Round 12, 2022 is the 60th anniversary of Jack Malcomson unveiling his Richmond theme song for the first time.
He had written the lyrics during a plane trip back from King Island, Tasmania in 1962, on request of committeeman Alf Barnett.
Malcomson was never paid for his work, never signed a contract, never received a royalty cheque. In 2001, he was awarded life membership of the Richmond Football Club.
While his lyrics have become universally loved by all supporters, the story of the man who wrote them is, dare I say, unsung.
To us he will be forever known as the creator of “Oh We’re From Tigerland”, but for 30 years prior, Malcomson dazzled the public on the wireless, stage, and television.
As a teenager he competed in talent quests, under the name of Jack Malcolm (there’s two L’s in his stage name, but only one in his real surname).
Seen below here is a newspaper cutting from The Age, Oct 10th 1939 reporting that 16-year-old Jack Malcolm had won a semi-final stage competition at The State Theatre.
His skill as a tap dancer was astonishing – a feat that earned him the nickname of “Australia’s Fred Astaire” – a moniker assigned to him in print from the 1940s onwards
Above: Fundraiser for the Australia Comfort Fund, Nov. 1943
One of Jack’s sons, Paul (who played in a Richmond U17 premiership), told me in a January 2022 interview that when tap dancers use their shoe taps, “they sort of rock, they’re loose underneath, so when you do one tap it makes two noises”.
However, Jack’s taps were fixed, so “every single tap he did was his feet, like Fred Astaire. You’d hear two clicks and dad’s feet were doing the whole thing by himself.”
“He just was natural in all that sort of thing. He sang to thousands of people at the Myer Music Bowl. They even made a little record when he did the tap dance concerto – Music for the People. Hector Crawford was the conductor.”
Incredibly, audio survives of that concerto, showing the sheer skill and pace that Jack possessed as a tap dancer.
Apart from his stage appearance, Malcomson also had minor roles on many of the cop shows of the 1960s. His IMDB page lists him in seven episodes of Homicide from 1968-1971, and Division 4 from 1969-1971 (both were Crawford Productions).
One of those Division 4 episodes survives to this day and shows Malcomson, as a foreman, being interviewed by a detective. (Thanks to Damo 1965 on Twitter for finding it)
“He was a gifted person. He just had those things. He could also sing as a tenor and he could sing as a baritone,” his son Paul told me.
Just one year after the advent of television into Australia in 1956, the multi-talented Malcomson performed on In Melbourne Tonight, opposite “The King”, Graham Kennedy.
Above: The Age, 14 Aug 1957
The comedy dancer moniker mentioned in the above article referred to Jack’s ability to impersonate Louis Armstrong, George Formby, Johnnie Ray, and exaggerated scenarios with his tap-dancing, movement and facial expressions.
“He used to impersonate a train going along (with his tap dancing). I used to go and help him set up, sit up in the corner at the smoke nights. He would switch on from being this ordinary guy to this entertainer as soon as he was on stage.”
Also in his act was his impersonation of a cricketer trying to evade a beamer in slow motion, and a delivery that would ultimately hit his stomach. “He’d make facial expressions. There were no dirty jokes or anything like that.”
For the record, Jack had an actual daytime job as well. He was an apprentice boiler-maker, but incredibly he would juggle that with matinee performances in between movies at the cinema.
“He would run from his job, go faster than the trams, jump into his top-hat and tails, do his routine and show with the girls dancing behind him, then strip off straight away back into his work clothes and run like mad back to his job.”
One of those ‘girls dancing behind him’ was Aileen Wyatt, who Jack would later perform with, and be married to for 61 years, until his death in September 2009. (Aileen would pass away one month later).
Above: 1945 State Theatre advertisement. Jack to perform in between film screenings.
Advertisements for his stage performances would dub him as being “famous for fast foolish feet,” and being the “Tip Top Tapper in a Top Hat – Talks Too!”
Above: The Age Oct 25th, 1952
Above: The Argus, Oct 30, 1954
The performing bug was passed down to all his children – sons Paul and Raymond sang, and daughters Gail and Dawn were champions in Irish dancing in their youth.
Overseas offers to dance and sing came knocking for Jack, but he declined in order to stay and look after his mother.
Jack had another football connection – he also coached the Oakleigh Youth Football Club (Oakleigh Dragons) for over 400 games. He was made a life member of that club in 1976 and they adopted Jack’s Richmond song as theirs from the 2005 season onwards.
Although he was born Roy Patrick Malcomson, adopted the stage name Jack Malcolm, and was known to most as “Jack”, Richmond supporters should now give him their own title - The man who wrote the greatest theme song of all time.
Oh we're from Tigerland
A fighting fury
We're from Tigerland
In any weather you will see us with a grin
Risking head and shin
If we're behind then never mind
We'll fight and fight and win
For we're from Tigerland
We never weaken til the final siren's gone
Like the Tiger of old
We're strong and we're bold
For we're from Tiger
Yellow and Black
We're from Tigerland.