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by Mike Wood


Jack McDonald was a talented engineer, highly regarded in our industry for his practical approach to problems. Jack could also be a bit of a bastard as Chief Pilots and Operations Managers occasionally discovered. But Jack Mac also had a delightful and endearing trait.

When the 1600 whistle sounded, it was down tools and up to the Tenno in Mascot, or the Brighton RSL, or perhaps the Cauliflower in Waterloo and over a few jugs, Jack's bonhomie ensured the day's tensions melted away.

At this remove of nearly 50 years, who would remember the date of that first keg? It must have been about the time that Adastra moved into the new hangar near the eastern end of the 25 runway, when Jack had his brainwave. No doubt there would have been some of the field crews back at base to make the tarpaulin muster worthwhile, and Jack suggested that we broach a barrel and have a get-together in the hangar.

This was an immediate success and the Thursday afternoon Adastra keg became a fairly regular event. And what an ambience for a social gathering of people in aviation - the trestle table set up, perhaps, under the wing of good old AGU, next to a Hudson up on jacks ready for weighing, or the Aero Commander in for a 100 hourly, with a couple of lighties squeezed into the corners.The news of these social occasions soon spread around the airport and guests regularly included industry reps and DCA personnel with whom we dealt.

The tarpaulin muster by this time, had mostly given way to the "special occasion", when one of the staff or a guest would donate a barrel to celebrate an anniversary or merely to put one on, in thanks for earlier hospitality. It was surprising how often these events arose and before long, Jack's girl Friday, Chris, had to be consulted and a booking made for a suitable date.

On the scene now appeared Len Hay. Big Lennie, a draughtsman from Ken Seaman's photogrammetry division, had an artistic bent and a bit of the larrikin in him. A great cheer was heard one Thursday when Len arrived with and fitted in an appropriate spot on the hangar wall, a two dimensional replica of a barrel. This realistic piece of whimsy was adorned by small shields bearing the names of previous keg donors, and naturally, further festooning occurred as the events and time rolled by.

I often wonder what happened to the "Keg of Honour". It was an example of Len Hay's skill certainly, but I think of it more as a tribute to Jack McDonald's contribution to that special cameraderie which became an Adastra hallmark.

Mike Wood
25th January 2004



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