By David Nagel
‘Andy from Pakenham’ was a mythical figure to most, just a voice heard on the radio, but to his family and friends he was a rough-cut diamond that glistened – a man amongst men.
Andrew McMillan, who passed away aged 55 after a short battle with aggressive cancer on Wednesday 8 February, was the rarest type of gem because of the magnetic properties he possessed.
He was a larger than life character that drew people together.
And we’re not just talking about his mates, who I gratefully count myself as one, who gathered at the Cardinia Club in Pakenham most afternoons to solve the world’s problems over a cold bevvy or two … or maybe six!
On any day you would find at least a handful of members of our punters club, the ‘Slow and Heavy 14’, which until Andy’s death consisted of Andy, Alan, Chris, Dave, Derek, Hairy, Johnnie, Mushy, Nippa, Ronnie, Roscoe, Shane, Shaun and Steve, just enjoying each other’s company.
We’re also talking about a legion of fans that he built up over the years as a regular caller on SEN1116’s The Run Home, an afternoon show hosted by golfer Mark Allen and former Melbourne AFL star David Schwarz.
Marko and the Ox – as listeners know them – would become a huge part of Andy’s life, connected mainly through their 5pm segment ‘The Soapbox’.
“Next on the line we have Andy from Pakenham,” Marko would begin.
“G’day fellas, what’s going on fellas,” Andy would reply in a raspy voice that just oozed character and brought a smile to every listener’s face.
“Andy, you tell us,” Marko would respond, separating each word with a pause for full effect.
“I’ve got one for you today fellas; you know what I’m saying. I want to know why Harvey Norman has three years interest free and they don’t do it at Dan Murphy’s. You know what I’m saying fellas.”
Those two lines, “What’s going on fellas,” and “You know what I’m saying,” would become Andy’s catchcry.
It didn’t matter whether he was talking about his beloved Richmond Football Club, his favourite pub The Royal on Punt Road, or just the general topic of the day, Andy would always begin with “What’s going on fellas.”
It made us, his mates, laugh every single time.
And he brought a couple of the ‘Slow and Heavy 14’ along for the ride, he turned them from normal genuine blokes into characters of the airwaves.
Chris, well he became ‘The Wanderer’, so named because of his propensity to disappear after a few beers, and Roscoe, well he was ‘Hydraulic Jack’ because he could lift anything.
Andy had a knockabout comic sense of timing and a great imagination – he was Pakenham’s answer to Paul Hogan.
The ability to make people laugh … that’s what he had.
In fact, Andy was the very first subject to kick off the Gazette’s popular ‘Beer O’Clock’ column.
But when the ring tone went dead, Andy had his issues to deal with.
His much loved partner Julie Petterson fought a much longer battle than Andy, losing her life to cancer on 17 September, 2015.
Andy was her rock, standing by her side through operation after operation in a journey that lasted for years. He would sit by her side, whistle softly, and then start to sing …
“Shed a tear ’cause I’m missin’ you … … ”
He sang the Guns ‘n’ Roses song Patience to Jules through the tough times.
It’s hard to describe the impact that Andy had on listeners of SEN, thousands and thousands of messages have been received by the station since his passing last week.
It’s rather ironic that the only time I can remember feeling the loss of someone that I had never met was on the opening day of SEN on Monday 19 January, 2004.
Australian cricketer David Hookes was felled by a punch to the head and died, and I remember grieving for a man that I had never shook the hand of.
Those thousands of people who never met Andy, but heard him three to four times on the radio each week – well they’re experiencing that same sense of loss right now.
Just like Hookesy … his voice and passion was infectious.
Andy’s legacy will live on.
Schwarz, who attended Monday’s funeral at Pakenham Cemetery, announced that the ‘Soapbox’ caller of the day would be nominated for the Andy’s, an award struck in his memory.
The weekly winner will receive an Andy stubby holder, with the yearly winner having his or her name printed on the stubby holder beside the year of their victory.
Every day, every week, every year – Andy’s name will be spoken on the airwaves … a fitting tribute indeed.
The Pakenham Racing Club has honoured our request to run a race in Andy’s honour, with The Andrew McMillan Memorial to be run on Thursday 8 February, 2018, exactly a year on from his passing.
Another fitting tribute – Andy was clearly the number one customer of the club over the years.
His spirit will live on through his daughter Chloe, his son Tom, and through his mates at the Cardinia Club.
Carat, cut, colour and clarity – Andy was a rough-cut diamond that glistened – a man amongst men!