..::Mick and Doc::..
Two knockabout locals writing about the history of their hometown.
After years of family and friends telling them "you should write a book", two Maitland men have done just that.
Michael "Mick" Fairleigh and Paul "Doc" Doherty are calling their memoir The Louth Park Mob, after the vicinity where most of their adventures took place.
"We called ourselves the Louth Park Mob when we were young," Mr Fairleigh said.
"The basis of our stories are what adventures we got up to as young boys, trying to outdo our parents who had been telling us what they did as kids themselves.
"So we'd go out to the old convict gaol with its ghosts and the haunted house down Louth Park road with the murdered woman and her ghost.
"There are many other adventures in and around Louth Park."
The childhood mates say they are just like most people who want to reminisce about their youth.
"Our wives and kids have heard us talk about the things we used to get up to and they kept telling us to write a book about it all," Mr Fairleigh said.
"So after about 10 years of saying yes, we have finally got around to it.
"There were plenty of different ones who hung around us through the years, but the main four were Johnny Tiedman, Kerry Sharpe, Paul and myself.
"I was two years older than Doc and Sharpy and three years older than Johnny.
"We are all still very good mates, Doc and I have always followed South Sydney and about the only thing we don't agree on is our taste in music.
"Doc like Elvis and I like the Beatles."
The mates decided to try and get hold of photos to illustrate the events and landmarks.
"We were lucky enough to come across a couple of photos of Maitland's first and second taxis, plus a photo of Maitland's first petrol station and taxi rank owned by people in Louth Park," Mr Fairleigh said.
"We chased down the history and photos of St Paul's Anglian Church, the former St Ethel's school, the four Maitland cinemas, Maitland cafes, The Matador, Town Hall, American Beefburger, The Boronia, The Aussie and Maitland cafes and Steve's, the old Tech building, the Jewish cemetery, the old Police Boys Club, Maitland Showground and swimming pool and any Maitland flood photos.
"We have also been interviewing many people. One lady is aged 97 and another gentleman is 82 and the information they gave us was excellent."
Mr Fairleigh still lives in Louth Park and Mr Doherty lives in Ashtonfield.
"He still likes Elvis and I still like the Beatles and we both still like our beloved South Sydney. We travel down to several games every year."
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WHO DO YOU KNOW
by Ben Quinn, The Newcastle Herald 10th February 2007.
Lifelong mates Mick Fairleigh and Paul Doherty learned a lot about their heritage while researching a book on their beloved hometown, Louth Park.
Along the way they discovered a lot about themselves.
"One thing we learned is that we're a bit smarter than we thought," Mick says.
"I thought we'd be ridiculed a bit," Doc concurs, "but it's turned us into celebrities around the place.
"A lot of the credit has to go to my old English teacher, Lindsay Wood. As Mick wrote in the book, we provided the spit and Lindsay provided the polish."
Mick and Doc grew up only a few houses apart and went to school together at St Ethel's.
As their bond endured the test of time, they often contemplated writing a book about the adventures and characters of their youth in the tight-knit Maitland suburb, which stretches east across the floodplain from the petroleum depot on Les Darcy Drive.
"We've always caught up for barbecues and a yarn about old times," Doc explains.
"I reckon we talked about the book for 20 years of more before we did anything about it," Mick nods. "In the end we got sick of our wives stirring us."
About two years ago they finally bit the bullet and did something about it. The result is The Louth Park Mob, an independently published book featuring interviews with locals and the authors' own recollections.
Mick had plenty of time on his hands as a retiree.
Doc dedicated time to the project after working his four 12-hour shifts at Tomago.
Over the course of about eighteen months, they documented the stories of more than 70 people with strong Louth Park connections.
Many members of the older generation had moved out after the 1955 flood destroyed their farms and homes.
"It was like detective work," Doc says.
"You'd go to see someone and they'd point you in the direction of someone else.
"The shop on the corner, Rose's, was where the Louth Park Mob used to hang out. It's right next to my family home, where my mother still lives today. Len Rose owned the shop, the bakehouse and the picture theatre. We got a lot of information and photos from his son."
The budding historians encountered many living legends along the way.
Jim Clark, 86, had seen the most. He lived in Louth Park when there were three pubs. Today there are none.
"Jim went through three floods down there - '49, '50 and '55. The big one in '55 was the end of his farm on Trappaud Road. Finished him off. He told us a lot of good stories," Doc says.
Mick nods enthusiastically. He is particularly fond of the yarn about bullock trains coming through and filling the pubs with thirsty men.
"Apparantly the local tanner built the third pub because his workers would knock off for lunch, go to the far pub and not come back," he chuckles.
"So he built a pub next door!"
Now that's industrial relations.
Part of the book is dedicated to rugby league stories from the fertile local nursery.
Mick and Doc are white-knuckle South Sydney supporters. They felt honoured to spend time with Rabbitohs great Frank Threlfo.
"We spent a day with Frank and just had to go back," Doc says. "Every year Souths players meet for a dinner function on the Friday before the Grand Final. Frank asked us if we'd like to go. Before the week was out, we received special invitations in the mail."
Frank did much more than make them feel welcome. He organised them a seat at the table of Jack Rayner's 1955 side who won every game in the second half of the season on the way to winning the grand final.
"It was one of the highlights of my life," Mick sighs.
"Jack Rayner's still the boss, don't worry," Doc says. "When he entered that room, this big giant of a man, they all still jumped."
"They reckon he still goes jogging around Centennial Park," Mick says. "Unbelievable."
Now that they have found their calling, Mick and Doc are planning similar books on the history of St Ethel's and Maitland floods.
They shouldn't have any trouble moving stock, judging by the success of The Louth Park Mob.
"Our missuses are shirty about the amount of time we spend on this stuff," Doc says.
"It's their fault," Mick soothes. "They opened their big mouths and put us up to it."
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Page last updated 18 Jan 2011