Frankie’s gone with Mum

A dear friend passed away this week in Benalla.

Francis William Waghorn has been described as “a bareknuckle bash artist,” a member of the feared Pentridge crew of the 1970s, the Overcoat Gang. But Frankie was far away from all that, living in the bush with his partner Rebecca. He kept in touch with a few old lags like Mark “Chopper” Read and a few select others, but had managed to stay on the straight and narrow. After spending nearly three decades in prison he wasn’t going back. At 59, his health had been failing recently and he told Rebecca he knew the end was near. His elderly mother had passed away last December. “Mum’s coming to get me,” he said. Here is a piece I wrote for The Bulletin back when Frankie got out of jail, hoping it was for the last time.      RIP Frankie, one of the last of the hard men.

They let Frankie out of Beechworth jail in north-east Victoria on a frosty morning last August, after a 15-year stretch for murder. For three decades, the name Francis William Waghorn had meant something in the ganglands, even if he had spent nearly all of that time – 26 years – in jail. He never had a trade to speak of. He used to joke that he had done some concreting, until “toes started sticking out of my work”. In 1990, he had hidden the body of one Johnny Turner in a barbecue he was building.
Among his few belongings, Frankie had 11 certificates for baking and dessert preparation. As he and his partner Rebecca went home, they drove past the bakery where he was hoping for a start. The morning air and the smell of fresh bread gave him hope. Rebecca, a bipolar sufferer, had fallen in love with Frankie. She had been a penpal first, then a prison visitor. He was repaying her love by looking after her and staying off crime.  

For the first three days, he stayed at home relaxing and acclimatising. Then he went down to Centrelink and registered for Job Search, and later on to Medicare to register, then he went to open a bank account. He even saw a bloke about pre-paying his funeral. It was like creating a whole new identity. By the second week, some old heads heard Frankie was out and they came around to offer him a bunk-up, a rort or two to get him back on his feet, but Frankie was only thinking of his interview at the bakery. He got the job but immediately the talk began that the bakery had taken on a killer. He never started the job; too much drama, too soon. He was legally bound to tell his new bosses he had a criminal record. If he didn’t, he’d hand back the four years’ parole. 

Temptation was everywhere though. One day in the local hardware store he noticed an armoured car. Two old security guards were hauling eight bags of cash out of the store. He gave himself a neck strain trying to stop looking at them. Be a simple thing to come back next week, this time tooled up. The money would be his, good as gold. 

Frankie drifted back into Melbourne and some of the old haunts, but always with a lemon squash in hand. A nightclub owner offered Frankie work looking after the showgirls. All he had to do was take them on and off the stage. But what if some punk recognised him and decided to take a crack. What was he going to do? Ignore it? No, instinct said he would shoot them in the face. 

Frankie wanted to go straight, but at 51 it was hard to rewire himself. And he wasn’t going back into jail again, not into Victoria’s new privatised jails. He had spent a little time in a couple, surviving the deadly politics by working up to 12 hours a day in the kitchen. For all the new rules and technology, jail was more dangerous than ever. He had seen Asian gangs and druggies pilfer forks by the dozen. They strapped them to their forearms with the tynes sharpened and bent out at right angles. A team of four men so armed could kill in seconds, an unpaid drug debt was usually enough. Yet in the midst of this violence, you couldn’t swear at the warder or risk losing your privileges. Each day of mayhem began with the sound of a tinny speaker: “Ding dong, This is your wake-up call,” said a cheery female voice. 

The notorious H Division in Melbourne’s Pentridge prison had been home to Frankie and mates like Mark “Chopper” Read back in the 1970s. It was the toughest prison in Australia but even in solitary you found a way for simple pleasures. A group of four adjacent cells, two up, two down, shared the same plumbing. If you scooped out the water from your toilet bowl, you could conduct a four-way conference call for hours each night. Communication was four blokes with their heads down the toilet. No wonder life outside seemed so strange. 

Frankie reckons he’s found work now, a friend of a friend has agreed to take him on, but it’s one day at a time. Chopper and his wife Margaret gave Frankie a bunk-up, $5000 to tide him over. They get together for a drink every week, it helps to keep Frankie’s mind right. Frankie drove us both home from the pub one night. He leant over to me in the back, his eyes glittering like sapphire. “Imagine if we got pulled over now – Chopper Read, Frankie Waghorn with a crime writer in the back. We might have some problems.” 

“Only if we were heading towards the bush,” deadpanned Read. 

