A file photo of Clem MacMahon with some of the original historic documents in the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum's collection. Mr MacMahon passed away last Friday, November 14.
A file photo of Clem MacMahon with some of the original historic documents in the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum's collection. Mr MacMahon passed away last Friday, November 14. Graham Broadhead

Ballina's old man of the sea - Clem MacMahon OAM - dies

THE ocean will make the perfect backdrop for the farewell of Ballina's Clem MacMahon OAM.

Mr MacMahon, who passed away last Friday aged 89, had "an affinity with the sea" and enjoyed the outdoors, his family said, which is why his funeral will take place looking out over the ocean at East Ballina's open-air chapel at Dunes on Shelly.

The World War II Royal Australian Navy veteran is best known in recent times as the president of the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, a position he has held for the past 20 years, and has held over a period of 30 years.

Under Clem's watch, the Ballina museum, a popular tourist attraction, had a major renovation in 2007 - with Clem the driving force in lobbying for government grants and council approvals.

His latest negotiation project was to have a section of the museum built in to protect the historic river vessel, MV Florrie.

Clem MacMahon and Neil Halliday with the Samson Post at Angels Beach Ballina.
Clem MacMahon and Neil Halliday with the Samson Post at Angels Beach Ballina. The Northern Star Archives

Clem's wife of 65 years, Yvonne, said Clem was "a good people person and a good negotiator for the community".

"He worked hard, and it had to be done right," she said.

At the age of 89, he was still "going to work" at the museum every day.

Curator of the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, Ron Creber, said Clem would "be sadly missed".

Clem left school at 15 to join the merchant navy, then enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy in 1942, seeing active service Darwin and the Pacific Ocean until his discharge as a Lieutenant in 1947.

He returned to studies after the war and enrolled in medicine at Sydney University. He transferred to teaching in 1951, and completed a science degree.

"Mr Mac" taught science, being promoted to senior school positions in the NSW Department of Education before moving to Rosebank in 1976 and retiring in 1984 as the regional inspector of studies and services for the North Coast.

While in Sydney, he also ran the Sutherland Shire Evening College for 19 years.

Mr MacMahon moved to Ballina in 1986.

As a volunteer with the NSW Cancer Council since 1981, he established a network of field officers to run education programs. Clem also was instrumental in establishing the North Coast Breast Screening Program. He received a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1997 for his work in cancer education programs and adult education and a Premier's Award in 2003 for community work.

Clem is survived by Yvonne and daughters Susan, Fran, Penny, Michele, Stephanie and Judy.

His funeral will be held at Dunes on Shelly, East Ballina, at 11am on Monday, November 24.


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