OBITUARY: Mark Henry Xavier Boon 1935 – 2017
Mark Boon was a man of many talents, some that were widely known, and others that this humble man rarely revealed.
Mark was born on 15 April 1935 in a vegetarian nursing home in Greenwich, a suburb of London.
Mark said that while he couldn’t explain it, his mother was not a vegetarian but that she believed in vegetarianism, he became a lifelong
His childhood at boarding school during the Second World War was rather unsettling, with his mother and sisters evacuated to the country, while Mark, too young to go to a boy’s boarding school, spent the first year at a girls’ boarding school.
His father was in the navy and his mother worked as an official war artist for the Navy.
At 11-years of age, a young Mark decided to write his first play, which resulted in an experience that firstly ‘swore him off’ writing, but became a catalyst for his later careers.
He hand wrote his draft in long hand and had it typed out, and was trying to get 20 copies produced from the local newspaper – no photocopying in those days.
In Mark’s words; “Someone from the local paper liked what I wrote and told the school, which paid for the copies to be printed and allowed me to put on the play – sight unseen,”
“And on the opening night we didn’t make it to the second act, as the school authorities shut it down and sent all the boys to bed without supper, and sent me down to the basement, reinforced with steel pillars to help withstand the bombing threat – even in Gloucester.
“They thought the play was disgusting, and it probably was. It was rude, by schoolboy standards.”
After that experience Mark swore off ever writing another play, but eventually got “back on his bike” and wrote 16 more in Australia, mainly for Gawler Centre Players and the Two Wells Melodrama group.
At school Mark excelled as a middle and long distance runner and later a swimmer, also enjoying rowing, cycling, rugby football and other sports and some more academic studies. Leaving school at 18, Mark had left his mark in sport but failed pretty miserably academically.
After school Mark was called up for the Army for two years’ National Service.
Following basic training he was posted to the Isle of Wight, as he was eligible for an overseas posting.
It was while in the army that Mark began to swim and play water polo for the army.
Two year’s full time service was followed by three years part time military service.
During this time Mark started his first job in printing and advertising in Ham Yard, just off Piccadilly Circus, London.
In 1957 Mark migrated to Australia as a “ten pound Pom” and found work at Adelaide Art Engravers – part of News Limited – in Adelaide, paying 15 pounds a week.
At the time he was earning less than five pounds a week in London, so quickly accepted the job.
Mark came to love Australia and when, after two years, he had the choice to go home to England or stay, he stayed.
Living in Elizabeth Mark met Anglican Priest Howell Witt and got involved in a number of activities with him, including a religious television series on Channel 7 in the days of black and white television.
He was also involved with the Elizabeth Rugby Club and claimed to be the first ‘hooker’ in Elizabeth, on pitches that had thistles three feet high.
Mark met and married his first wife Barbara Pleming at Elizabeth.
They married in 1959 and had four children – Helen, John, Christine and Andrew. Throughout their marriage time they lived in the Elizabeth, Wasleys and Hamley Bridge areas.
He and Barbara separated in the late 1970s and Barbara passed away in 1994.
Mark worked for the Salisbury District Council, Tea Tree Gully Council, Baird Television and Atco Engineering, and started writing for the Salisbury and Elizabeth Times, owned by the Bunyip newspaper, from 1966.
This was a job he loved and showcased his natural flair for writing and journalism.
Mark had 28 years of Army service (mainly with the CMF and Army reserves in Australia), rising to the rank of sergeant in what Mark says was a fairly undistinguished military career.
For a decade Mark produced the Talking Bunyip on tape for blind or vision impaired people, and was awarded the Andrew Whyte Hendry Award by the RSB for his service.
On 6 April 1991 Mark married Kay Milton of Two Wells.
They had met when Kay went to work temporarily at the Bunyip as a journalist in 1987.
Kay says their first date was on her birthday in 1987.
Whenever going out to dinner Mark’s choice was either baked beans on toast or a bowl of chips followed by ice cream.
Kay has been a member of the Two Well Melodrama group since 1983.
Mark joined in 1993 and became president, director and writer for more than a decade.
In January 2009 he and Kay were described as ‘unassuming and largely silent achievers’ when they were named joint Citizens of the Year by the then District Council of Mallala for their involvement with the Two Wells Melodrama.
Mark loved books, not just to read but the publishing of them.
His skills as a cataloguer and the hours he gave cataloguing a special collection of books at the Gawler library is exceptional.
Mark also compiled an index for the 1908 History of Gawler by E H Coombe while Kay did the index for Derek Whitelock’s 1989 edition.
Mark loved politics and was ever ready for a discussion on whatever the main issues of the time were.
We didn’t always agree but what great conversations they were.
Mark had a great love of cars and motorbikes and competed in The News 24 hour trial.
Mark had a great thrill while in Perth a few weeks ago of having the opportunity to have a ride in a gold Rolls Royce. He was just so excited and thrilled to be given this ride and talked about it for days.
Kay and Mark recently enjoyed a few weeks caravanning in Western Australia seeing many wonderful sights and also enjoying family time together at the wedding of Kay’s nephew. The very morning Mark passed, at Nullarbor Roadhouse, on their way home, he told Kay he had had the most wonderful time as they shared holiday time together.
Mark was a man who loved his friends and community, a humble man who often had difficulty with his health but always had a smile. He was always positive and happy, with a smile never to be forgotten.