I never met you Neil Rankin. But I wanted to. Sadly you passed away before I got a chance to photograph you ... there were many chances.
The first time I ever came across you was in Mallacoota at Bastion Point.
There was an early morning sea fog, you were at the lookout staring out towards Gabo, leaning on your hand-carved twisted walking stick, smoking a cigarette, a small black and white Jack Russell at your feet.
It was your worn skipper's hat and blue braces hitching up your baggy jeans that really caught my attention. You looked like an old archetypal fisherman: you looked like you had a story to tell.
I could've taken your picture there and then - but I wanted to get it right - so I decided I'd wait until I saw you again.
You turned, picked up your dog and got into your white Toyota Landcruiser and headed off down the road - leaving me with the idea of your portrait and the chance I 'd have to take to get it.
I asked a few people in the pub about you: "Who's that old man with the dog and the Landcruiser with the skipper's hat?"
"That's Neil Rankin - Muldoon; comes from Genoa - sixth generation; his mother was a Bridle," the locals replied.
I later learned Muldoon was your nickname and it was a thing in your family. Your four sons all go by nicknames.
The next time I saw you, I was walking my dog along Maurice Ave.
It was on dusk, I noticed the lights of a quaint fisherman's cottage filling the timber framed windows with a tungsten glow. A large painted swooping sea eagle hung by the front door. And then I saw you inside, perhaps at the kitchen sink.
I was glad to know where you lived - maybe I 'd photograph you there: out the front holding your dog in the early morning light - 'fisherman's delight'.
A few days later - walking past again, I noticed there wasn't a glow coming from the windows and inside was dark. The large swooping sea eagle that was hanging next to the front door wasn't there anymore, and neither were you.
I thought maybe I had missed my chance.
Turns out you'd moved to Eden to be closer to your second wife Corrie, who was in care "up the coast".
It wasn't until a few years later, I came across you again. This time it was on Imlay St.
You were out the front of the newsagent, still wearing your skipper's hat and you were reaching into the front pocket of your bomber jacket for a smoke.
I heard you used to roll your own back in the day: it gave you something to do with your hands while you were chatting to mates over a beer at the pub.
My chance had come up again.
This time I thought I 'd not only photograph you I'd write a story too for the Magnet. I had only just started working at the paper and so I thought I had time - I'd get my chance.
Turns out we never met; a moment that could've been, but never was. A chance I missed.
Neil Angus Rankin (Muldoon) died peacefully on May 26, 2019. His funeral was held in Gipsy Point last Friday, June 7.
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