Jack Veale 15.9.1930 – 3.12.2022
By Karen McIntyre.
This is the tale of the irrepressible Jack Veale, a character, a charmer, fond of a good yarn and a bloke who always seemed to be larger than life.
Jack’s long and illustrious life began at Skipton, the fifth child born to George and Laura (nee Binder) Veale. His first home was the well-known bluestone Lake Bolac General Store purchased by his pioneer grandfather William Veale in 1874.
He was five years old when they moved six miles south to the farm on the Mortlake Road. He attended Lake Bolac Primary School, before moving to Ballarat with his parents to finish school at Ballarat High. He was a clever lad with an aptitude for figures, which led to obtaining a job in the CBA bank.
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Football genes were strong in the Veale family and Jack was blessed with an abundance of sporting ability. Five generations of Veale’s have played with Lake Bolac since its inception in 1880, with Jack’s grandfather the first football club president way back then.
Jack was a talented schoolboy footballer, commencing at Golden Point in the Ballarat Football League, playing 10 seasons in Juniors and Seniors, winning the BFL U-18 Best and Fairest and four successive junior premierships, along with two senior premierships. He was Senior Best and Fairest in 1950 and runner-up in the Henderson Medal by ½ a vote. He was named in Golden Point’s Team of the Century at centre half back. This accolade was bestowed in 2002 at Golden Point’s Club Centenary, a significant achievement considering it was more than 50 years since his playing days. He was invited to train with Carlton Football Club as a teenager, but he was homesick and didn’t stay in the big smoke for work or footy.
Jack met the love of his life, Dorothy Searle, when they were both just 13 years old. The young age didn’t stop a deep friendship and attraction from developing. Whilst courting they would walk miles to attend the Friday night dances, waltz the night away, then Jack would ride his bike three miles home to the other side of Ballarat in the dark, as he had no light on his bike.
Dot and Jack were married in May 1953 at Christ Church Ballarat, and in true form, on the way to the reception, Jack made the driver divert around the Eastern Oval to check the half time footy score (because he had missed that match due to the wedding). Their honeymoon was a brief three nights in Melbourne and according to Jack cut short by his “horse running at Moonee Valley that didn’t get up. If it had won we could have gone for another week, but when ‘Lash Alone’ ran second it shortened the honeymoon by a week”. Despite the fact that they were away for only three days, Jack of course could not miss footy training and asked if he could join in en-route with the Healesville Club. He trained and Dot sat in the car and watched!
Then children came along. Every Friday night Jack would take Dot to the Lake Bolac Hall to the pictures. They would drive into town until the youngsters were asleep, then they would leave them in the car and go in to watch the shows. The couple also loved their dancing and enjoyed attending almost all Saturday night dances in the district, including Lake Bolac, Willaura, Woorndoo, Streatham and Tatyoon. Later the children often helped them decorate the hall with balloons and streamers and just the right amount of sawdust on the floor for a polished dancing surface.
After their family of two daughters and two sons was complete, Jack and Dot went for a week-long holiday to Tasmania, alone, for a couple’s getaway to the very posh Wrest Point Hotel. This too was short-lived as two footy mates from Bolac showed up on the second day, to help celebrate!
Jack arrived back at Lake Bolac FC as Captain-Coach in 1954 aged 23. Jack coached Bolac on and off for nine seasons, winning two flags. He played in another three premierships, the last in 1965 under ex-Geelong wingman Hugh Routley, he was named in the three best players in all five flags. He was club Best and Fairest twice, in 1959 and 1964 and named in the Team of the Era 1945-85. Fearless and skilful, he was regarded as a great leader who led from the front.
Jack represented the Mininera District Football League on 26 occasions, winning five interleague Beaurepaire Shields. In his 19 games as Captain-Coach, they won 15. He was named vice-captain and centreman of the Lake Bolac Football Club team of the post-war era. He was President of the Lake Bolac club for a record 10 years, and in 1964 became a Life Member. He was instrumental in forming the Mininera District Football League junior competition in 1967, was a league delegate for 11 seasons and served on the tribunal for 17 years. He loved the game and the club so much that he played until the age of 43, totalling 400 senior games, 234 with Bolac. His last match being the 1973 preliminary final where Caramut narrowly defeated Lake Bolac at Willaura. In 2004 Jack was awarded the Victorian Country Football League Recognition of Service Medallion for 60 years of service to Australian Rules Football.
He even made an appearance on the famous Channel 7 sports program “World of Sport”, where his longevity in playing football was acknowledged.
Jack’s first sneaky dabbles with bookmaking began when he was merely seven years old. “Place cards” were dropped off at the store his father owned, where you got to pick four horses likely to run a place. Jack recalled “that you could put a couple of ‘bob’ on and maybe win a couple of pounds back”. He always followed the McMaster’s horses because they came from the district.
A bad day of punting prompted Jack to declare that the next bet he put on a horse would be as a bookmaker, and the satchel beckoned.
Jack started bookmaking in 1963 when he was 33 years old. It wasn’t an easy game to get into. Initially he obtained a loan of £500 to get his licence, in a flourishing industry with over 600 bookies (nowadays there are only 175). He quoted inexperience as the reason that after six years in the betting ring he was “dead square”. Initially working at greyhound races, he turned his focus to thoroughbreds and once he learned the tricks-of-the-trade he was able to supplement his farm income for many years. With a bookmaker’s ring waiting, on average every second day of the week, Jack liked “knowing that when I wake up in the morning, I’m going to the races”.
