Saturday 27 February 2021

John Dengate & Frank Maher awarded Life Membership of Folk Federation of NSW, on the Federation's 40th Anniversary, 2010

At the Federation's 40th Annual General Meeting in August 2010, members voted to award Life Membership to Colleen Burke, John Dengate, Warren Fahey & Frank Maher, members of the original Committee who were not already Life Members.

Frank Maher, Colleen Burke, Warren Fahey &
President Anthony Woolcott  (Sandra Nixon photo)

Certificates were presented to Colleen, Warren & Frank at the Federation's 40th Anniversary Concert at the 2011 National Folk Festival, and to John at The Loaded Dog Folk Club in June 2011 after the Federation's Annual General Meeting. 

President Anthony Woolcott & John Dengate, (Bob Bolton photo) 

John Dengate, Colleen Burke, Frank Maher,
Warren Fahey (Sandra Nixon photo)

The four Life Members were eventually photographed together at the launch of Dennis O'Keeffe's book 'Waltzing Matilda' in June 2012 

JOHN DENGATE the master of satire, parody, music, humour (often twisted), champion of the underdog and rejecter of all things pretentious was born in Sydney in 1938 and became interested in folk and rebel music while serving as a school-teacher in the Western Division of NSW at Menindee in 1958. Here he was fortunate to meet Brian Mooney who was a great inspiration to the young teacher and who remains a good mate.

In 1962 John joined the Sydney Bush Music Club where he met and was influenced by such legendary names as Duke Tritton, Alan and Gay Scott, John Meredith and others. He became a member of the club’s Concert Party and joined them entertaining at functions and for other groups. In the welcoming and warm embrace of the BMC John soon became known for his amusing political parodies and singer of traditional ballads. The Vietnam War and its supporters gave John a treasure trove of material from which he never shrank. Prince Charles’ visit to Geelong Grammar in 1966 stirred his mind and pen to write Charley’s Coming to Timbertop. Later, the infamous Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, was the subject of some well-crafted songs cleverly expressing his despotic behaviour. On Bjelke-Petersen’s retirement from politics John was to state that it was a very sorry day for him to see such material come to an end; he’d lost his best source ever.

Ever the wordsmith, John still continues to pen clever poems and songs, though attending and performing at fewer functions these days. A clever song of John’s was his parody of the Slim Dusty classic When the Rain Tumbles Down in July. Penned when the Pope visited Australia in July 2008, he, naturally, called it When the Pope Comes to Town in July. That song and the thoughtful poem showing his respect for the great poet John O’Brien, For ‘John O’Brien’ [Father Hartigan] are but two of many he has produced in the last couple of years. To this day he is still commenting on the political scene with vitriolic astuteness, with begging targets like Howard and Abbott. John’s Pixie Rudd’s Song and Maxine the Magnificent are also more recent efforts, showing that his pen and mind are still surgically sharp.

The title of John Dengate’s double CD album, Australian Son, describes him well. As does a more recent poem of his titled Australian Made.


FRANK MAHER is a quiet organiser, the backbone of an organisation, the kind of person who doesn’t want to push or be in the chair, but gets things done as he is meticulous and thorough. He’s always there if needed. When his wife Ann was President of the Bush Music Club they worked as a team and encouraged BMC to join the wider folk community when the Folk Federation was being formed.

BMC events were family oriented, alcohol free and centred on Australian tradition and modern Australian folk song, whereas Folk Clubs met in pubs and were oriented more towards music from the British Isles and Ireland. The aims of the BMC and the folk venues differed, but Frank was influential in getting the two groups to work together, especially when organising the first big folk festivals. Frank was the BMC representative on the initial Folk Federation of NSW committee.

Frank was (and still is) a good singer, he also plays the bones and bush bass. He was a member of BMC’s concert party in the 60’s, and invited John Dengate to join. Along with Jamie Carlin, Frank was best man at John and Dale’s wedding. He and Ann met at BMC and brought their three delightful daughters to BMC Singabout bush dances for many years. He was also a very good long distance runner in the 60s.


In December 2020 the Folk Federation celebrated 50 years. Photos - Helen Golack, Ann & Frank's daughter)

Life Members Warren Fahey, Danny Watson,
and Frank Maher with Sandra Nixon & Ann Maher

Frank talking about the early days. 

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