100 Not Out! Don Collins (OX 1940)
Wednesday, 4 October 2023

Written By Catherine Hall, College Archivist 

On the 15 March 2023, Matthew Donovan (Don) Collins celebrated his 100th birthday, making him the oldest living Old Xaverian.

Don attended Xavier Preparatory School, Burke Hall from 1932 to 1936 and Xavier College from 1937 to 1940 when he completed his Leaving Certificate.  Don played football and was the 1937 Bantam Weight Champion in Boxing.  However, his first love was cricket.  In 1937 he was the Captain of the Under 14’s, in 1939 he was selected as a member of the 1st XI and by 1940, was classed as one of the opening batsmen for the 1st XI and was awarded School Colours for Cricket. 

Don’s father, Matthew (Mat) Collins, attended CBC St. Kilda, but Mat’s brothers (Don’s Uncles), John (Jack) (OX 1904), Timothy (Tim) (OX 1907) and Maurice (OX 1924) Collins all came to Xavier.  Mat, Jack and Tim all played for the Hawthorn Football Club (c.1906-1915) and later Mat, Jack and Tim would serve in World War I.  Jack was listed as Missing in Action on 20 September 1917.  Only Mat and Tim would return home to Melbourne.  

Don’s two brothers also attended Xavier, John Collins (OX 1936) and Fr. James (Jim) Collins SJ (OX 1945).  Their sister, Josephine (Jose), would travel to India as well as working on the Maytime Fair, to support Fr Jim.  Jose was also the Australian liaison officer for Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC, in establishing homes for the sick, especially those suffering from leprosy.  Fr Jim was tragically killed on the 29 October 1963 aged 35, in a motor vehicle accident near St. Xavier’s High School, Kurseong, India.  Both John and Don served in World War II. 

In 1941, The Xaverian reports that Don is, ’…now working with his father after spending some time in the Public Service, and attends evening lectures.’ (commerce).   By 1942 Don is listed as serving with the Army and in 1945, Don’s letter to the editor of The Xaverian was published.  

‘John Collins has been demobilised after having been to the Middle East, New Guinea and the Islands.  He has gone into business at Preston.  Don is still up North with the army.  He writes: 
Dear Father, Thank you so very much for your letter - yes, the "Xaverian" has arrived, and was received with great delight in these quarters.  I had a phone call from John Pawson (OX 1938) this morning to know if he could open the "Xaverian."  He had just seen it arrive with the mail.  I myself have already spent many interesting hours gazing through the pages; I often wonder during the year where many of the boys are and what they are doing... John (Collins) will be very anxious to see it too, … of course we have not been together for over three months now although we do occasionally see each other.

John Pawson is 2nd in Command of our battalion and has given me a great deal of help.  Our work is rather interesting and essentially "different" for our show is composed wholly of natives (fuzzy-wuzzies) with a sprinkling of European N.C.O's. and Officers. The first task is to master the language and the second to prevent yourself from going completely native, speaking "Pidgin" each and every day certainly has a strange effect on one's ordinary conversation, but I must admit that our work has its humourous side for the boys are good for a hundred laughs a day.

I manage frequently to get down to a nearby American Hospital to Mass and Benediction – they have a beautiful chapel there, a lovely organ and even a choir.  I can't help but admire the way the American Army looks after its men – they have everything.  I was down there last night to "Stations of the Cross" ...  Unfortunately it began to rain and by the time I arrived back at camp the river was raging (two nights ago the heavy downpour had destroyed the bridge), so I was forced to wade through – believe me, I was glad to make the other side!

I was glad to see the examinations turn out so successfully this year.  I have just had a letter from Jim giving me almost "a ball to ball" description of the first P.S. match against Geelong Grammar.  It's a pity our team are so young, nevertheless he is confident that they will give Wesley some stiff opposition in the next match.  And now, Father, I will close, thank you once again for everything –   good-bye.  Yours sincerely, Don Collins.’

By 1946 Don was working with the family furniture business in Preston and on Saturday 16 August 1947, he married Kathleen Mary Curtis of Preston, in the Xavier College Memorial Chapel.  Don and Kathleen went on to have four children: Sue, Steven (OX 1967), Michael (OX 1974) and Jenny.  Kathleen passed away and later Don married Anne Wright-Smith.

Don was involved with the Old Xaverians’ Association, of which he was President in 1967 and again in 1976, as well as the Old Xaverians’ Cricket Club and Old Xaverians’ Football Club for many years.

Don’s brother John married Jean Johnson in 1946.  Jean’s brother Roger Johnson (OX 1939) was Don’s best friend.  Roger served in the RAAF and was killed during air operations in England on 4 March 1945.  John and Jean had two children, twins Christopher (Chris) (OX 1968) and Therese.  Chris is father to current staff member Andrea Hamilton, making Don her Great Uncle.

Andrea is married to Timothy (Tim) Hamilton (OX 1993) and has two sons, Joshua (Josh) (OX 2022) and Benjamin (Ben) (Year 10) Hamilton. 

Congratulations Don on what is truly an incredible century of memories and experiences.  A milestone many of us only dream of reaching.  D. Collins – 100 Not Out.