IN his final years John Clancy got up to all sorts of mischief – including sneaking fellow patients from his hospital ward and taking them on a pub crawl – at the age of 100! Well, he may have been 100.
Despite newspaper reports, including the following account of his 100th birthday party at Warracknabeal District hospital, John Clancy’s 1955 death record shows his age as officially 99.
The Horsham Times reported Jack’s 100th birthday celebrations on Wednesday, May 26, 1954:
Did all the ‘bad things’ and has a beer at 100
Mr. John Clancy, who knew Ned Kelly well and on his own admission, had “done all the bad things in life,” on Monday night celebrated his 100th birthday at Warracknabeal District hospital. He blew out 10 candles, (each representing 10 years), on the pink and white cake and drank a pot of beer and stood up to answer a toast proposed by his son Mr. G. Clancy.
Mr. Clancy is, despite his illness, sprightly, and talks with a twinkle in his eye of the times he was shearing at Jerilderie and of the antics of Ned Kelly and his gang. His pointed Van Dyke beard is well stained with nicotine – “I smoke and drink and have done all the thinks I should not have – including betting,” confessed Mr. Clancy.
The party started at 4.45 and was given by the staff of the hospital. The staff made a special birthday cake. Mr. Clancy not only cut the cake, but ate an extra big slice.
Mr. Clancy’s daughter, Mrs. A. J. Brown, from Patchewollock, wished him a happy birthday, and gave him a kiss. She was accompanied by her brother Gerald, and Mrs. Gerald Clancy.
The tea was thoroughly enjoyed by Mr. Clancy. He sat happily at the table, the only person (as far as the staff can remember) who has ever had a 100th birthday in Warracknabeal hospital.
“Another hard working day over,” was how Mr. Clancy described his birthday. He was born at Jim Crow’s Diggings later named Daylesford. His father, a blacksmith and his mother, both came from Ireland and died when he was very young.
Mr. Clancy has farmed at Rainbow for about 50 years and says that he has not given it up yet. Although he has not “had time to read about the elections” he hopes that Mr. Menzies will be beaten. “I hope they shoot him out as far as they can,” said Mr. Clancy. He has been in hospital for three weeks, and in and out for the last year. But until this illness, he had been in hospital only once before in his life. That was 40 years ago when he fell down a well and broke his collar bone. He was building the well on his Rainbow farm. Mr. Clancy said he fell 40 feet and can remember the accident well. He is now a little hard of hearing, but can read without glasses.
Mr. Clancy has an amazing memory and talks in detail about the days of Ned Kelly. “I can remember the time I was at Jerelderie and Ned stuck up a bank there. I was shearing sheep and had come into town for some beer. Mr. Clancy chuckled when he told how the next Sunday morning, Ned Kelly dressed in Constable Devine’s uniform and took Devine’s wife to church.
Responding to the toast by his son Gerald, Mr. Clancy said – “Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you very much and appreciate what you have done very much – anyhow I am too old to talk too long.”
Mr. Clancy was father of nine children: There are 30 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
Jack, reported the Melbourne Weekly Times on May 26, 1954, also once drank with bushranger Ned Kelly, and two members of his outlaw gang, after they held up a bank at Jerilderie.
“I was in a shearing shed outside Jerilderie and came into town for a drink,” Jack reportedly said.
“Ned Kelly stood in the middle of the street and made a man chop down the telegraph pole with an axe. Then Ned said he didn’t want to make trouble, and was going to have a beer with us. We went with him.”
Jack’s notoriety spread far and wide, and he even made the newspapers in Sydney. The Daily Telegraph reported on Sunday, August 1, 1954:
This Clancy has an overflow too
He pub crawls at 100
MELBOURNE, Sat. – A centenarian who last week “lost” his appendix is a popular headache to his nurses.
The centenarian, John Clancy, has a habit of going A.W.L. from the hospital for a pub crawl with fellow old-timers.
Clancy, a Mallee wheat farmer, had his 100th birthday in May.
Doctors at Warracknabeal (Victoria) Hospital last week removed Clancy’s appendix.
Victorian doctors believe an appendectomy on a man of that age could be a world record.
Clancy says his recipe for how to live to be 100 is: “Drink deep, smoke like billy-oh, work as hard as you have to, and hate the Tories good and proper”.
As a shearer he was in Jerilderie “on a bender” and saw Ned Kelly rob a bank.
“Ned and two of his gang made a swaggie get an axe from a store and chop down the bank door right under Constable Devine’s nose,” Clancy says.
“To add insult to injury, next morning Ned pinched the constable’s uniform and made Mrs. Devine accompany him to Mass.”
When old Jack finally did meet his maker, the newspapers of the day reported that he had indeed surpassed his centenary. The Melbourne Argus reported on Monday, June 20, 1955 that one of Wimmera’s earliest pioneers, John Clancy, had died aged 101.
Maybe, old Jack knew ‘the end was nigh’, and decided to celebrate his 100th birthday a year earlier – just in case. Maybe he was really born in 1854 as he told one and all. We’ll probably never know.
But that’s not important. What’s important is the colourful story of Jack’s long life and the accounts he has left us in newspapers.
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