Loss of a Canberran Icon

sunshine 11 August 2008 70

Photobucket[ED – Thanks to Sally McFadden for sending in a photo of Daniel]

Rest in peace Daniel McFadden, we’ll miss seeing you selling your paintings around Civic and your welcoming smile always eager to share a story with anyone passing by.

Some people knew you as Filthy McFadden but you were Danny and we will always remember you.

Canberra has lost a true icon.

[ED – Daniel was also an astonishingly talented pianist when the opportunity presented itself]

[ED Again – Am I alone in thinking that a sculpture of Daniel would be a really useful piece of public art on City Walk?]

UPDATED: Culturazi has a lengthy obit.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Wonsworld has posted with us his own memory of Danny that I commend to you:

    I knew Danny and have known his family since before school (our fathers worked together… his dad was my dad’s manager). Back then we were in the same group of three or four close friends and used to hang around quite a bit. We used to go into the bush near his house and build forts in Summer. In Winter, we played on the same school football team (both were second rowers) and we hung around and caught yabbies and played as kids do. The only time I ever heard him being called Daniel, was when we buggered off without telling anyone where we were going and his mother would lecture us when we got back.

    Through high school we started to develop different friend sets. Danny was kept back a year and we had different people in our groups but would still occasionally get together at his place or mine and play records or watch telly or whatever. Most people change as they grow up through school but Danny really changed and not in the way all my other mates did as we grew up. Danny was different only back then I had no clue as to why. It’s now so obvious.

    Not long after high school he moved to Canberra and I ended up down the south coast and our lives went in totally separate directions. We would catch up on the odd occasion but Danny was a different person and it was not as a result of a drug habit/problem.

    His condition was not a result of drugs and those who are suggesting as much never knew the guy as he was before his mental illness took hold. The drugs certainly did not help (and probably accelerated) his condition but they came after (possibly to try make some sense of his world) but Danny was once just a normal person that you would pass by in the street and not take a second glance at. Just like anyone else.

    I don’t know if he was a genius or just a tortured soul. But he was his own worst enemy in the end. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s he would less and less frequently come back home and some times he would be old Danny again. He would be on his prescribed meds and feel he was fine and all was well with the world to the point where he would believe that he did not need his medication any more… so he would stop.

    As a result, his world would slip and when his family tried to convince him to continue taking them, he believed that they were trying to poison him etc and he would return to Canberra. Each time it would be worse and worse. When I saw his father occasionally and I would ask after him, the answer would always start with “Oh… poor Danny”, though I am sure that they never told me the worst of it.

    I mentioned in RiotACT some time ago (in a previous rant someone was having about Danny) that the last time I saw him, he no longer recognised me as he asked for some smokes and loose change in exchange for art work. It was him but it wasn’t the Danny I knew years before.

    So now Danny is gone and whatever pains he suffered (or those around Civic who had to deal with him suffered) are gone… but I really feel for his dad, Mr Mac, who is one of nature’s true gentlemen and for his mother and family who tried their best with an un-win-able situation.

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70 Responses to Loss of a Canberran Icon
bootanie bootanie 1:21 am 07 Apr 09

After reading all these posts’ the first thing that comes to mind is that Danny would be loving the fact he got so many. Although, I couldn’t tell you if he was internet aware before he left. My last contact with Danny was a postcard in 1985? when he had just taken his job on Lord Howe. I first met Danny in ’83 in Forster-Tuncurry not long after getting myself kicked out of the family home after a particularly stupid argument. At the time he was working in a local hotel as a cook and we met through mutual friends, at first impression, he struck me as a very outgoing person with a slicing wit, he could turn grammatical errors on you in milliseconds. On guitar he could pick up or begin a jam in seconds.I’m with wonsworld on this one,having known him, it’s such a shame that Danny’s last years were full of such turmoil when in the beginning, He was full of so much promise.Proud to be your friend, STEVE..RIP DANIEL McFADDEN

Overheard Overheard 1:19 pm 14 Aug 08

fnaah said :

Bit sad to hear of Danny’s passing. Like others, I’d encountered him a tthe Phoenix in the early 90’s.

Meanwhile, yeah, I always wanted to know who that afro/no shoes ANU dude was…

vg’s got it. He works with a mate of mine in the ANU u-beaut computer area (unless he’s moved on). If memory serves, he was an undergraduate at ANU when I was there (briefly) in 1984. I met him once and freaked him out by mentioning that I’d spotted him around town at irregular intervals for the next 20+ years. Always used to be a shock to see when he did (very occasionally) wear footwear of some description.

fnaah fnaah 1:00 pm 14 Aug 08

Bit sad to hear of Danny’s passing. Like others, I’d encountered him a tthe Phoenix in the early 90’s.

Meanwhile, yeah, I always wanted to know who that afro/no shoes ANU dude was…

Thumper Thumper 8:12 am 13 Aug 08

That sounds like someone from Godspell…

vg vg 7:29 am 13 Aug 08

I-filed said :

shauno I think the ‘ex anu lecturer’ people thought was Danny is an eccentric genius dude who never wears shoes even in the middle of winter and walks around the northside with a huge afro cloud of hair.

That bloke has been mentioned here more than once. He is part of the ANU super computer project or some such. I’m sure someone will remind us who he is

Overheard Overheard 11:44 pm 12 Aug 08

Lovely words, Joanne. Good stuff.

