It was the cool home, the place everybody needed to hang around. A go to to the O’Donoghue dwelling was like stepping right into a musical with father Rory on the piano and 4 youngsters spontaneously bursting into six-part harmonies.
“As quickly as dad walked into the room, the room lit up and the get together began,” youngest daughter Jessica O’Donoghue stated.
To the remainder of Australia, this fun-loving dad was Skinny Arthur from the ABC’s iconic The Aunty Jack Present, a beloved character to a technology, the musical star of a program that revolutionised Australian comedy within the 1970s.
“Rory’s character was delicate and mild and lovable,” stated Grahame Bond who performed the eponymous Aunty Jack character. “And girls liked him — they adored him. He was very good-looking and a gorgeous singer.”
However regardless of his ever-smiling public persona, Rory O’Donoghue saved a secret for many of his grownup life, a darkness that he hid from everybody together with Bond, his musical associate for many years.
He was a person, stated Bond, “with 57 totally different masks”.
“He lined up every little thing,” he stated.
“I did not spot a chink in his armour for 30 years, and even then, I did not fairly see it.”
From the skin, stated daughter Jessica, “It may appear like it was the right life, however there was undoubtedly extra happening that no one actually knew about.
“We by no means actually talked about any of the problems dad was experiencing, we by no means talked about it to anybody exterior the household.”
Light, delicate and immensely widespread O’Donoghue was experiencing a extreme psychological sickness that at occasions engulfed him and which might finally declare his life.
The 52-year inventive partnership begins
Success had come early for O’Donoghue. He was solely 17 when he met Bond “and we simply clicked”.
Bond was an structure pupil at Sydney College who had found performing. He invited O’Donoghue to be the musical director of his first Structure Evaluation. “And he simply took it to a different degree.”
Even at that age, O’Donoghue was a seasoned performer and gifted musician who had his personal band at highschool. Third technology of a showbiz household, he had been entertaining folks all his life.
“I used to point out him off,” stated his mom, Sybil, who, aged 99, died just some weeks after being interviewed for Australian Story.
She and husband Terry had been opera singers with the British D’Oyly Carte Opera Firm, which carried out Gilbert and Sullivan.
Invited to tour Australia, they lived behind an outdated ambulance when the lodging and childcare that they had been promised didn’t materialise. The household by no means returned to the UK.
At age of 12, O’Donoghue performed the Suave Dodger in knowledgeable manufacturing of Oliver Twist and at 14 the eldest Von Trapp boy in The Sound of Music.
Bond recalled the early days in Sydney when he was working as an architect and O’Donoghue as a cartographer.
“We used to stand up the entrance of the ferry and he’d haul out the guitar and say, ‘You could marvel why we have gathered you all collectively’. It is a singalong all the way in which to Mosman. It was form of like guerilla theatre.”
Rory’s ‘exploding vitality’ on stage
The Aunty Jack Present was commissioned by the ABC in 1972.
The character of Aunty Jack was a gruff, cross-dressing pantomime-like bikie who threatened to “rip folks’s bloody arms off” in the event that they did not watch the present.
“It was vaudeville,” Bond recalled of the present that catapulted them each to nationwide fame.
These had been the glory days earlier than O’Donogue’s world got here crashing down.
“He’d stroll out on stage and explode with vitality,” Bond stated.
“He may play, sing, dance, act, play drums, play piano. He was an exceptional musician.
“The factor I actually liked about him is that on the very starting he was prepared to return on a really harmful trip.”
Within the late 60s, O’Donoghue married Bernie, whom he met when she was an usherette at a theatre the place he was performing together with his band.
The primary years of their marriage, which rapidly produced 4 kids and would final 35 years, had been busy and completely satisfied.
“It was like having my very personal troubadour within the within the lounge room, I might be simply cooking the dinner …. and he’d be taking part in one thing on the guitar,” Bernie stated.
Filming The Aunty Jack Present through the day, O’Donoghue can be performing within the smash hit Jesus Christ Famous person at night time and writing promoting jingles with Bond from midnight till 4.00am.
“He [Rory] was younger and robust and liked his work,” Bernie stated.
Like most of their contemporaries, the couple lived an “various” way of life.
Across the time of Jesus Christ Famous person, Bernie stated that: “There was a number of marijuana smoking and the odd taking of LSD acid. Rory had a few acid journeys that weren’t very nice. In actual fact at one level he felt that he hadn’t really come again. I suppose that was the start of him not being terribly assured or snug about plenty of issues.”
Nonetheless, O’Donoghue’s star continued to rise.
In 1974, The Aunty Jack Present received a Logie for finest comedy, the track Farewell Aunty Jack which he and Bond launched was primary on the charts for weeks after which he leapt out of a cake as a nude centrefold in Cleo journal.
However Bond observed that O’Donoghue was beginning to pull out of his commitments.
“I simply thought we had been rising aside. I simply thought he needed to distance himself and possibly think about music,” he stated.
Though they’d proceed to work collectively on acclaimed theatre productions like Hamlet on Ice and Boys Personal McBeth and regardless of O’Donoghue being “the sibling I by no means had”, Grahame admitted “I by no means actually knew him”.
“We trusted each other. We carried out. We had been good, nice collectively. However I by no means knew him.”
It was Bernie who bore the brunt of the sickness, who protected and shielded her kids, who saved O’Donoghue’s secret.
Rory’s debilitating psychological dysfunction
It was 1975, simply after their daughter Madeline was born, that O’Donoghue started to withdraw.
“He would simply not be capable to go wherever or do something,” Bernie stated.
“He did not speak about it rather a lot. He did not need it to be occurring. He needed to be taking part in.
“However there have been intervals when he was fairly troubled. Typically they’d end in a hospital keep or at the least psychiatric care.”