38 thoughts on “Frankie’s gone with Mum

  1. He was the best uncal Eva I will remember al the things he had told me about jail etc and the jokes he always me he was a good bloke

    R.I.P uncal frank your in my heart

    From Jessy

  2. thanks for your help with the word in the map in 98 and the story my dad told me about the escape from malmsbury got to shake your hand in the map in 2008 thanks for your help rip

  3. dearest frank you were a loyal friend with the memory of an elephant.i remember seeing you for the first time in maybe 20 or so years and you spun me out by telling me where,when and who was there!!! My respect for you is eternal mate.thankyou for being my friend and all the advice you gave me was spot on.forever in our hearts Bonnie and Chubz(young lee)xxxxx

  4. Life is a curved journey and during my travels I met Frankie and Rebecca.Frank you have my respect.
    forever in my memories. R.I.P My friend

  5. Hi my name is Linda and iam frank waghorn sister he was one of 5 kids four girls and one boy.Frank was someone that would do anything for you. i have good and bad memories when we wear growing up.R.I.P

  6. My daughter knew Frank as Mr Franklin she was the only person he would allow to call him that. We met when Frank was at Beechworth. RIP Frank a true gentleman to myself and both my girls

  7. Frankie we had some of the best times together you will be sadley missed for the ones who new you like me you were a true kind hearted man and always helped ones less fortunate or in need of a helping hand you always had my back when we got into the take care of buisness and that i will never forget frankie ”true old school fighters” R.I.P mate you will always be in my heart. your mate ”shakey” bill

  8. frankie u are a dear old sole thank u for all ur help i still have my car i cant bring myself to sale it and thank u for ur help with jordan he has stayed out of truble love u mate R.I.P.

  9. It’s hard to believe its been just over 19 months now since you passed away Frank..I love and miss you still more than mere words can express..wishing you were still here with us all and thank you for our time together sweety it was an honour and a privilege being with you..thank you everyone for your kind words for Frank and a big thank you to Adam for your help,support and kindness after Frank passed..:) xoxoxo

  10. hey frank sorry about your lose with rebecca. My husband “CHOPPER” as you all know has just passed away with liver cancer you will be in our hearts and just thinking on how Frank and Chopper are going up in there

    R.i.p MATE

    • Hi Margret, linda here our mum is up there with the two of them,Frank always love to eat mums cooking or he would call around for a cup of tea and a pack of biscuits cream ones

    • Hi Margaret..been trying to ring but understandably I know how things would be after the loss of Mark..Much Sympathies and thoughts to yourself and Roy..xoxoxo Frank n “Chopper” reunited again!!!lwill be in touch soon..Bec xoxo

      • Hi rebbeca hope your well its kathy x you both use to come up and see me and frank I’d like to contact you its been a long time I still can belive franki is gone

  11. And our thoughts are with you Margaret in this time of grief. I know that Frankie would have got everything ready for Mark up there. Not sure there would be too many others they will know in heaven but they will have each other!

  12. A true gentleman with a heart of gold. I had the privilege of working with frank in the kitchen at the beach, never a dull moment. He made the time easy, he was a pleasure to be around. I hope to meet again some day mate.

  13. I am Frank Waghorn’s niece with uncle Frank,Nanna Norma now Chopper in heaven I hope they are running a muck up there and having fun together. R.I.P.One and all. ♡♥♡♥

  14. Hi, I do believe this is an excellent web site.

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    • hi im one of franks nieces I wasnt living in Melbourne when he passed a way but wish I could have said a final good bye… I will miss you hope you and nan are looking after our little georga rose..

  15. Rip Frank,Had the pleasure to work with frank in the kitchen at beechworth he was a great man great to work with and be around,never forgotten.RC

  16. Rest In Peace, Frankie. It saddened me to learn of your passing. I keep all your letters safe, something to remember you by. Gone but never forgotten. Rest up now.

  17. Frank waghorn was nothing but a murdering bastard who would kill or attempt to kill anyone he thought might get in his way, I know this first hand. one if the happiest days of my life was when I heard he was dead, he’s done the world a favour at last.

    • I think that’s so rude if u don’t like him don’t put things up here where his family and friends can see is wrong to speak ill of the dead u should be ashamed of your self

      • Guys don’t reply to this person she is A st Kilda junkie a cop informer who’s boyfriend had a chip on his shoulder over Johnny Turners murder a long time ago and now has decided to make these rude remarks about a wonderful kind hearted mate which was a inoccent man as far as I’m concerned she’s a rat her friends are rat lowlifes. Just block her comments adam

      • Ow that’s why her boyfriend spent All his jail time in protection hiding from Frankie and the real truth what a sad life .Frankie laughing at you from heaven above. Ha ha Ha ha

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