Meet Mac, the newest member of our 100 Club and one of around 150 centenarians Bolton Clarke is currently supporting across Australia.
Lionel ‘Mac’ McAuslan
Born 24 June, 1917
There was plenty of love and laughter when Lionel McAuslan, known as Mac, celebrated his 100th birthday on Saturday 24 June with his wife of nearly 70 years, Chick.
Mac and Chick live together in their own home in the beautiful suburb of Buderim on the Sunshine Coast, a warm sanctuary filled with photographs that tell a tale of a tight-knit and loving family.
They met through mutual friends June and John when they were best man and maid of honour at their wedding. They instantly hit it off and have been sharing laughs and jokes ever since.
“Back in the old days ladies used to wear hats everywhere and I remember to make me laugh Mac used to put on my best hats and parade around the house with them – I was always in fits of laughter,” Chick recalls.
Mac has always been a joker despite experiencing his share of hard times. He was born on 24 June 1917 in Williamstown Victoria and clearly remembers the Depression years and not being able to get into any trouble as there was “no money and nothing to do”.
“I had five good mates I used to hang around with, and none of them drank or smoked so we kept out of trouble. We did travel to Hobsons Bay to play in the Kings Shooters competition – other than that there was not much to do,” he says.
“I joined the Naval Reserve in 1936 as it was the only job that was paying at the time. When war was declared all my mates were called up but I wasn’t. I was a little disappointed until I was called up to do a volunteer gunner course.”
“From there I was called out to the Pacific Islands where we commandeered ordinary ships and fitted them with guns for battle. We sailed through Singapore, Hong Kong and then on to England.”
Mac enjoyed life at sea, which he remembers as mostly peaceful – except for when his convoy came under attack from enemy bombers at night.
“We were in a ships convoy, moving very slowly at only about 10 knots. During the day, some planes flew over us a few times. We became quite concerned thinking they would come back but they didn’t,” he says.
“At exactly 8pm that night, I remember it was exactly 8pm as we were changing guards, we heard some planes coming back. We heard what sounded like an explosion but we didn’t know what it was and the ships were still running fine so we left it.”
“The next morning we inspected the front of the ship and saw there was a hole in it. We went down to have a closer look and saw there was an unexploded bomb sitting inside the front of the ship leaking yellow sulphur. Had that bomb exploded like it was supposed to none of us would be here today.”
From England, Mac travelled to America through the Panama Canal on his way to Galveston where he boarded a new ship as a Lieutenant.
One of the work experiences he can remember happened when his crew were in India.
“Some of the crew went ashore in India and I believe went through what you would call the red-light district, and after a few days at sea they began to show signs of illness,” he said.
“It was apparent that we had an outbreak of smallpox on the ship and had to bury them all at sea. We lost seven men in total including those trying to tend to the sick, however there were no official doctors on board.”
Finally, Mac heard that his crew was returning to Australia. As luck would have it his ship docked in Williamstown and he was finally home.
After the war Mac met Chick the night before June and John’s wedding in Melbourne across the road from Flinders Street Station.
Chick had left school at the age of 14 when she was called up to work in the Commonwealth Clothing Company making uniforms for soldiers.
“We were encouraged to write to the soldiers during the war, I had an older cousin who was serving in Katherine and I used to write to him a lot,” she said.
“He felt quite guilty that other members of his troop were not receiving letters so he asked me if I could write to them as well. There were some nights I was up till midnight writing so many letters.”
After Mac and Chick married Mac had to find a new job.
“I had cut the boys’ hair when I was on the ship,” he explains, “so I thought I should be a barber.”
“Sadly that wasn’t an option and I was given the choice of a painter, bricklayer or a woodworker. After trying bricklaying and hating it, I moved on to painting which was alright. I painted government buildings.”
In 1951 Mac and Chick moved up to Brisbane to buy their first home in Windsor. They had two children and Mac’s claim to fame was painting the dome of Customs House on the Brisbane River.
They are looking forward to celebrating their 70th Wedding Anniversary in March 2018.
“I never thought I would make it this long, but I have been very lucky and stayed out of trouble,” Mac says.
For the past two years they have received daily visits from the Bolton Clarke At Home Support team, most frequently from personal care worker Stacey Kelly-Tompkins. Their family say the visits have made a huge difference for the pair and their ability to stay independent at home.
Click here to find out more about our At Home Support services and how they can help you in your home.