The Limestone Park toilet block where Westy Mill discovered murdered toddler Deidre Kennedy.
Ipswich racing lost one of the devotees of the sport in the city when the funeral service was conducted for Westy Mill on Saturday the 26th of March 2005.
Born Ronald James Mill on the 25th of July 1927, he would assume the name “Westy” – the same nickname given to his father John. As a little boy taken to Ipswich Central Boys School on horseback for his first day at school, John with Ron in tow, was met by the headmaster who greeted John with the words “oh, here’s a little Westy”. The nickname would stay with both father and son all their lives, John passing away at age 83 and Ron at 77.
Westy Mill was born and raised in Ipswich and spent his entire life in the city of his birth. He had a very interesting life and only some months ago at Bundamba racetrack at Ipswich, I had asked him if he’d let me write his life’s story. In seemingly perfect health at the time, he agreed to do that. Sadly fate never intended it so, as Westy’s body became afflicted with cancer.
Westy was a regular at Bundamba racetrack. He loved a bet and enjoyed a day out at the track where he was a friend to all. He was a particularly hard marker of jockeys, he would rather curse what he would determine to be a poor ride, than blame his own selection method! Like all punters he backed lots of losers and the odd winner. He also got particular joy out of tipping you a winner, particularly if you weren’t smart enough to cop the tip!
Westy Mill was honoured by revered harness racing writer Ray Lowndes in his book “From Kedron to Albion Park” – ( a pictorial history of trotting in Queensland 1880 – 1968). Ray interviewed Westy for his book and noted that Ron’s introduction to harness racing was “in 1948 at the Rosewood Show”. During the interview, Westy commented “Billy McGowan was there (at the Rosewood Show) with show jumpers”. Billy McGowan went on to train the great Albion Park mare Elmo Dawn in the 1970’s.
Westy told Ray of how he “drove the leading show trotter of the 1957-58 seasons – a horse called Euly for an owner named Merv Reinke”. In later life, Reinke would train the champion Queensland pacer Wondai’s Mate from his South Burnett property. Merv Reinke passed away in 2004.
Westy Mill had great success with his pacers, the likes of Silver Sin, Golden Kalbar, Carl Richmond and Sianatra, mainly on the show circuit and at Ipswich track. Transport difficulties in those early days saw Westy tell Ray in his book that he “only went to Kedron Park once (to race) when it started up after the war” and continued by saying “ it was too far from home in those days”. To show how transport has changed, the same trip today is a three quarter hour drive with a loaded horse float.
Westy Mill lived just near a large recreational park called Limestone Park that still exists to this day, very close to the Ipswich CBD. Today it is a sporting mecca and boasts an athletics field, netball courts, cricket pitches, cycling arena, skate bowl and an AFL field.
As the current population of Ipswich increases Limestone Park is used far more today by large numbers of people, but when I first moved to Ipswich in 1976, it was used to gallop greyhounds and pacers on in the first light of day. Westy would take his pacers through Limestone Park to work them at the Ipswich Showgrounds, where harness racing meetings were held each Saturday afternoon. No trotters or pacers were allowed to work at the Ipswich Showgrounds on Saturday mornings because of the afternoon race program, so Westy would always work his horses in Limestone Park on Saturday mornings. The day of Saturday the 14th of April 1973 would start off the same as any other for him. On driving one of his pacers through Limestone Park he noticed an object that he thought was a doll that had been thrown onto the roof of a toilet block. On closer inspection, he made the sickening discovery of the body of Ipswich toddler Deidre Kennedy. The 17 month old baby had been murdered and sexually abused just 500 metres from her family’s 2 bedroom flat. The infant had been abducted sometime after 10 p.m. the previous night while sleeping with her sister Stephanie. A male employed as a RAAF electrical fitter at the time of the murder, Raymond John Carroll, was subsequently twice found guilty by jury of the murder, only to be acquitted on technicalities. Even today, over 30 years after the murder, lobbying continues to have Australia’s “double jeopardy” laws changed, as currently under Australian law a person can’t be charged with the same crime twice.
So the name Westy Mill became forever etched in the history of the city of Ipswich on that terrible day. Westy was forced to relive the ordeal time and time again in court proceedings. His widow Marj told me “he wouldn’t talk about it personally at the time, as we had young children. He even tried to revive the baby at the scene. A chap walking greyhounds came along and helped, but he (Westy) remained inwardly very upset”.
Westy Mill had other sporting interests in Ipswich playing cricket and football and he also served time as a lifesaver.
Upon leaving school, Westy’s first job was delivering groceries in a horse and cart before then working at an Ipswich department store called Cribb and Foote which was many years later destroyed by fire. Westy also worked in Queensland Railways at the North Ipswich railway workshops for about 20 years.
In his later working life, Westy Mill sold real estate for Action Realty, Ray White, L.J.Hooker and spent the final five or six years of his working life at City Realty. He lived long enough to see the huge property boom of the south-east Queensland region also enhance Ipswich values significantly in recent years, meaning that his sales ability of talking people into buying real estate, had helped hundreds of families to the financial security they enjoy today. In his real estate role, he also got involved in auctioneering calling it “acting”. His “acting” saw him appear in a television hair commercial for Queensland hairdressing icon “Stefan”, when Westy played the part of a minister of religion marrying a young couple in the scene. Westy’s acting saw him appear on the television show “New Faces” in 1970 in front of critic Bernard King. An abrasive character with a sharp and unrelenting tongue, King befriended Westy after he won his heat and invited him to form part of the Bernard King All Star Review. Westy no doubt performed with alacrity and flair while playing his ukulele and singing. They played regularly at Brisbane’s SGIO Theatre doing musical comedy acts, with Westy performing under his stage name of Ron Mill.
Westy is survived by his wife Marjorie, to whom he was married for 43 years, his daughters Jane, Anne and Robyn and his six grandchildren Perye, Tom, Sarah, Eliza, Selina and Jasmine.
People from many walks of life attended the packed church for the funeral. There was a respected barrister, along with Noel Kunde, the man who won the Australian bantamweight boxing title in 1964, only to lose the title in a 15 round points decision to Lionel Rose in 1966. Also present were many fellow masonic lodge members, plenty of racing enthusiasts and a host of other friends and acquaintances, who all turned out to bid farewell to a lovely chap called Westy Mill.
In his roles as husband, father, grandfather, trotting trainer and driver, cricketer, footballer, lifesaver, real estate manager, auctioneer, actor and punter, Ronald James (Westy) Mill has left us all with some wonderful memories of times spent together.