The Victorian Bookmakers’ Association paid tribute to Jack in their December Newsletter: “Jack gained his Victorian Bookmaker’s licence at the age of 33, attending his first race meeting at Mortlake. Jack was generous with his odds, however seemingly competitive, and was known as the “punter’s friend” working at racecourses around the state for almost 60 years. Bookmaking kept Jack’s mind active and sharp. The Covid19 pandemic ended a long streak for Jack who had fielded at an amazing 57 consecutive Warrnambool Racing Carnivals before missing the 2020 three-day event, which was held in front of empty grandstands. But Jack was back on the opening day of the 2021 carnival, which he always rated as being amongst the best racing events in Australia. Jack could easily have retired and not brave the hardened punters at Warrnambool every year, but he still relished the chance to head to the betting ring. Charismatic Jack, with a natural demeanour, occasionally was quite the flirt on the racecourse whilst still successfully taking a bet at the same time. Whether it was a 17-year-old smiling young lass or a mature 87-year-old lady, it was all in good fun. Jack was Victoria’s oldest working bookie and his final race meeting was in Ararat”.
Jack’s children and grandchildren enjoyed work pencilling with him, and his son Clark intends to follow the bookmaking tradition. Jack’s daughters, Karen and Sue, both had to delay their weddings until 6pm due to Jack being at the races, luckily they both married in the Summer so it was still daylight for their ceremonies.
Jack never missed a race meeting at Ararat and even checked himself out of hospital to attend, readmitting himself at 6pm. His sage advice about gambling was that “the less your wife knows about your betting, the better”.
Cricket, Golf, and Bowls
Teammate Murray Knight delivered a sporting tribute to Jack’s wake at the Wickliffe Lake Bolac Football Netball Clubrooms following his funeral service. He welcomed mourners to the “sacred territory” of the Jack Veale Bar dedicated in August in his honour. He also enthused about the special celebratory testimonial function hosted courtesy of the Ararat Bowling Club that highlighted Jack’s life in sport. He noted the large attendance on that day and the humorous “Toast and Roast” of Jack. When asked on the day who he feared most as an opponent during his career, without hesitation he replied “None of them. I didn’t have to worry about them, they were too worried about me and what I might do…. and probably did!”.
Jack was a dashing left-handed batsman playing in premierships for Lake Bolac, inter-association cricket and Melbourne Country Week, during a period when cricket was very strong in the Mininera Cricket Association. He played at least 16 seasons of cricket including the 1951 premiership win over Tatyoon, where he took 3/69 and 3/32 with the ball and then led the team over the line with 76 not out.
He was a very keen golfer and one year, as a member of the Warrnambool Golf Club, he won a C Grade championship by booking an early tee-off on Saturday morning and then rushing back to Bolac to play football in the afternoon.
Loving the punt, he would always have a monetary interest with his playing partners, always framing a market for the local championships across all grades. One memorable year a fresh-faced young schoolboy approached Jack after noticing his name was not listed in C Grade. Upon enquiry Jack asked him his name and handicap. When told his handicap was 25 and several of the seasoned golfers were in the same grade, Jack offered him 50/1. So, Daniel replied that he would like to have $2 on myself please Mr Veale. At great personal expense, Daniel sacrificed his school homework and chores and practiced slavishly after school, until dark, all week. After the first round Daniel led by 3 and that was the closest anyone got to him, winning the championship comfortably, before claiming the bet. Jack had wrestled with himself as to whether he should even take a wager from a schoolboy, however he accepted it, justifying that it might be a good early lesson for the boy of the potential perils of gambling. In hindsight he resolved to check the field and the form more carefully, before posting the odds, in the future.
Jack was a foundation member of the Lake Bolac and District Bowling Club and former President. He was described on his sponsorship panel adjoining the green as “God’s gift to the Punter”. He was a three-time Bowling Club Singles Champion, won the Mixed Pairs four times and was awarded Life Membership in 2000. He was also a member of a winning Grampians Bowling Association 4s team, and a GBA member at inter-association level. At Country Week in Bendigo, he was always the life of the party. In the time Jack lived in Ararat he was a beloved member of the Ararat Bowls Club and the VRI Bowls Club.
Murray lauded Jack for being 92 years young and reflected that with a great love for his family and his community he will be sadly missed. In cricket terminology he credited Jack with a wonderful innings, well played.
Jack loved music, dancing and singing (always unaccompanied). His favourite performers were Johnnie Ray, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis who he saw in concert when they toured Australia. Jack sang at local dances, pubs, clubs, weddings and even the VBA dinner for his 50 years’ service award.
Jack’s life was full to the brim. Although Bolac was always in his heart, he sold most of his sheep and cropping farm and moved to Ararat seven years ago. His family expressed their happiness that he led a mostly healthy and independent life and admired the challenges he overcame, the compassion he had for others and the values he instilled in them all.
Jack’s wife Dot pre-deceased him in 1999 and he is survived by his partner Lorna, children Karen and Dave Cleeland, Suzanne and Peter Clark, Glenn, Clark and Libby, 12 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Poignantly the recessional track of Jack’s own rendition of “Over the Rainbow” was played leading out of the service. He was laid to rest at the Lake Bolac cemetery.
A final bet he won was with his great mate Matt Lembo, as to who would live the longest. It would be fitting to imagine Jack toasting him, charging his beer in his customary wine goblet, with his favourite motto “It’ll be right!”.