J J sends forgotten trophy back

JOHN 'J J' Fahey spreads the ancient news clippings across the table like a broken jigsaw, searching for the missing piece that will link the past to the present.

He stops the search for a moment to push an old photograph across the table. It's him at the tender age of 17, rifle in hand, standing in formation with the rest of his cadets from the St Johns College Woodlawn corps.

J J stands in the back-row, dressed in his uniform, but the 60-year-old photo barely intimates the tale to follow.

With a sudden 'here it is', an article from The Bulletin dated June 18, 1947 replaces the photograph and the story of J J's rifle medal begins to unfold.

In 1947 the St Johns College Woodlawn rifle cadet corps beat 70 NSW schools, including a number of prestigious Sydney schools, to claim the Bulletin Trophy.

The same year, the school-based rifle men added the King George V Trophy to the school's sporting cabinet.

However, the cadets were not satisfied and a year later finished first in Australia and fourth in the Empire in the Earl Roberts Trophy, while retaining the Bulletin Trophy for another year.

“There were some good shots there (in the cadets),” J J said.

“They used to take us out some days with the club and have a bit of a practice run there.

“It was quite interesting having a .303 with open sights ... none of this telescopic stuff.”

Surprisingly J J recorded the highest individual aggregate score throughout the entire competition during the title defence.

A year later, in his first year of dentistry at Sydney University, J J received a belated to call to come and accept the Natives Association Trophy for Highest Individual Aggregate Score in Cadet Competition.

“I went off to university in '49 and sometime during '49, I got a message to go out to Victoria Barracks and meet Major-General O'Sullivan and pick up my Bulletin Trophy,” J J said.

“It was out of the blue ... even Woodlawn didn't know I had this trophy.”

Although not completely forgotten, the trophy sat to one side as J J finished his studies, travelled overseas and after six years, returned to Grafton to begin his practice.

After 30 years of collecting dust, J J decided to exhibit the trophy at the Grafton Historical Society, where it would stay on display for another 20 to 30 years.

However, after a change of heart, J J decided the medal needed a new home and he made the call to St Johns College Woodlawn superior, Reverend Father Paul Pidcock.

“I had it in the Grafton Historical Society for a few years but I don't think anybody saw it,” J J said.

“I said to Father Paul Pidcock 'look the trophy's sitting there ... would you like it back at Woodlawn?'

“He was very pleased ... and said 'that's a part of history'.

“To be the first little country school beating all the top schools in the state was quite a feat.”

Out of his hands and into Father Pidcock's, J J's aggregate medal made the trip north to sit alongside Woodlawn's two historical Bulletin Trophies in the school's trophy room.

With his trophy now gone, J J said his memories now not only belonged to him, but to the students who walked through Woodlawn's doors every day.

“The Father said not many students know what you're talking about when you say cadets, bang-bangs or what have you,” he said.

“But it was an integral part of its history.”

“There were some good shots there ”

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