MISSED: The Mapleton community is mourning the loss of John Major.
MISSED: The Mapleton community is mourning the loss of John Major. Warren Lynam

The Coast loses a true gentleman

TAMARA Lenton had decided to fundraise for an orthotic suit for her daughter, who has cerebral palsy, when there was knock at her door from fellow Mapleton resident John Major.

"He said, 'I'm buying it for her,' and I said, 'No you're not,'and he said, 'Yes I am, it's for your daughter'."

With reluctance and gratitude, Ms Lenton accepted, and from then on "we became beautiful friends".

The story is one of many examples of the generosity of spirit which endeared Mr Major to the many people who knew him.

The sudden but peaceful death of the 78-year-old at home on January 12 has left a gaping hole in the community of Mapleton, and in his former home town of Baralaba, near Rockhampton.

Mr Major was known widely as a bush poet but friend and fellow Mapleton resident Fiona Clements said her had involved himself in everything in town since he and his wife, Joy, retired there 10 years ago.

 

John Major, bush ballad brilliant returns to Gympie State High School.
Photo Patrick Woods / Gympie Times
John Major was widely loved and respected. Patrick Woods

"If they wanted to sell raffle tickets, John would put up his hand. Whatever was on, he was there. He just loved people. He had a love of life and a love of people," she said.

Judy Austin, manager of the Mapleton Tavern, had seen Mr Major pay for someone else's prescription at a pharmacy when they were financially stretched, and clean up an old bike from a kerbside to give to a child.

"He was just a genuine, all-round nice guy. You couldn't get more Australian, and a gentleman who was so kind," she said.

Mr Major was born at Mount Morgan and grew up at Kokotungo and Baralaba, all to the south-west of Rockhampton.

He worked a farm but often had a second job going to make sure there was enough money to pay his children's boarding school fees.

One of his four daughters, Lesley Major, wrote in a eulogy that her father was a man of simple tastes and a strong work ethic who was "involved in everything".

 

YEW BEWDY: Bush poet John Major is about as Aussie as they come.
Bush poet John Major was about as Aussie as they came. Alex Nolan

"The ambulance, the sports grounds, the fire brigade, school events, football, tennis, building the Neville Hewitt weir at Baralaba, the lodge, and anything else that was going."

A talented athlete whose school long jump record stood for 23 years, Mr Major loved sport, coaching junior and senior rugby league teams at Baralaba and also refereeing.

His other passions, apart from his family were country music, and bush poetry. A co-founder of the Australian Bush Poets Association, he performed at events, festivals and schools, and was known for bringing a story to life.

His recitation of a poem Going for Gold, caught the ear of famed sports commentator Norman May at Winton in 1999, and an ABC radio story about his trip to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics with his brother led to an invitation to film a television commercial for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Mr Major and his wife, Joy, retired to Mapleton 10 years ago, where they built a new house and made new friends, and Lesley said it was a testament to the community that her father stayed on after the death of his wife of 53 years.

Friends, including his year one teacher, travelled from far and wide for his funeral at Rockhampton and a commemorative service for Mr Major packed out the Mapleton Tavern.

 

 

John Major, Bush poet
John Major's death is a blow to the Mapleton community. Chloe Lyons

Ms Lenton said Mr Major told her when he offered to pay for her daughter's suit that it was better to give than receive.

"I wanted to pay him back but how do you pay him back when you can't afford it?" she said.

" I took some meals around but then I started paying it forward and did some good deeds for people," Ms Lenton said.

"I think that's the way to remember him."