Phil Mahoney was just two years old when he first made it into the public eye.
It was 2 February 1950 when he and his nine-year-old brother Bill featured on the front page of the Newcastle Morning Herald.
The pair was photographed inside the Lambton Library before it was officially opened to the public.
Barefoot and scarcely clothed the cheeky youngsters snuck into the building to read a book an hour before local dignitaries arrived.
“The gardener was letting us cool down in the sprinkler while he was watering the flower beds at Lambton Park,” Phil said.
“Bill and I saw the books inside and thought we’d go in and check it out.
“Next minute we’re having our photo taken for the local newspaper.”
The image, entitled Doubling up on Reading, kick-started a public career that was to span half a century.
It’s a career that has been compiled and released in a 540-page colour hard-back book, written by Phil’s son Justin Mahoney.
Try a Little Kindness includes hundreds of photos not only documenting the career of Phil Mahoney, but incidentally the history of Newcastle.
The Lambton born and bred performer worked with the likes of Ron Knight, Andrew Hill, Morgan Evans, Smoky Dawson, Slim Dusty, and Chad Morgan.
Perhaps most notably for the younger generation, Phil was the first to introduce popular children’s group ‘The Wiggles’ to the stage at Westfield Warrawong in July 1991.
“It was their first live show and I think they were pretty nervous so they got dad to introduce them onto stage,” Justin said.
“Somewhere in the introduction dad ad-libbed, as he was famous for doing, and introduced one of the characters as ‘Dorothy the ding-a-ling Dinosaur’.
“The name didn’t stick but Greg Page (original yellow wiggle character) says they used it behind the scenes.”
Phil’s 50-year career also included employment at the Newcastle Meatworks, The Star newspaper, work as a rugby league coach, an actor on Channel 7’s Home and Away, a greyhound trainer, a horse strapper, as well as centre manager of Wallsend Plaza, to name a few.
His stage career however, began within a band called Blue Memories.
“Dad was the roadie, he had a standard 8 panel van that was ideal for carrying band gear to venues,” Justin said.
“They needed a drummer and he decided to have a go. He naturally had a beat, and the gift of the gab, and it built on from there.”
By the 1970s, Phil was inundated with work.
“In the 1970s Newcastle was second only to Las Vegas for the amount of live shows it hosted,” Justin said.
“Five nights a week local pubs were jam-packed with audiences and Phil was right in the middle of all that.”
It was after one of these alcohol-filled evenings that Phil made the news once again after his mate George contacted police after he claimed to have seen a UFO crop circle in Lambton Park.
“People thought it was just from playing Drinking in Pairs, and George was a well-known drinker, but the next day the gardener saw an unexplained burnt circle near the rotunda,” Phil said.
“This was the first suburb to have street lights so we would have been seen from space here in Lambton I reckon.”
The seemingly endless shows came to a sudden halt in 1980 Phil says.
“That’s when RBT’s [Random Breath Testing] came to Lambton and no one could drive home anymore,” he said.
“There was no one left at the clubs.”
That was when Phil tried his hand at children’s entertainment and the Captain Kidd Family Fun Show was born.
By 1991 Phil and wife Donna had become regular entertainers aboard P&O Cruises.
And while his reputation as a talented entertainer grew, so too did Phil’s legacy for fundraising.
“Dad raised the first funds for the Newcastle Oncology Clinic,” Justin said.
“He’s also designed promotions that raised thousands of dollars for the Melanoma Institute and Heart Foundation, and since 1987 he’s been a long-time supporter of Camp Quality.”
Between 1974 and 1985 Phil raised more than $50,000 for the Hunter Cancer Clinic Appeal, which led to the establishment of the Hunter Oncology unit.
“Mum and dad would go and entertain kids that had been diagnosed with cancer every September school holidays at Camp Quality in Tocal,” Justin said.
“They did that for years.”
It was a cause that began close to home, Phil says.
“It really hit home when dad [William Mahoney] was diagnosed with skin cancer in 1976,” he said.
“He had to travel down to Sydney for six weeks’ for treatment, and he had to stay on his own with no family to support him.”
“I thought ‘we need somewhere to have treatments here’.”
Phil didn’t like watching his dad have to leave for weeks at a time.
Born one of nine children, Phil’s early days had consisted of limited wealth.
“The story goes that Phil always wanted a horse but his family couldn’t afford it,” Justin said.
“He grew up in a miner’s cottage on De Vitre Street, his family could barely afford to feed him and his brothers and sisters let alone a horse.
“But the Tessier family from Adamstown [a popular racing family] gave him his first job as a stable hand when he was just nine and it was like a dream come true for him.
“Phil Mahoney’s motto has always been to be kind,” Justin says.
Go to philmahoney.com.au/ or visit Wallsend Village Plaza Newsagency to buy a copy of the book.
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