Vale Ronald Vincent Quartermaine

Ronald Quartermaine played 75 games for East Perth (The Royals) in the WAFL from 1948 to 1953 for one pound five per match.

Ronald Vincent Quartermaine

9 July 1928 – 27 November 2012

(With thanks to Dan Quartermaine)

My Dad played 75 games for East Perth (The Royals) from 1948 to 1953 for one pound five per match. He talked very little about his sporting prowess and was not even a member of the East Perth Football club. He told me one of the great truths in football: “You don’t want to be a member of a football club, Matty, all they want you to do is sell raffle tickets.” He was a practical, straightforward and what seemed to me, a slightly humourless man, but appearances can sometimes be deceiving.

My earliest memory of my Dad was kicking the football over the park with him and my three brothers. He would wear his normal clothes with one footy boot on the right foot; the same one in these photos. He could bullet a 45m stab pass into our chests that would near knock a youngster off his feet. He’d pass on helpful hints like “When the ball’s coming your way, pull the hairs on the back of your opposition’s leg”, which he’d then demonstrate to me and I’d squeal like a little girl. Being the “arty” son (ie. not a very good footballer) I never lasted long at these kick to kick sessions and was always greeted by my mum as I entered the door. “Hi Matty.” she’d call out. “How did you know it was me?” I asked.”You’re always first back” came the reply.

He was not one to boast (“I like to listen”), so the stories of his football days mostly came from others. In fact the photos here we found in the back of his cupboard after he died and none of us could recall seeing them . I had no idea for his standing in football until he was taking us to inter-school sports day at Perry Lakes (Two of my brothers were state shot putters and I was in the crowd with Dad) and Polly Farmer walked by saying “Gidday, Ron.” “Gidday Polly,” he replied and they had a quick chat and parted ways. When we were little and booed the opposition players my Dad told us off. “They’re ALL footballers, you don’t boo them.” To this day if you go to the football with one of the Quartermaine boys, you’re more likely to cop analysis than barracking.

I remember finding a pewter boxing trophy in the bottom of a cupboard when I was young ,which he dismissed as a lightweight nothing division he fought in.  Still, I thought, you won a trophy wacking a bloke and you don’t wack us. I do remember him taking his belt off once as my mum sicked him onto us like a pit-bull owner when the four hyper boys had got out of control.

He was the eighth child of nine who left school to work at Westfarmers Narrogin. In 1948, Leo Graham suggested Ron should take a job with Wesfarmers in James St, Perth.  Leo was a former top player for East Perth and so recruited him to the Royals. He was coached by Val Sparrow, a former WW1 veteran who Ron reckoned was a blood and guts coach who trained them like they were going back into the trenches. We found a letter of offer from West Perth Football Club after his death, which he never mentioned I imagine because loyalty was everything to the old man. He told me the most significant thing he did in football was break the hand of the previous year’s Sandover medallist by stepping on it. He was out injured for a while and told me East Perth tried out a new bloke called Polly Farmer, who he replaced on his return. “That’s right, better than Polly Farmer once” he told me dripping with irony. Who were the tough footballers in your day Dad? We’d ask. “All were tough, Matty John. Frank Sparrow was so tough he had muscles in his poop.” According to my Uncle Jeff, Dad was a tough, nuggetty back pocket who kicked one goal for his career. “What was that goal like Dad?” I asked with visions of the high fives and back slapping that accompanies any six pointer these days. “I don’t remember Matty John, I guess I was rover one match and I rested in the forward pocket.” When asked about the best footballers in his day, Dad said the two blokes who came out of Sister Kate’s Children’s Home: Polly Farmer and Ted “Square” Kilmurray. When pressed, he said Square was the most skilful. To Dad, the fact that they had such a harsh upbringing made their achievements all the more noteworthy.

