John Walkley '45

Written on the 14 May 2018 by Old Collegians Association

John Walkley '45

Excerpt from 2006 Rostrevor Magazine

John Walkley made recent contact with Red & Black to inform of Tom McGovern's French Legion of Honour Award. John's association with Rostrevor has been rich and enduring and Red&Black sought out John to help with this profile.

John Walkley

John Walkley attended Rostrevor College from 1940 to 1945. He is married to Dianne. His brother Clifford also attended Rostrevor. John's association with Rostrevor began much earlier however as the son of Ellen (Clifford) Walkley, sister of Dan Clifford and partners in the family business D Clifford Theatres Ltd, operators of the Star Theatre Circuit from 1916 to 1947. The family were pioneers in the motion picture industry in South Australia. Ellen was Vice President and member of the Ladies Committee in the 1930s and 40s when Br Mackey and then Br Mogg were Headmasters.

Dan Clifford (Snr) was the father of Dan Clifford who attended Rostrevor from 1944. Mr. Clifford had a close association with Rostrevor as a benefactor throughout the 1930s until his untimely death in 1942. 

The Rostrevor Annuals of that era proudly convey the generosity of Mr. Clifford at a number of levels, but two significant donations were the commissioning and donation of the first Rostrevor flag and the donation of the first movie projector.

Dan Clifford bought, built or leased the theatre icons of suburban Adelaide. At its height the Star Theatre group owned and operated 20 theatres and a number of shops. Dan built the Piccadilly Theatre, North Adelaide; the Capri Theatre, Goodwood; the Vogue Theatre, Kingswood; Odeon Star Theatre Norwood; Capitol Theatre St Peters; Star Theatre Unley and Capitol Theatre, Mt Gambier to name a few. It was the largest theatre chain in South Australia.

From the 1937 Annual: The students offer three cheers for Mr Dan Clifford, centre. on the presentation of the flag. Br Mackey is at the left.

He also played a leading role in the building of the Thebarton Theatre, Hindmarsh Town Hall and Woodville Town Hall as it was at his encouragement with the promise of a long lease, that the councils could see the possible returns on such investments. As their prime use was to be as picture theatres, Dan Clifford had a hand in the design of these suburban landmarks as well. The grace and charm of the Piccadilly Theatre is strong testimony to Dan Clifford's vision and commitment to the people of Adelaide.

In 1947 a successful sale of the theatre assets was made to Greater Union Theatres, an interstate organization and the family company continued on as an investment company. It was in this world of theatres and moving pictures that John Walkley grew up.

He attended Rostrevor from East Terrace and fondly remembers the tram trips up Magill Rd with a tram full of Rostrevor students in the big 'drop Centre' trams. In his year as a Prefect he recalls the  responsibility of keeping control of nearly 100 boys the journey ensuring all wore the uniform properly and that boys would stand for adult passengers as they boarded the tram. He reflects that in. those days there was a real Rostrevor spirit as the school was a close community with a great deal of respect for each other. Red&Black assured John that the intangible Rostrevor spirit is still as strong t on the campus and on the playing fields for both school and old school teams.

As stated, John was a Prefect in his final year and was a regular in inclusion in the Combined Sports Team over many years as a sprinter. He also played 2nd XVIII football and handball.

In 1941 he, along with a number of fellow students, were struck down with a kidney infection and spent some time in Calvary Hospital. He recalls the Jim Barry (the Clare winemaker) in the bed next to his. Tragically, a Rostrevor student, Joe Lewis, was taken by the illness and the Annual reported:

The 1941 Annual: Cup Winners at the Annual Sports.
P. O'Loughlin, Bryan O'Leary (
seated). Brian Moore. John Walkley.

'An air of sadness pervaded Rostrevor from the unexpected death of Joe Lewis was announced on Sunday, July 26th ,Joe had been confined to bed for a week with what seemed to be more than an attack of the Prevailing influenza. However, his condition took a serious turn and he was ordered to Hospital. As he was Taken to hospital he gave cheery greeting to his friends; within a few, hours, anointed and strengthened in the Last Sacraments, his generous soul sped to God. He was fourteen years of age.'

John recalls an interesting anecdote involving Br 'Hec' Gurr. Br Gurr was renowned for his sympathetic understanding of young boys. On one occasion John found himself in the school choir but on hearing his voice 'Hec' invited him to his classroom for an audition. 'Please sing until I ask you to stop.' Requested Br Gurr. The request was quickly forthcoming. ' I suppose you are looking forward to being in the concert.' inquired Br Gurr. 'Yes Sir, it will be great'. After much silence Br Gurr replied · You can keep your place in the choir but when the singing starts just open and close your mouth.' 

On leaving school John went straight into the family business and managed the Star Theatres in the city and later at Norwood.When the circuit was sold John remained at Head Office. John went on to complete a Commerce Degree at Adelaide University.

From the 1941 Annual:
(a portion of) The Ladies Committee. Mrs Ellen Walkley is middle row, fourth from right.

In 1957 he established JD Clifford Walkley Public Accountant in the city. In 1979 he obtained a BA (Honours) at Flinders University. 

In the 1960s, John was very active on the ROCA Committee and held the position of President 1967·8. He recalls with pride the success and the numbers attending the Communion Breakfasts held in that era. He worked with such ROCA stalwarts as Lyle Gilligan, Ron Hall, Peter Walsh, Alec McBeath, Chris McCabe, Paul Wickins, Michael Wickins and Vin Houghton. 

His good mates from school days were Brian Kildea, Bernard Day, Chris Morisset, Ralph Crook and Bob Wilkie. Through his membership of the Naval and Military Club he also makes contact on occasions with fellow members Fred Moller, Kevin Duggan and John Simpson. He also keeps in touch with Tom McGovern.

Red and Black thanks John for taking the time to put together this profile. His recollections of his happy years ill Rostrevor and the Rostrevor spirit or the l 940s are positive and powerful reminders of the good work of the Christian Brothers over Rostrevor's 83 year history.


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Author:Old Collegians Association


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