Jill towers with the greats of the G

Jill Towers with Holly Fahey in 2014

Jill Towers with Holly Fahey in 2014

 

In the GF edition of the Footy Record, there is an article on one of the unsung heroes of the G, a woman named Jill Towers who I have been fortunate to know since a chance occurrence in 2008.  Actually it was Friday 1 August 2008, my beloved Pies were playing the Hawks and my then 12 year-old daughter Holly was participating in a junior members’ clinic on the ground a couple of hours before the game.

In 2008 I was working in Jolimont, a couple of hundred metres from the G.    Holly was in Grade 6, and as she was going to be catching public transport across the city to secondary school the next year, my wife and I started giving Holly opportunities to catch public transport by herself to become more familiar with the experience.  She had done this a few times from Footscray into the city, and this late afternoon was going to be the first time that she caught a connecting train elsewhere, specifically to Jolimont.

The arrangement was that she would text me when she got to Southern Cross station and swapped trains and I would walk down and meet her at Jolimont station.  A good plan… except.  Except that the Optus mobile network came to a crashing and complete halt this particular afternoon. At about 5.20 I checked my phone, found no message and thought “I expected her to have been here by now, I’ll wait another 10 minutes and then text or ring her, I’m sure she’s just running late.”  After ten minutes elapsed I tried to ring her – network down, blank.  A Google search on my desktop computer revealed that the Optus network had been down for several hours.  A good plan… except.

I thought I’ll get straight down to Jolimont station and hopefully she will be there waiting.  I walked to the station, not a soul in sight.  I waited for a couple of trains, still no Holly.  I had a work mobile phone on me that was on the Telstra network, so used that to ring my wife to explain the situation and then the school after-care program to confirm what time she had left.  My rational mind told me not to worry, that this will work itself out, but my deepest fears as a parent had started as a whisper but were becoming a roar with each moment and I kicked myself for not having tried to contact her earlier (not that it would have made any difference).

I stayed at the station, thinking that it was the most logical thing to do, making phone calls to my wife and brainstorming other courses of action.  More trains came and went and still no Holly.  As I was standing there, fretting, a bloke wearing an MCC officials jacket came up to me and said “You wouldn’t happen to be Steve Fahey would you?” I anxiously said yes, and he told me that Holly had made her way to the MCC members entrance (Gate 2), had explained her situation to a security staff member and had been waiting with that person for about 30 minutes since then.  I felt about 20kgs lighter, all in my shoulders, and I made my way to Gate 2 with the MCC guy whom I thanked profusely.

When I got within sight of Gate 2 I saw Holly chatting quietly to a security woman, whom I now know as Jill Towers.  When Holly saw me approaching, I saw tears enter her eyes and all the tension she had been feeling came out.  Jill hugged Holly her and held her tight as I arrived and did the same. Holly and I both thanked Jill and she smiled and said that it was nothing but that she appreciated it and warmly farewelled us.   It turned out that Holly had done all the right things – asked a woman on the train if she could use her Telstra phone when she realised her own phone wasn’t working, not knowing whether it was her phone or the network, walking to my workplace when she had got to Jolimont station but not being able to get in through the security entrance or alert me that she was out the front or see anyone coming in or out (small public service workplaces are pretty desolate after 5pm on a Friday!).  She had then gone to wait at Gate 2 at the G.

In the remaining weeks of the 2008 season we always made sure we said hello to Jill, and her ever-smiling warmth quickly made this an ongoing ritual, even when she moved to Gate 3 a couple of years later. These days we are greeted with a hug and she is always interested in what Holly is doing, as she prepares for a trip to Europe in her gap year.

We are not the only ones who seek out Jill and are greeted warmly.  At the Round 23 Collingwood vs. Essendon game this season, Holly had a friend from France with her to see his first game.  We mixed up our tickets so Holly had to wait at Gate 3 for about half an hour for the Frenchman’s ticket to arrive.  Holly told me that, as she chatted with Jill and then waited nearby, every couple of minutes someone would come and greet Jill by name and all would be welcomed with her warm smile.

At the end of the 2014 footy season Jill told me that she thought 2015 would be her last working season.  She had broken her arm early in the season after being knocked over by some people kicking the footy outside the G and missed a few weeks of the season. She was philosophical and gracious about the injury: “it was an accident, could have happened to anyone”. Thankfully by the time the Cricket World Cup arrived she was having second thoughts and had no end date in sight.

When she does hang up her yellow coat for the last time, she will be missed by Holly and I, as well as by many others.  She has touched a lot of people by doing her job with warmth, passion and going the extra mile.  Jill Towers, an everyday hero.

 

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Steve great story and more than well played,Jill but have to ask about the guy who walked up to at the station how did he no re to ask for you and do you see him at all ? Thanks Steve

  2. E.regnans says:

    That’s a beauty, Steve.

    At a 100,000 seat ground, in a city of several million, its a great reminder that humans are collectively doing all this. And that most humans are helpful and kind.

    Impressions can be swayed otherwise by the nightly news. Important to remember our common good. Great stuff Jill. Great stuff Holly.

  3. Steve Fahey says:

    Thanks Malcolm, much appreciated.

    A couple of MCC staff members had been brainstorming with Holly about what our plans had been and therefore where I might be and they correctly guessed that I might be at Jolimont station. I was reasonably easy to spot -skinny bloke with little hair and a Collingwood scarf looking very worried. We have never laid eyes on him again.

    Keep up the great writing, the South Australian passion for footy is fantastic and made for great atmosphere at both of the Crows’ finals in Melbourne.

    Steve

  4. Lovely story. How fretful it must have been for both you & Holly. To the bloke at the station & of course more power to Jill.

  5. John Ramsdale says:

    Great story Steve, every parent and grandparent’s worst nightmare, but at least a happy ending. You must be getting on a bit if you have a daughter preparing for a gap year. see you at the lunch.
    Cheers
    John

  6. Jill Towers says:

    Thanks Steve for writing a wonderful article about me. It was an absolute pleasure to have helped Holly on that day in 2008. I see it as a vital part of my job to help people who are either lost, need assistance, are distressed or those who think they have lost their car. It gives me great pleasure to help these people out. And all of them really appreciate my help. So now whenever Holly and yourself come to the G I always get a hello and a lovely cuddle off Holly.
    Love to Holly and hope she enjoys her trip.
    I look forward to seeing you at the cricket.
    Cheers
    Jill

  7. Frank, Cheeseman says:

    Nice one Steve.
    Great human story, wonderful. Thanks for putting it out there.
    Thanks Jill,
    Frank

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