By Kath Gannaway
The name Strachan is synonymous with cricket in the Yarra Valley. More than that, it’s synonymous with cricket at its highest level. To win the D. J. Strachan Shield is the best you get when the season ends each year.
In a Mail interview with Don Strachan in 2008, he was typically humble, even a little bemused, at such a lofty honour.
“I remember going to a meeting … I don’t know how it came up, but they must have had an idea they would change A Grade and call it something.
“My name must have got thrown up, probably because I’d been around for a long while,” he said at the time.
It’s the sort of understatement that those who know him would not be surprised to hear. Don started playing for Wandin Cricket Club at 14, just after the war and was involved as a player and official for more than six decades.
Cricket was a huge part of his life, but it was just part of his life-story which is in many ways also a story of Wandin.
Donald John Strachan was born on 27 November 1930 in Brunswick, the eldest son of Gustavus and Margaret Strachan. He was two when they moved to Wandin, and cleared land which they planted out with berries, stone fruit and apples.
They lived in Clegg Road, and with Heather, Jean, Ken and Barbara completing the family, life was typical of many of the district’s families of that era.
Don went to Wandin Yallock State School, and later to Lilydale Higher Elementary School and helped out on the farm.
During recess and lunchtime, he played cricket and football, and Saturday afternoons were spent fishing in Stringybark Creek with friends.
He was still at state school when he got a job at Lester’s Bakery delivering bread on Saturday mornings, and only 10 years old when he started working at Hutchinson’s general store after school.
He left school at 15 when Hutchinsons offered him a full time job, leading to a lifetime career running his own grocery/supermarket business.
He worked in grocery stores in Seville and Wandin, and it was also where he met his future wife Dorothy Rouget.
They were married in January, 1955, at the Wandin Yallock Methodist Church, moving into a ‘two-room shack’ for six months before renting and later buying their own house.
The family grew starting with Diane in 1957 and followed by John, Janette and Ian.
In 1963, Don and Dorothy bought the general store on the corner of Beenak Road and Warburton Highway, and Don was back where he started as a boy. The store stocked everything from groceries and newsagency lines to drapery, hardware, stockfeeds, agricultural products and was the State Bank agency.
Just four years later, they started building a new supermarket at Wandin’s new shopping centre. It was a struggle but with all the family pitching in they paid off a mortgage in just three years.
Moving with the times, the new business was self-serve groceries, but still had newsagency, drapery and the State Bank agency. A liquor licence was obtained in 1973.
After selling the business in 1979, Don worked in wholesale groceries and local supermarket businesses until retiring at 61.
Don never laid claim to a fierce passion for the cricket, explaining back in 2008 that he just loved sport.
“I just liked playing,” he said. “In those days, you played cricket in the summer and football in the winter. Then on Sundays, I’d play social tennis with friends.”
His forte was as a batsman and that was what made the game exciting for him.
He said the biggest thrill was winning 12 premierships.
When the naming of the D. J. Strachan Shield was announced in 1992, YVCA secretary Keith Thompson spoke of the factors that influenced their decision.
He said Don attended his first AGM in 1948, was vice-president for 12 years, secretary for 13 years, delegate to VCCL Zone 9 for 12 years, on the Permit Committee for 23 years, auditor for 12 years, and a YVCA Tribunal member at that time since its commencement in 1988. His contribution continued in some areas even longer. In 1964, he was made a life member of the YVCA.
On the field, among many outstanding achievements, he won the YVCA batting award nine times.
Don had a strong relationship also with Wandin Football Club, starting as a boundary umpire at 15 earning five shillings a week, and playing his first game in 1948.
The first game was against Yarra Glen, with Don playing half forward flank and kicking a goal in the first quarter. Wandin won the game, but he recalled the highlight as a pat on the back from senior player Allan McColl.
He represented the Yarra Valley League team on a number of occasions and when Wandin dropped out of the competition, he moved to Woori Yallock and won their Best and Fairest award.
When Wandin reformed in 1959 in the Eastern District League, he played on until 1962 when business took priority. He was made a Life Member of Wandin Football Club in 1952.
Don served as a Justice of the Peace for many years and as treasurer for Mont De Lancey Museum for six years.
Family holidays when the children were small were often spent with other local families and that continued later in life when Don and Dorothy travelled throughout Australia and to many parts of the world, often with friends.
They shared many wonderful times together, including being besotted grandparents, before Dorothy sadly passed away in 2005.
Life took another turn for Don in 2012 when he and his lifetime friend Marby Read moved in together at Tudor Village in Lilydale. Companionship and friendship was always something Don valued.
They had known each other since they were teenagers and with Marby’s husband Max, also recently deceased, had enjoyed many holidays together over the years.
Don passed away at 86 … a number he would have been happy with according to his son John.
“As any good cricketer would know,” John said. “You don’t want to go out on 87 – 13 away from 100.”
Don is survived by his children, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.