Joanne Joanne 11:25 pm 12 Aug 08

I knew Danny at Monaro High School. He was a few years ahead of me at school but he was really good friends with a few of the older girls at school with whom I used to play squash. I got to know Danny a little bit through some of those friends. I remember Danny as being a bit eccentric, smart and very funny. I was always in awe of his artwork which was often on display at school. One day while visiting my mother, I picked up a book on the counter which she had been reading. It was not the title, Where is Daniel Now? that caught my eye but the name of the author, Ruth McFadden. I questionned my mother about the book and she said it was by a Cooma author about her son who has schitzophrenia. It was only then that I realized that the book was about Danny, I had not ever known him as Daniel. While reading that book I felt shocked and sad as I came to the realization that Danny was living with a mental illness. The book brought me to tears but I finished it gaining a greater insight into Danny’s mental illness. I also ended the book feelling a great deal of respect for his family whose love, care and devotion to Danny enabled them to keep up the desperate struggle to keep a roof over Danny’s head. I worked in Civic for about 18 months and looked for him every day without ever seeing him until the last day before I moved to another job. He was standing outside the ANZ Bank. I went into the bank to do my banking and to think about what I would say to him. When I came out he was gone. I am so sad that I didn’t just walk straight up to him that day and say hi to him. I have enjoyed reading all the comments from people whose lives have been touched by Danny and recommend that some of the people who have written unsavoury comments about drug addictions etc.read the book written by Danny’s mother to gain a true insight into the true person that Danny was and this terrible mental illness. Rest in Peace Danny, you will be missed by a lot of people especially your family

sally sally 9:54 am 12 Aug 08

Daniel developed schziophrenia in his early 20s, and was beset with it all his life. It is a devasting mental illness, and Daniel turned to drugs over several long periods to escape. In later years he overcame his most severe drug additions. He had many other serious medical conditions. For those who knew him well, underneath his persona was a man of tremendous intellect and wit with a big heart.

Danny’s funeral will be held at St Patricks Church in Cooma on Friday 15th August at 2pm and afterwards at the Raglan Gallery in Cooma where some of his art will be on display.

I-filed I-filed 8:57 pm 11 Aug 08

shauno I think the ‘ex anu lecturer’ people thought was Danny is an eccentric genius dude who never wears shoes even in the middle of winter and walks around the northside with a huge afro cloud of hair.

dancing dylan dancing dylan 4:48 pm 11 Aug 08

Nice post wonsworld, i met Daniel in the late 80’s while he was at the school of art and living on the anu campus, he thought tha tthe ante chamber of teh boys toilets at B&G had the best acostics in the act, many was the time that i’d leave the bar and go for a slash and be serenaded by daniel on his guitar.

by that point it was clear that Daniel was on meds and was struggling with them somewhat. mind you they often looked like the best times i saw Daniel have.

i left the act in ’96 and one of the regular highlights of my return trips was a chat and with and new peice of art from Daniel. i looked for him in June, but he was not to be found.

rip Daniel

lmax lmax 10:56 am 11 Aug 08

I also met Danny when I first moved to Canberra. I used to have a coffee with him many mornings of the week when I would get into work at garema place nice and early. He shared many great stories with me and I feel lucky to have shared that time with him.
Hope he has finally found some peace.

PM PM 10:04 am 11 Aug 08

I met him when I first arrived in Canberra. He did a portrait of me on the back of another artwork. Never saw him again, but I have the portrait hanging on my wall. It was a unique style.

justbands justbands 10:01 am 11 Aug 08

I’m sure I ran into him once or twice over the years…..I’d have to agree though that calling him a Canberra icon is a bit of a stretch.

Bam Bam Bam Bam 9:55 am 11 Aug 08

Icon or not, I’d prefer to see a well executed sculpture of Danny than some of the CRAP that’s been going up around the place claiming to be art, that’s for sure.

realityskin realityskin 9:25 am 11 Aug 08

ant said :

Still doesn’t ring a bell. I must be the only person in Canberra who didn’t encounter him.

i’d say 99% of Canberra wouldn’t have a clue who he was. To call him a Canberra icon is a laughing stock.

sepi sepi 10:30 pm 10 Aug 08

When he first used to do the paintings up on the wall of the phoenix they were good.
He used to do portraits of people and take a long time over it. They were good – but the people were still always surrounded by symbols like dragons and whatnot. He went to art school, so his work wasn’t always just scribbles.

Madman Madman 10:23 pm 10 Aug 08

ant said :

Bewdy, there’s two of us, me and madman. Maybe his daubings will be worth a fortune and we’ll be gnashing our teeth in times to come.

Hahahaha, for sure! Bit ironical about the whole price of paintings from artists who have passed – i think it’s a bit unfair on the artists to be fair said.

ant ant 10:19 pm 10 Aug 08

Bewdy, there’s two of us, me and madman. Maybe his daubings will be worth a fortune and we’ll be gnashing our teeth in times to come.

johnboy johnboy 10:16 pm 10 Aug 08

By the time he was hawking them in the Phoenix and the Gypsy they weren’t great.

Madman Madman 10:13 pm 10 Aug 08

ant – your not the only one!

I can now say for sure that I had never met this bloke, and depending on what the paintings were like and the price, I would have probably bought one off of him.

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