I asked about the end of his time at East Perth he said that he and the coach had a difference of opinion: “I thought I was good and he thought I was shit”. He captained and coached country sides and there were a few stories from that time we’ve heard; some are true and some may be legend. As captain coach he played at centre half forward and instructed his players to kick it low and along the ground to him, as he wasn’t that tall, or he’d pull them off the ground. He ended up playing with fourteen men, but they all learned to kick it low to him after that. Being the best player for his team he was a target and once an opposition ruckman knocked him out in the first moments of a game. Ron came back on in the second half and knocked out a few of the opposition in retaliation (anywhere up from four, depending who you talk to). Dad wouldn’t confirm this story to me, but I took his denial as modesty, as is a son’s right.

When my mum was in hospital with stomach cancer and an operation to remove the cancer failed, it was one of the most difficult times I’ve experienced. She awoke and naturally thought if she was alive, the operation was a success. I then had to tell her she was going to die, I guess because I’m the talker of the family. I then had to tell my Dad his wife was going to die as he raked the leaves on the back lawn (“Bloody trees! All they do is drop leaves”). I told my 83 year old Dad the operation failed and it’s the only time I’d ever seen him cry. A single tear rolled from one eye and he said, “Shit. Shit. I was meant to go first” and then raked the crap out of those leaves.

Ron copped lung cancer 18 months after my mum died; he had given up smokes in his fifties (“I just decided to stop, Matty John”). In hospital I saw just how strong and kind he really was. His cousin Laurie visited one day and he told me how much tougher footballers used to be in those days. Dad used to play games in paddocks in the country league when the ball would get covered in double gees (prickles that looked like little mines with razor sharp spikes) which “bloody hurt” when you marked the ball.

The nurses would ask him to rate his pain level out of ten and he’d tell them seven. I’d then pull the nurse aside and let them know what a tough old bugger he was and that when he said “seven”, it was probably a “nine”. Dad was more than ready to shuffle off he told us, because he’d had a wonderful, lucky life and then, with a twinkle in his eye, he asked us if we knew that Dr Nitschke. He told me when old farmers were past their time, most of them died in “tractor accidents”. I told my siblings to keep him away from any farm machinery. I saw the love in his eyes he had for me and my family and I consider myself lucky for being able to tell him how much it meant to me.

My Dad and I didn’t see eye to eye in my troublesome teen years (when I knew everything) and his overt racism used to set me off. However, at his funeral amongst the many people to pay respect to my old man was a Vietnamese family who insisted on meeting all Ron’s children and letting us know how kind, helpful and generous he was to them. Turns out he was also part owner in a horse called Syd Jackson. For my Dad, actions spoke louder than words. Months have passed since he died and I’m still trying to get a grip on being an orphan. The conclusion I’ve come to is that I may have lost the most decent and honest person I’ll ever meet.

 

Ronald Quartermaine was a tough, nuggetty back pocket who kicked one goal for his career.

 

Ronald Quartermaine's time at East Perth finished due to a difference of opinion with the coach: "I thought I was good and he thought I was shit", he told his son, Matt.

Comments

  1. Matty John,

    There will not be a better piece published in Australia today.

    Your Dad must have been a ripper.

    JTH

  2. Peter_B says:

    Thanks Matty. Great pictures. Better words.

  3. Brilliant Matt.

    Go the Mighty Royals.

  4. Neil Anderson says:

    Thank you for a wonderful read first thing in the morning. So many similarities with my relationship with my own father. The stoic ‘actions are more important than words’ attitude. A skilled sportsman (in my case jack of all trades) man of that generation who somehow produced a son that was more ‘arty’ than practical.
    I didn’t see eye to eye with my Dad when I was a teenager because of the huge generation gap in the sixties.
    Unfortunately those differences were never resolved at the end. That’s why I enjoyed your story so much because you remained close despite glitches in your teenage years.
    Those stab-passes to the kids brought back great memories for me. It was just before the terrible-teens took over and we went our different ways.

  5. Craig Williamson says:

    Matty John
    Your Dad was a true gentleman and would have been proud of what you have put together here.
    Will get a copy to his old mate Peter Bruns

  6. TG White says:

    You’re a lucky man Matt. A lovely tribute

  7. Matty Q says:

    Very kind of you all. My dad remembered the photo taken in the lounge room because he took all the skin off his knuckles scooping the ball off the carpet and it “bloody hurt.”

