"The past is never fully gone. It is absorbed into the present and the future. It stays to shape what we are and what we do."
Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia, Inaugural Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, August 1996.

Alan Cracknell

David Buntine (bio)

This article was written in 2008.

I first met Alan Cracknell early in the 1980’s when he was Principal of the Wodonga High School. It was a fleeting contact but I do remember him giving me the stern well practiced Principal look designed to freeze students in their tracks. Some time later I moved to Wodonga and I found myself attending the same Church as Alan but even so that student look still kept me at a distance. But slowly our Church lives intertwined and the barriers were broken down. With time we shared some Church responsibilities and often had to work on projects together and enjoyed each others company.

But Alan had a surprise in his past. He knew I had studied forestry but it was not until many years later that he casually told me that he had taught at the forestry school at Creswick. And so it turned out that Alan had done a stint at Creswick as the Education Department science lecturer early in his career.

Alan passed away last year and recently his wife Margaret filled in some of the details of Alan’s life and the purpose of this article is to share them with you.

Alan Miller Cracknell was born on 3rd May 1925 at Ouyen in the Mallee. His parents Frank & Daisy had taken up a selection at Timbaroo South to the west of Ouyen. He attended the local school and rode a horse to get there. Poor wheat seasons finally resulted in his parents walking off their block when Alan was 9. The family then moved to Boort where his father worked as a gardener and with the local Council. Alan attended the local Boort schools but boarded at Bendigo for his higher secondary education at Bendigo High School.

He was to be called up for service but WW II ended so instead completed a science degree at Melbourne University before a posting as a student teacher for a year at Long Gully. At Melbourne University he met Margaret Wilson, an arts student.

Alan did his Dip Ed by correspondence before being posted to Ballarat High in 1947. This led to his appointment as the science teacher at the VSF for a number of years afterwards. In the meantime Margaret was posted to Maryborough until they married in Wesley Church in Lonsdale St and Margaret taught at the Ballarat Girls School.

Alan did tell me that he remembered Neil Carr as one of his students and described him as “bit of a wild one’. Margaret remembered the names Ted Semmens and Bill Litster although she never went out to the VSF. She also recalled that the students were about the same age as Alan and she believes this sometimes led to a “bit of a riot”. Her deepest impression of the VSF was freezing on the corner of Sturt St while waiting for Alan to return from the VSF in their car, an Austin A40.

Alan’s career in the years to come were appointments to Geelong, Horsham, Red Cliffs, Charlton, Mansfield and then Wodonga as Principal in 1969 until his retirement in 1983.

Alan remained very active after retirement being on the Board of a number of organisations that offered help to the needy. He also worked as an enthusiastic bingo supervisor, very active participation in the University of the 3rd Age, Rotary and the CEC. Although active in sports in his earlier years his retirement hobby became the raising of orchids which he was always willing to show and discuss with visitors.

Alan passed away in Wodonga in January 2007 and is survived by Margaret, still in Wodonga, and his two daughters Jo and Wendy.

PS. Alan’s wife, Margaret, passed away in Jan 2019 at the age of 92 years.


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