Life GovernorBrigadier Doctor Brian McMahon

By Brent Alexander | Posted: Friday December 8, 2017

At the Junior Prize-giving ceremony this morning I had the absolute pleasure and indeed privilege to honour one of our most distinguished Old Boys'.

The Society appoints, what is termed, a ‘Life Governor’ which is in effect an honorary position, but is bestowed upon an old boy who is highly regarded and who has given selflessly to the organisation. He is a figurehead, a patriarch, a gentleman to whom we look up to with the greatest of respect. I believe, especially these days, it is important for us all to have positive role models, someone who upholds the highest level of personal character and good values. Brigadier Doctor Brian McMahon has been Life Governor of the Old Boys’ Society for the past 17 years.

He phoned me a couple of months ago and said he was aware that the position of Life Governor is meant to be for life but he felt he was not up to the task any longer; not that he wasn’t interested anymore, but purely from a health and fitness point of view. He wished to tender his resignation so that someone younger with a bit more energy could take on the role. After some robust discussion and, despite my protestations, he was adamant, and so I reluctantly accepted his resignation.

On behalf of the Society I want to acknowledge Brian’s contribution to our organisation. Just so you can get some understanding of the calibre of person we are talking about here I offer the following brief summary of his background.

Dr McMahon studied medicine and trained here in Dunedin and has served his country as a soldier, citizen, doctor and humanitarian and started his service in the New Zealand Army in 1966 as a resident medical officer in Waiouru. During his time in the army, he was appointed regimental medical officer 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment in Malaysia, and served as a medical officer in the 1st New Zealand Services Medical Team in Vietnam. His army career culminated in his appointment as director-general of Defence Force Medical Services in 1980. After his retirement in 1983, Dr McMahon remained active within defence medical services, and was colonel commandant of the medical corps from 1992-95 and again from 2005-08.

Outside the army, he had a distinguished medical career and was medical superintendent of Wakari Hospital and later Dunedin Hospital, and a lecturer at the Otago Medical School.

He has had a long interest in eradicating leprosy in the Southwest Pacific and Southeast Asia and has in recent years been closely involved with fundraising more than $3M for the Neurosurgery Chair at Dunedin hospital.

In 2011, Dr McMahon became the second only recipient of the award of ANZAC NZer of the Year, which is initiated by the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RSA) to recognise the qualities of comradeship, compassion, courage and commitment which embody the tradition of the Anzac. In a typical display of humility and modesty Dr McMahon said he was "very honoured and quite embarrassed" about his award. "I've been in the military and I know what a lot of other people have done. You think `Why me?"

However, he said he was "quite delighted". "It is a wonderful thing to have happened." These days Brian enjoys the odd round of golf, is supported by his 5 children, and is kept busy with his 8 grandchildren.

I sincerely thank Brian for his dedicated and long service to Otago Boys'  and for being our life governor over the past 17 years. It means more to us than he probably realises. He has made a wonderful contribution to this school and indeed to the country, during his service, and over the many years since his retirement.

We are all very proud to have had Brigadier Doctor Brian McMahon as part of our greater school family and extend our very best wishes to him and his family for the future.

Brent Alexander

Old Boys' Society President