Pittwater Life February 2017 Issue

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Home,

not

Life Stories

Away

Actor Shane Withington knows he’s blessed

to be able to work and live in Pittwater.

Story by Rosamund Burton

Early morning Shane Withington sets

off from Church Point on Solitaire,

his 1945 wooden ketch, up Pittwater

to Palm Beach where he steps onto the

set of Home and Away. “I always motor to

work to ensure I’m there on time,” says

Withington, the funny irascible John

Palmer character, “and I sail back.”

We have met at the Church Point

Waterfront Café, where this highprofile

actor is able to drink his coffee

undisturbed, and locals pulling up to

the wharf in their tinnies just give him

a wave. In the city, he says, it would be

hard to walk down the street. Having

run for nearly 30 years, Home and Away

has a worldwide viewing audience of 50

million.

“People make pilgrimages from all

over the world to Palm Beach to watch us

film, and there are ropes and security, so

we can actually shoot the show.”

Shane Withington grew up in

Toowoomba, was expelled from school

aged 15 and worked as a jackaroo

on Lyrian Downs Station in the Gulf

country.

“I was a wild lad, uncontrollable,

passionate and troublesome. These

26

days I probably would have just been

diagnosed with ADHD,” he offers.

Shane hated jackarooing, so gave that

up after six months. As he had been in

amateur theatre as a child his mother

suggested that he apply for a theatre

scholarship. He won it and trained for

two years at the Twelfth Night Theatre in

Brisbane.

“We were the last theatre company

in the country to tour by train,” he

reminisces. “The cast included actors

such at Barry Otto, and we had a sleeper

carriage, which was shunted through

the rail yards at night. A voice would call

out, ‘What livestock are you carrying?’

And we’d reply, ‘Actors!’ We travelled to

places like Ingham and Cairns, and being

the junior cast member I put the set

up with the crew, then sold the tickets,

before changing into wardrobe and

doing the show. After the performance

I helped bump out (unload) and put

everything back on the train, and off

we’d chuff to the next venue. It was a

romantic and wonderful introduction to

the performing arts.”

Aged 19 he did a season with Theatre

On Sea on a cruise ship, met a girl from

FEBRUARY 2017

Pittwater, and moved in with her. “I fell

in love with Pittwater and just wanted to

be part of it, and I’ve never moved.”

He bought his first boat, and now being

a sailor, grew a beard. The beard didn’t

help his acting career, as it hid his face,

and it wasn’t until he had shaved it off that

he was offered the role of Brendan Jones

in A Country Practice. Playing Molly Jones,

his character’s wife, was Anne Tenney. “We

fell in love, and we’ve remained together

ever since,” he recounts.

These two young actors never realised

that those roles would stay with them for

their entire lives. They both won Logie

Awards for their performances, and the

episode featuring Molly’s death in 1985

was watched by 2.5 million Australians,

and is one of the highest rating moments

in the history of Australian television.

It was those years in A Country

Practice that enabled the young couple

to buy their house at Church Point where

they have lived ever since. “My only

regret is that I didn’t have two or three

more children just like Maddy,” says

Shane about their only child. “She is an

absolute delight.”

Madeleine Withington is following in

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