Tribute by John Thompson


What can one put into words to speak adequately about the man Max Roy Crago? A man who could discuss any subject put before him. A man whose interests, many in number, reached far beyond Meccano, Buz Builder, EzyBilt and Hornby Trains.
Max was quite a musician having achieved graduated with a high distinction pass of 89% for piano at Sydney Conservatorium. He could also blow a fine note on the saxophone. So, when he visited countless Senior Citizens Homes it was no problem for him to present an entertaining musical program, varied to suit the different venues and their residents. He danced for them and with them. If they were confined to wheel chairs Max would hold their hands and ‘dance’ with them. He was an excellent tap-dancer, it was all part of the entertainment. He and his wife Ann were ball-room dancers of note.
Max had more than a passing interest in photography. From January 1988 to January 1990, he wrote reviews for Cosina, Olympus and Nikon cameras for Australian Photography.
In his late teenage years, he and a lifelong friend, rode their bikes from Sydney to Brisbane over the sealed and gravel roads of the early 1950s. His bike, named Blue Baby, was built to suit the Crago short stature of his father, a very successful bike racing competitor. Max too, found it just right!
His favourite restaurants were McDonalds, KFC, Red Rooster, just to mention some. Max worked happily, all his working life, for the same employer in the printing industry as an expert compositor.
Conversation with Max was never dull. Stories about his colourful life were legion. If one had the good fortune to travel with him there was never a silence or a meaningless conversation. Travelling with Max was challenging in endeavouring to keep up with his active mind and keep concentration on the road head. The ‘nav’ was irrelevant when driving with him.
Forty years ago, in mid-1981, Max called, late one afternoon, at my French’s Forest home. He was door knocking for Meccano, model trains, for anything manufactured or printed by Frank Hornby and other such manufacturers. There and then began our forty-year friendship, a friendship which grew richer with every passing year. We discovered that he was born on 27 July, 1934, two days earlier than me, born 29 July.
He possessed a vision for Meccano. He never let the grass grow under his feet. He searched countless Meccano Magazines for Sydney prize winners in the competitions conducted by Meccano. He then telephoned, wrote letters, visited Sydney addresses until on Saturday, 14 November, 1981 he gathered some twenty men, unknown to each other, for a dinner and meeting in French’s Forest Baptist Church. His vision was the formation of a Meccano Club. Today, only three of the foundation members remain, Tom Hughes, Rob Renfrew and John Thompson.
For the next thirty-six years Max held the club together. He was secretary/treasurer, organiser of Meccano meetings, editor/publisher/distributer of the Association’s newsletter, historian, membership officer and annual fee reminder and caterer for all early meetings. He was tireless. He was once asked, when did he sleep? Now and then, was the cryptic answer.
During these years Max worked with then Association Chairman, the late Malcolm Booker. They were a productive team. Together they saw growth in the membership and organised outstanding Annual Exhibitions in the Baptist Church hall, Forestville, which Max continued until 2017 after Malcolm passed away in 2016. He eventually relinquished his responsibilities in 2017 when under new articles of association, new President Lee Squires took up the production of the newsletter and organisation of exhibitions, supported by volunteer Committee members. As a member of the new committee Max’s interest, knowledge and commitment proved invaluable to fellow members. This was only discontinued when serious illness prevailed.
Max was an excellent communicator and definitely a ‘people’ person. His ability to put people at ease was only to be much admired. His attention to people was often observed as he diligently spoke to as many people as possible at Meccano functions. Children found in this dapper man someone who could be instantly accepted without fear. Even when he was not well Max sat for periods of time but was never lonely as colleagues and strangers talked with him. He never failed to present interesting models whenever there was opportunity.
Confined to The Plateau and the Minkara Nursing Homes, Max made excellent use of his iPhone. Members of The Meccano Modellers Association received welcome calls from him and Max received many calls from Meccanomen, such was the respect in which he was held. He may not have been of tall stature but he stood tall as a man’s man.
During the Friday, before Max’s illness deepened resulting his entry into Northern Beaches Hospital, he phoned John Thompson about 10.00am. They talked for a long time going over old times. Memories flooded back. That Friday ‘phone call will remain very precious to John as does all his time with Max Crago as a brother and friend.

His experience of Max’s generosity of friendship was not unique to him. It was freely given to the many who had the good fortune to cross his path in his eighty-seven years.

John relates how much Max valued friendship, “Early one Saturday afternoon. when we were living at Mayfield, there was a knock on our front door. Max and Ann were smiling at me. Max said, ‘We thought about what we could do today. We decided to visit you and your family!’ They had driven all that distance from Sydney to visit us. What a pleasant afternoon we had! After an early tea Max and Ann left us to return to Warriewood. I have never forgotten their kindness of that day.”

Meccanomen feel his passing from their midst with sadness and a profound sense of loss. The loss of a valued and respected friend and colleague in the world of Meccano and beyond.

In closing this tribute, the highest tribute that can be given to Max was his love of his family. They, Ann and their children, were, first and last, his greatest love. They above all others, feel most poignantly, the loss and grief of their loved and respected husband, father and family member in his passing from this world.

Rest in peace dear friend, Max Crago.