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  • Writer's pictureAshley Geoghegan

Paul Geoghegan and his 'bloody love' for the 'The Sydney Morning Herald'

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

Paul William Geoghegan is a 74-year-old man who is a kind and gentle soul blessed with humility. He has three adult children and three almost all adult grandchildren. Paul lived beside the beach in Bondi NSW until the age of three years before moving to Milsons Point and attending St Francis Xavier at Lavender Bay. He is the first of four children to his parents who met during World War II while serving in the Airforce. His mother Barbara (Helen) was an English national, and his father Bill (William) is an Australian national. Barbara was a teleprinter and Bill was a navigator in the Lancaster bomber, stationed in and flying for England.

His family moved to Sydney's Northern Beaches where he attended North Curl Curl primary school; completing his final years of schooling at Saint Augustine's College. Paul bought his favourite newspaper 'The Sydney Morning Herald' for the first time to read on the bus on the way home from work in the city. Working on Elizabeth street for the real estate agency Lucas and Tait in 1967, Paul was just 21. It became a daily routine to buy the paper for the journey over the bridge home, and he has remained a dedicated reader since.

That was a busy year for Paul. In between work, playing rugby for his local club and surfing, he was asked to become a part of the football team 'Manly Presidents Cup.' He also modelled for fashion magazines and did surfing shoots modelling for surfing publications. His intimate relationship became serious and apart from that, his career and loyal devotion to his local footy club, he put everything aside. He married his beloved the following year in 1968 before moving to Bangalow after falling in love with the area.

On a summer's day, he was at the beach with his one-year-old baby girl, four-year-old son and wife when an unforeseen tragedy struck. It was during an eight-foot cyclone swell at 'The Pass' in beautiful Byron Bay. A stranger's surfboard crashed into him from the top of a wave as he was paddling below. The nose of the stranger’s board went through Paul’s skull and into his brain. Miraculously he made it out of the water, and his son ran to him asking what happened due to blood profusely pouring from his head. He couldn’t respond to his son though he did make it back to their spot on the sand.

The head injury was severely critical, and as such, he was taken to Brisbane hospital immediately to undergo surgery. Whilst there, the priest was brought in to say a prayer and goodbye. Luckily, he survived, however, rehabilitation was necessary for a few years during which he needed to learn to speak again.

Paul didn’t return to his career in real estate once rehabilitated. Instead, he worked a casual job, volunteered for the local fire brigade; taking on the at-home duties caring for the third child who came along five years after the incident.

"Because I'm human – it's a social thing – you belong to a society."

I am speaking to dad on the phone while sitting in the lounge room during the lockdown in Melbourne. It's easy to imagine him standing on the luscious green grass in the backyard of our family home in the sunshine and breathing in the fresh, clean salty air. Asking him to describe the ‘Sydney Morning Herald' in his own words, he explains that it's not a biased paper as are the other newspapers; that it has "many interesting articles and puts all the stories out there."

Paul enjoys reading the paper in the dining or lounge room at home, usually during breakfast or lunchtime.

Asking the question "Why do you love that particular paper?" I receive a direct albeit honest response: "I don't love it; it's just a bloody paper. I like to read it while I'm eating, that makes me sound silly, but, anyway. I don't love the bloody thing."

Knowing dad well, I push for more answers and in return, receive a thorough breakdown of why it’s his most preferred publication. He finds the opinions of people around the globe engaging and is curious about their thoughts surrounding politics and world news. Although quite a homebody, he suggests that it’s still important to learn of people's life experiences; to understand how they are feeling about global and cultural issues.

Fitness is essential to dad, and like his 101-year-old father Bill, he still exercises daily. Swimming in the ocean is almost a therapeutic ritual. Being a sportsman, he enjoys reading the sports section, especially about the 'Manly Sea Eagles.'

Becoming lost in the history and travel pages and reading about people's journeys as they write in about their adventures is another highlight of the publication. As dad is getting older, he's been keeping an eye on the death notices over the last few years, sometimes coming across someone he knows.

Raising the question about print v's online, he says, "I guess I'm old fashioned – I still like books – I prefer paper form." Yet he seems keen to look into subscribing to the online version of the Herald, but a little reluctant due to there being 'junk' among what he has previously read online.

Paul is an avid reader and enjoys all kinds of print inclusive of surfing magazines and novels. He mostly enjoys fiction with elements of truth and to read about history and ancient times. Cherished authors of his include James Mitchener ('The Source'—recommended), Colleen Mccullough, Leon Uris and Bernard Cornwell who writes stories about the Vikings invading England.

I remember being young when dad was reading Stephen King's 'It' as he also enjoyed King's work; he was entirely terrified by that story about the evil clown. It was funny and amusing to frighten him from outside his bedroom door or window while he was distracted and engrossed in a chapter of the book.

I was deeply fortunate to be brought up by such a sweet, sensitive and robust human being as is my father.

Image credit: Silas Baisch

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