  8. Rick Kane says:

    Hi Matt

    Lovely portrait, considered, reflective, sensitive with nice funny moments. Another reminder of how much more football is than just a game.

    Cheers

  9. Brilliant. I was getting a bit teary reading while sitting at my desk at work! Especially during the part about your mum dying.

    A great tribute and a wonderful read.

  10. Bruce Williamson says:

    Matt as you are probably aware we lost our Dad in September last year and he was a mate of your Dad. Reading your words reminded me of the incredible similarities of that generation. Hard but fair, with family and friends being the most importnat things in life, usually put well ahead of themselves. Some principals and selflessness that could make the very different world today a far better place.

    Great words and sincere condolences, our family feels and shares your loss.

  11. David Wilson says:

    G’day Matt,
    Thanks very much for sharing of yourself there.
    I think both the piece and the sharing are grand things to have done.
    djw

  12. Matty Q says:

    Craig and Bruce, i didn’t know this stuff because my dad liked talking to farmers and his kids weren’t farmers. Bail me up and fill me in next time we’re at an almanac do. Thanks both and cheers.

  13. Basso Divor says:

    Thanks for sharing Matt, that’s a great piece.
    I recognise South Fremantle playing at Perth Oval in shots 2 & 3; but do you have any idea which team is represented in the last photo? It’s the one with the “nuggety back pocket” clearing the ball to the boundary in response to the forward pressure.

  14. Matty Q says:

    Basso, maybe it’s an old Claremont or Subiaco jumper before they had the letters? Not sure (arty son, remember?) There must be some more knowledgeable WA footy geeks here that would know. Cheers

  15. Stainless says:

    I just want to reiterate Yvette Wroby’s comment from another thread about the joy that the Alamanc community brings.

    Her comment was particularly in relation to the measured, considered pieces contributed on the racial vilification issue. The tone and substance of these pieces is indeed an outstanding reflection on this writing community.

    But it is just as relevant to poignant, personal pieces like the above which are also as good and heart-warming as you’ll ever read.

    Well done all and I hope to catch up with a few of you at the launch tonight.

  16. It’s Claremont at Claremont Oval.

    And I think shot three is at Fremantle Oval. Black shorts for the home team. And it looks like Freo. Not sure. I tried to do a forensic examination of the scoreboard without success.

  17. Matty Q says:

    Thanks Les. Look at those dirty South Freo blokes go the nuggetty back pocket!

  18. Dan Quartermaine says:

    Matty John, well done and thanks.
    One of my favourite dad quotes “tuck in your jumper and pull up your socks, if you can’t be a footballer at least look like one” (you’ll notice in every photo his jumper is in and his socks are up – helped by using cuttings from mum’s stockings to tie the socks)

  19. Matt, I read this in a break after tallying 530 NAPLAN reads on the topic “My Hero”!
    Dads rate very highly (though Captain Underpants is 2 all with Nelson Mandela!).
    A more heartfelt tribute I’ll not read.
    You are never truly orphaned, just lonely at times.

  20. Lord Bogan says:

    Terrific read Matt. Tough generation that one. They taught us plenty.Wonderful tribute.

  21. Matt – sensational photos. Love the loungeroom shot. Why the loungeroom?

    Wonderful tribute.

  22. Earl O'Neill says:

    Superb piece, Matt, thank you. I’m off to watch the football with Dad soon. Watching football and cricket together brought us closer than anything else.

  23. Paul Daffey says:

    You beauty, Matt.

    Top piece.

    I identify with the stoicism and the wordless love.

    It makes us all seem like blabbermouths!

  24. Luke Reynolds says:

    Fantastic tribute Matt. Great photos to go with a great story.

  25. Wonderful!
    Just wonderful.

  26. Peter Flynn says:

    M. E. Cue,

    A fantastic read.

    RVQ appeared to have a wonderful hairdo.

    Cheers,

    PJF

  27. Gerrie Graham says:

    Matt, Just read your lovely story about your Dad. Congratulations on the wonderful words, straight from your heart. So sorry for your loss sounds like a real nice bloke
    Old Tassie Girl

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