By the point the youngsters had been youngsters, his episodic sickness may very well be overwhelming and completely debilitating.
Stated his oldest daughter Danielle, “it was like this visceral heaviness in the home.”
Identified with schizoaffective dysfunction within the early 90s, there have been occasions when O’Donoghue believed that the satan was interfering together with his capacity to play music.
“Each time he picked up his guitar one thing would occur. There can be a noise that somebody stirred up, a garden mower,” Bernie stated.
“Issues like that simply put him proper off and he would say, ‘Are you the satan?’.
“He was very, very distressed as a result of his music was every little thing to him.”
Bernie would come throughout proof that he had tried to take his personal life.
“He was simply so determined, I may see that, however I saved telling him that wasn’t the reply,” she stated.
“It was unpredictable as a result of typically he was superb after which, bang, he wasn’t superb. What I needed to do was maintain him alive, it was very traumatic.”
In 1991, O’Donoghue was launching a comeback because the lead within the musical Return to the Forbidden Planet.
“It was an enormous deal,” daughter Jessica says. However then O’Donoghue all of the sudden pulled out mid-show. It was a serious breakdown.
He was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for a prolonged keep and placed on lithium, which prompted him to balloon in weight.
He got here and went from his relationship.
“I used to be very, very sad,” Bernie admitted.
Lastly in 2000, in an act of “self-preservation”, she left him.
Alone for the primary time, daughter Danielle stated her dad was “fairly manic and psychotic”.
“He was actually, actually enthusiastic about how the world was going to finish,” she stated.
“We might get collectively as a household very often to speak about what we may do.”
Excessive train remodeled Rory
In an astonishing turnaround, an unbelievable power of will, O’Donoghue took up excessive types of train, modified his weight-reduction plan and took himself off treatment.
He ran marathons, he taught himself to swim so he may compete in triathlons. He represented Australia in a duathlon. He would compete in at the least one Ironman a yr. He outran his sickness, the entire ache and vitality had a wholesome place to go.
And when he and son Ben had been taking part in in a restaurant he met Carolyn Bennett and fell in love.
“He was probably the most totally different particular person I had ever met,” Carolyn stated.
“He was all muscle and it was like he was reversing the method of ageing. Rory grew to become an increasing number of aggressive and pushed himself tougher and tougher.”
For 15 years he was steady, in a position to return to work instructing music in personal ladies’ colleges, the place, stated Carolyn, “He was very liked and revered”.
When O’Donoghue wasn’t exercising, he was composing music. His grownup kids noticed a dad who was productive and content material, relishing in his passions.
“He was at all times completely satisfied,” Carolyn stated.
“He was humorous. He was sensible. He adored my youngsters. I liked him and I by no means obtained the sense that there was something mistaken with him.”
However the sickness was at all times lurking, ready to pull him again.
In 2017, he obtained a cataract in his eye and he had an issue together with his leg.
O’Donoghue was now not capable of train and use endorphins to maintain his sickness in test. He spiralled and fell right into a delusional state.
“The primary episode [I witnessed] was extraordinarily distressing,” stated Carolyn, who had no thought of his previous historical past or any expertise of psychological sickness.
Because it progressed, O’Donoghue began seeing issues that weren’t there, the satan was within the water so he could not swim anymore.
“He pulled away from everybody, even me.”
Carolyn wished she had recognized about his sickness however O’Donoghue’s kids did not really feel it was their place to inform her and O’Donoghue did not talk about it.
“I believe Rory was in denial that there was something mistaken, and I believe he may need been ashamed that there was one thing in his previous and that is why he did not inform me.”
On the finish of 2017, O’Donoghue was admitted to North Shore Hospital with bipolar despair. His treating psychiatrist really helpful a course of electroconvulsive remedy (ECT), which is very profitable within the therapy of this form of sickness.
The day earlier than his first therapy, when a affected person got here in urgently needing a mattress, O’Donoghue was moved from a excessive safety unit short-stay unit to a pre-approved ward, the place surveillance was typically much less frequent however the place the atmosphere was regarded as extra therapeutic.
On the night time of his first therapy, daughter Danielle acquired a name to say that Rory O’Donoghue had taken his personal life.
Everybody was devastated.
“He was tremendously liked,” stated Bond, who hasn’t been capable of decide up his guitar since his pal’s demise.
O’Donoghue’s kids raised questions with the coroner in regards to the circumstances surrounding their father’s demise, notably the transfer to the decrease safety unit so near the time of his first ECT therapy.
However the coroner cleared the hospital of any wrongdoing and located that that they had complied with their protocols.
Two-and-a-half years after his demise, O’Donoghue’s household are talking to Australian Story to set off a dialog round complicated psychological well being circumstances like their father’s, the sort of diseases which are nonetheless so typically hidden away.
“The factor that amazes me is how a lot pleasure dad dropped at us as a household and to so many different folks in the end he was experiencing,” his son Ben stated.
“And the way way more may he have been if he did not even have the disgrace and the stigma and the secrecy round all of that as properly.”
The household stated they did not have the language to cope with O’Donoghue’s sickness.
“We could not hunt down a help community as a result of it wasn’t allowed to be talked about,” Jessica stated.
“I really feel enthusiastic about destigmatising points round psychological well being and actually breaking open the dialog to make it extra acceptable and to normalise it.
“I believe that might actually assist not solely the folks struggling, however folks experiencing and supporting these folks, having the ability to attain out for correct assist and help.”
O’Donoghue’s kids select to recollect the cool home, the music, the laughter, the attractive man that he was.
Stated his daughter Madeline: “It is a gorgeous story and a lot of what dad did was extremely constructive and he touched so many lives.
“That component, his psychological well being will not be his story, it isn’t every little thing. It’s only a small a part of it. So why let that overshadow every little thing else that he was?”