A 13 year old biographer

When I was 13 years old, our English teacher, the delightful Miss Seedsman, gave us an exercise in biography. The task was to interview someone about their childhood and write it up in three sections: family life, school life and a description of a game played at school.

I interviewed my dad.

1970 Marg and Jack COGHLAN Mc Kean St Box Hill

1970 Dad, John “Jack” Leo COGHLAN (1909-1974), and me. Author’s private collection.

Dad, John “Jack” Leo COGHLAN, was no doubt a willing participant and, I can imagine, I was a diligent interviewer. I don’t remember the actual interview but, fortunately, I have kept evidence of it in the form of my finished assignment.

On reading it now, forty six years later, it seems very formal, especially referring to Dad as the ‘collaborator’! I’m sure this would have been Miss Seedsman’s idea not mine.

The following is the finished assignment with Miss Seedsman’s comments. There are a few cheeky details that Dad sneaked in. Was I being so diligent that I didn’t even notice or did I think they were funny too and included them on purpose? Who knows. I can’t remember. Whatever the case it gives the piece his ‘voice’ which is lovely. Hope you enjoy it.


The setting for Dad’s childhood is Bullarto, near Daylesford, Victoria.

The year of interview is 1970.

First up, a description of school life…1970 An enquiry into the Past 57 years ago Page 1 of 2

John Leo Coghlan abt 1913

c.1913 John “Jack” Leo COGHLAN. Bullarto, Victoria. Author’s private collection.

1970 An enquiry into the Past 57 years ago Page 2 of 2

Naughty me. I didn’t write a conclusion!

And now, some details of Jack’s home life…1970 biography of Joahn Leo Coghlan

Not sure what happened to that sentence, ‘His mother…’. I can imagine she wouldn’t have been too impressed with snowballs dropping onto the stove while she was cooking.

1920s Jack and Nance Coghlan and Snowman Bullarto

1920s Jack COGHLAN, his sister Nance and snowman. Bullarto, Victoria. Author’s private collection.

And lastly, the description of a game played at school.

Dad picked the game, ‘Trains’…1970 Explanation of 'Trains'

Yes, I agree Miss Seedsman, it sounds very chaotic. Not a game that survived the passage of time.


It’s hard to believe that what I documented is life as it was in country Victoria now more than 100 years ago. It’s not the best biography ever written but it sets the scene of a boy who had a pretty idyllic childhood and who liked to give a bit of cheek. Unfortunately, his mother, my grandmother, died before I was born. I would loved to have quizzed her about her boy and his pranks. I’m sure she would have had some stories to tell.

This is one instance where I’m glad I’m a bit of a hoarder.

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8 Responses to A 13 year old biographer

  1. Howard Winter says:

    Hi Margaret
    I suppose it’s a long time since it snowed in Bullarto!

    Great photo of the very young 1913 Jack Coghlan.

    best regards
    Howard

    • Marg says:

      Thanks Howard. He was a cute kid! Bullarto’s pretty high so I think it snows there every year. Thanks for the comment. Marg

  2. Rosemary says:

    This is precious Marg. So much detail. It gives a lot of information and insight into your Dad’s everyday life. I hadn’t seen the photo before of Mum with Uncle Jack and the snowman. An excellent assignment and so glad you kept it. Rosemary x

    • Marg says:

      Thanks Rosemary. I must have known these details would be valuable one day. Your mum looks pleased with herself. Thanks for reading x

  3. Susie Zada says:

    Your hand-writing was wonderful – did you go to a convent? I remember the nuns were VERY particular about hand-writing!

    • Marg says:

      Hi Susie. Yes I did go to a Catholic school but I think I’ve put my own ‘flair’ into this assignment with some groovy ’70s tails on my gs, ys and js. Thanks for the comment.

  4. GeniAus says:

    What a treasure Marg. I bet your Dad was proud at the time.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Jill. Yes, I’m sure he was. I’m also sure he was trying not to laugh as he placed his little gems in amongst the details. Thanks for the comment.

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