Elkin Reilly '56

Written on the 17 April 2018 by Old Collegians Association

Elkin Reilly

Excerpt from 2000 Rostrevor Magazine

Elkin Reilly ('56) is an unassuming, modest man whose lifetime's experiences belie his quiet and placid nature. He is a man who has survived the rigours of VFL football in the rugged sixties and the emotional rigour of coming to terms with his cultural identity. He is a man who speaks with a great deal of pride of his adoptive family and the College that he called home for 6 years.

Elkin Reilly with friend Ted Buckler at Rostrevor in April

Elkin Reilly is the adopted son of Dr Pat and Betty Reilly. He grew up in Hopetoun, Victoria, before his father moved to Minlaton to take up a medical practice. Elkin followed, and began as a boarder at Rostrevor in 1951. Elkin created for himself a permanent position in the sporting annals of Rostrevor College as only the second graduate to play, what was then, VFL football. His great friend, Br Mogg, at his enrolment interview, asked him what he hoped to achieve at Rostrevor. His reply was 'to play football' but the reality is he has achieved much more than that.

On leaving Rostrevor in 1957 Elkin's father contacted the Northern Territory authorities to help Elkin trace his biological family. Elkin was presented with a Statutory Declaration which,
for the first time, gave him some information on the first six months of his life.

Elkin was born in 1938 to Ruby and Harvey on Lake Nash Station on the Northern Territory/Queensland border. At the age of six months Elkin and his biological brother and cousins were taken from their mothers and transported to Alice Springs. Elkin's older brother was taken to the Telegraph Station which was the halfway house for the 'stolen children'. The police sergeant who removed the children stated in the Declaration of 1957 "... it was my duty to arrange the conveyance of half caste children in aboriginal camps in remote areas to the half caste institution in Alice Springs."

As Elkin was only six months old he was deemed too young to attend the institution and was taken to the Alice Springs Hospital for care. The doctor on duty, Dr Pat Reilly, advised the sergeant to leave the baby in his care to which the sergeant happily acquiesced. The baby was duly baptised Julian Elkin Reilly.

Leaving Certificate 1956
Back: P. Cronin, P Vandepeer, G. McCormack. E. Reilly. V.McCormack, M. Green.
Third: D. David, M. Kenny, D. Pak Poy, P Michalanney, G. Harrison, N. Collins P. Gill, J. Hall. J. Campbell
Second: B. Rodgers. J. Honner, A. Waugh, R. Von Doussa B. Modystack, R. Ryan, C. Maher, K. Matthews, D. Reilly, D. Forest
Front: R. Ford, R. Po.G. Haddad, H O'Connor, M Walsh, W Coad, H Burley, B. Tinney, C. Crawford

Elkin became the Reilly's preferred name for their boy, a name taken from a leading anthropologist of the time who was known to the Reilly's, Professor Elkin.

With this knowledge, Elkin carried on with his life and his passion for sport. In 1957, under coach Tom Kendell, he became the State Junior High Jump Champion with a western roll of 6'2". In 1958 he was conscripted for his National Service and served three months at Woodside before returning home to his family in Minlaton.

In 1959 he played for Minlaton FC and won the Mail Medal for the League. The following year he played for Barmera FC and again won the Mail Medal in that League. By his own admission, Elkin became a football nomad and the communities he was playing in found him work as part of his playing package. In 1961 he was invited to play for South Melbourne on a six-game permit and he played in their 'Bs'. After the permit expired he moved to the Mildura League and played for Wentworth, winning their best and fairest award that year. 

In 1962 he was recalled to South Melbourne and thus began a five-year career in the strongest League in the country playing one of the toughest positions, ruck, often against much taller and heavier opponents such as Polly Farmer and John Nicholls. His first coach was Bill Faul, then Noel McMahon and then the was privileged to give a young Colt by the name of Michael Taylor his first run in 'A' Grade.

Elkin Reilly at South Melbourne in the early sixties.

In Kingston he reacquainted with old scholar Jim Ryan ('28) who was a past President of the Old Collegians' Association. In 1970 he retired from football and moved back to Adelaide and worked for Harris Scarfe before accepting a job in 1979 with the Aboriginal Health Commission for whom he worked for 17 years. He currently holds positions on the Steering Committee for the Stolen Generation, the Board of Nunkuwarrin Yunti an aboriginal health care incorporation and the Aboriginal Health Council. 

On returning to the College this year with his old friend Ted Buckler ('54) he stated "It's good to see the things that have changed at the College - but it's good to see the things that haven't changed." His affection for Rostrevor and his boarding experiences are still very strong. He recalls, when running 'stone motherless' in the annual school cross country, Br Mogg wryly commenting, " You'd better change our brand of cigarettes Reilly because the ones you're smoking aren't doing you any good." When asked to recollect some contemporaries it is not surprising that Elkin's first thoughts were of some of his football team mates: John Mcinnes, Butch Harding, John Power and Brian Byrne for whom he had a great respect as 1st XVIII Captain. 

At a time in Australia's history, when reconciliation is a focus, the Rostrevor Old Collegians' are proud to acknowledge the lifetime achievements of Elkin Reilly both as an old scholar and as an ambassador of an issue which is very close to the hearts of all Christian people.


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Author:Old Collegians Association


Glen Stuart Rd Woodforde Sa 5072 Australia


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