My email friend and hero – Mac Gregory


Today I want to tell you about my email friend Mac. Mac’s real name is Mackenzie Gregory. Mac is a very special man who is 88 and lives in Australia, in Melbourne. Have you been there? Do you know anyone who lives there?

Mac survived the sinking of the H.M.A.S. Canberra. He was the Officer of the Watch when the Japanese attacked. That means he was in charge of the ship. The Captain was sleeping (remember it was the middle of the night). Mac was only 18. What a huge responsibility! In the photo above he is with some other survivors. He is in the middle of the photo, with the binoculars he was wearing when the Japanese attacked.

Anyway, when I was researching for The Ghosts of Iron Bottom Sound, I had some questions. I didn’t know who to ask for help. Then I discovered Mac’s website on the Internet. His website is all about the sea and warships, and from reading his website I learned that he had been a survivor of the sinking of H.M.A.S. Canberra, the ship I was researching and writing about. He had dedicated his website to his Canberra shipmates. I was very impressed with Mac’s website and I wanted to write to him but it took me a few days to get brave enough to send him an email. I am so glad I did.

Mac answered my questions and gave me lots of handy hints. Here is the first hint he gave me:

Sailors live in ships, not on them.

 He said that people live in houses, and sailors live in ships. Now that makes sense doesn’t it? What do you think?

Anyway, when I was writing The Ghosts of Iron Bottom Sound and the sequel The Lucky Ship, I sent Mac dozens of questions and he was kind enough to reply to all of them. We told each other lots about our lives too and became good friends. Mac is one of my heroes. I respect him heaps. I think everyone needs heroes. Who are your heroes?

Last year my family and I went to Melbourne and met Mac and his wife Denise.  I think I’ll tell you a bit about Melbourne one day.  I am normally a bit scared of big cities because my town is so small it doesn’t even have any traffic lights but I loved Melbourne. In this photo that I took, Mac is wearing the same binoculars.  They are a piece of history. Have you ever thought about things being pieces of history? I do, often.

These are some reasons that Mac is one of my heroes:

  • Mac was brave in the war.
  • Mac was a leader in the war.
  • Mac has an amazing website about the sea and about naval history.
  • Mac helps lots of people find out about people in their family who died in the war.
  • Mac really cares about people and wants to help them.
  • Mac keeps his brain working even though he is old. He has recently published three books about his amazing life. He is doing some very tricky University work to share his knowledge too.
  • Mac cares about peace and about respect.
  • Mac is kind and courteous (Hey – I hope you know the meaning of that word!)

Here’s one more photo of Mac, from when he was the leader of the Melbourne A.N.Z.A.C. parade in 2009. What an honour, and one I think Mac really deserved.

 Here is a link to Mac’s website.   

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Battle of Savo Island.

My post tomorrow will be sad and respectful.

Ka kite opopo (see you tomorrow).

From Sandy Nelson in Twizel, land of tussock and mountains.

4 Responses so far

  1. 1

    zackids said,

    Mac sounds like an amazing guy Sandy! Thanks so much for all the background information on your book. When an author shares this information it makes me want to read the story even more because you know how and why they wrote their story.

    I know exactly what you mean about things being a part of history. I often think of specific places being part of history. The West Coast of the South Island is one of my favourite parts of the country because of its strong connection to our history. There are signs of the past everywhere, like the statues, buildings and old mining equipment.

    • 2

      starauthor said,

      Hi Zac,
      Mmm, I love the West Coast too. Old cemeteries are another place I like spending time. I like imagining the stories of people’s lives. I use clues like when they lived, how old they were when they died, where they lived, and who was in their family.
      I also have a strong love of old buildings, especially old huts in backcountry places. The stories they could tell if they had voices!
      You are right, Mac is a very amazing guy. I feel very priviledged to have got to know him.

      – Sandy

  2. 3

    Anonymous said,

    It is a cool story and I like the cover of the book

    by jayde

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