The day I didn’t meet Julian McMahon


For a long time (until I googled him) I thought this was the day I met Julian McMahon.  Actually, I met his younger sister, Deborah, in utero, which is to say she was in, but I was not.


I received a prize, presented by the well-gone Sonia McMahon, in Children’s Book Week, 1972 for a review I had written of An Older Kind of Magic by Patricia Wrightson.  Mrs McMahon stood with one knee resting on a chair, I suppose to take Deborah’s weight.  The ceremony was at the Mitchell Library.  I was interviewed by some TV program, and I remember it caused some mirth at school the next day because, when asked how many books I read, I truthfully replied “in a bad week 2 or 3, in a good week, 7 or 8.”


Afterwards, I had to go to school.  I walked to Town Hall Station to catch the train, but first I had to go to the toilet (then situated at the northern end of the underground concourse). 


Whilst seated in a cubicle (I was probably reading a book) a note was slipped under the dividing partition from the cubicle to my right.  The note read: “Do you like to play games.”


I was frightened.  At this point my memory becomes unreliable.  I think he slid a pen under the partition with the note, and I think I wrote “no.”  I don’t think I had a very clear idea of what sort of games he might be thinking of, but I was sufficiently sexually knowledgeable to realize that what was meant was something sexual, and I knew that strangers were dangerous.  I waited in the cubicle, hoping that he would go away, and fearful of any encounter with him should I leave whilst he was still present.  In retrospect, this was hardly the conduct most likely to discourage him.  He jumped up on the pedestal to look over the wall at me a few times in order to attract my attention.  I remember he had black curly hair. Eventually, he left. It probably wasn’t very long really.


I rang my mother from a public phone.  I think I might have got the rest of the day off school on the strength of it: in fact, after this I developed a whole strategy of imagined mishaps on the way to school (or feigning sleep on the train and being carried through to the end of the line), principally as a means of avoiding PE classes. 

Reports were made to the authorities and inquiries made.  I suspect it was a revelation to my mother, who was, after all, a woman of her generation (though she must have known of the incident involving Claudio Arrau).  For some years after, the enormity of my brush with something horrible weighed me down: I still remember, 2 or 3 years later, taking the excuse of an ATYP acting workshop “show and tell” confession session to unburden myself of my terrible experience.  Even though I often went to the City of Sydney Library (then in the Queen Victoria Building) and must often have had need of the Town Hall Station toilet on the way home after lingering at the library until closing time, I don’t think I “went” there again for many years.  Now, I am not sure it was really so terrible.  It was my fear which made it so, but I can’t see that anything bad would have happened to me if I had just got up and walked away. 

One Response to “The day I didn’t meet Julian McMahon”

  1. Crime and punishment « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] was solicited for sex by a stranger when I was 12. It was frightening, but I don’t think that 22 years after the event I harboured any desire […]

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