s documents are clippings from 1963 that describe the team as both Aspendale Tech and Marlins. Live-wire Jock also wrote to the Army Apprentices’ School at Balcombe and the Navy Training College at HMAS Cerberus seeking weekday matches for his teams.

In 1964 they played beside the Mordialloc Creek on a ground that they shared with Mentone Grammar. This field was the George Woods Oval which is now the car park for the boat launching ramp situated in Governor Rd. Mordialloc.

One of the early Marlins, Brian Bateson, said to me:  “Jock was an artist and produced a drawing of a Marlin to the boys; saying that the Marlin is a fighting fish and our ground is along the Mordialloc Creek so I think this should be our logo and name.”

The open age Aspendale Tech team was also called the Marlins or Moorabbin and was playing in the U18 VJRU Saturday competition. This was the first year of the VJRU U18s because junior numbers were growing and in 1964 they changed the age of the colts from U19s to U20s to accommodate the increasing numbers of junior players. The VJRU U18s was an eight-team competition in 1964. On Saturday morning all the parents would meet at Aspendale Tech and shuffle the kids into cars and then head off to the matches.

Aspendale Tech fielded teams up until the mid 1970s in age groups from U12s to U16s and an open aged team that played in the Public Schools' competition.

Jock Duffy coaching the Marlins U10s 
(click HERE for a large version)

During this time Jock convinced a St. Kilda player, who was a carpenter, to join the school as a woodwork teacher. Ken Lemon, a New Zealander, then helped coach the teams and when Jock left the school at the end of 1965, Ken took over all the coaching duties through to the mid 70s.  

Jock moved around to many schools in Melbourne over the years including Caulfield Grammar, Carey Grammar, Keon Park Tech, St. Leo’s Box Hill, South Melbourne Tech and Haileybury College and he coached rugby teams as well as teaching art at all of them.

1965 South Melbourne Tech Rugby Team
(click HERE for a large version)

Jock was always active in coaching but with mostly with junior teams. He coached the Victorian U18s team in the 1967 Carnival and in October 1972 at the inaugural meeting of the Victorian Schools Rugby Union, he was elected Hon. Secretary.

He eventually retired to the Gold Coast but didn’t retire from life. In 1989 Jock helped establish rugby at Bond University where he coached the younger players. That club elected him a life member and he remained a member of Bond Pirates following the merger of the two clubs in 1996.  He spent much time painting and helping amateur theatre set design.

1993 Bond Uni - Jock with ball
(click HERE for large version)

Jock ultimately passed away on 30th December 2009 on the Gold Coast after doing an amazing job of helping to plant the seeds of rugby across the many parts of Australia that he lived and worked.

Thanks must go to Gavin Duffy, Alan Cook, Alan Duff, Brian Batesford, Jeff Hutchison, John Woodhouse and the late Ron Grainger for details for this chapter.