Major Shanahan’s grandson visits ‘Bill’

Terry Shanahan, grandson of Major Michael Shanahan, visits with sculptor Carl Valerius and shares some of his famous grandfather's history.
Terry Shanahan, grandson of Major Michael Shanahan, visits with sculptor Carl Valerius and shares some of his famous grandfather's history.

Terry Shanahan, from Killarney in Queensland, recently made the trip to Murrumburrah to see the Carl Valerius statue that is a monument to his grandfather Michael Shanahan and his infamous horse ‘Bill the Bastard’.

“My grandfather died in 1964, the year I joined the Royal Australian Air Force, but I have memories of him and of course there are lots of family stories.” Mr Shanahan said.

“One of my clearest memories of him was from when I was a child, maybe four or five. My mother took me into a big department store in Queensland where my grandfather was operating the lift. He only had one leg, which of course, was fascinating for a little boy, and he used two walking sticks to get around. I was told later that he flatly refused to used crutches.”

It seems Major Michael Shanahan’s heroics began long before he joined the Lighthorse during the first World War.

“My family have told me that during massive floods in Roma Queensland, I am not sure of the year, my grandfather used to use an old tin boat to take food across to people who were stranded – at some great personal risk I might add.” Mr Shanahan said. “His nickname in the family was ‘The Bloke”, and he earned the reputation of being somewhat of a ‘Robin Hood’ during the depression of 1890.”

“Family history has it that he used to sneak out to wealthy properties and slaughter a beast, then distribute the meat amongst the poor families in town who could not afford to feed their children. That little escapade made him very popular in town, but I am not sure how the farmers felt about it.” Mr Shanahan said.

“Another story was that he rode 200km on a pushbike during the  1890 Depression to get work as a carpenter and once won a five pound bet for a hurdle race – big money in those days. He also had trophies as a young man for Irish dancing – I’m not sure how that came about.”

“As an older man, I know he never missed an ANZAC march, he never smoked or drank and ate porridge for his breakfast every day, he said it was these habits that afforded him a long life. He even built himself a skateboard to get around on, there was no stopping him.”

Mr Shanahan’s uncle, the last remaining child of Michael Shanahan passed away just a few weeks ago.

“It is up to our generation now, to remember Michael Shanahan as the strong Aussie bloke he was. He would have been proud of Carl’s sculpture, I am sure. I can’t wait to see it completed.  I believe my grandfather was one of the original ‘horse whisperers’ and that is how he won Bill over – that and the licorice allsorts he carried.”