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Maurice (Maurie) O’Connor – Passed Away Sunday 4 April 2021 – Aged 85 years

06 Apr 21
Peter Bull
9 comments

From: Gregory Sachs

A very sad message as received from Gay O’Connor, MOC’s wife.

Moc died last night. In my arms. I can’t really believe it but he has struggled so much for the past few weeks that my grief is tempered by the knowledge that his struggles are at an end and he is finally at peace. He has fought this friggin disease for 15 years and last night it won

I can’t speak highly enough of the palliative care people at Manly Waters. They have been wonderful

My poor Mocca. 😞. But suffering no more Gay x

 

Nick O’Connor, MOC’s son, has advised that the funeral service for MOC will be held at:

11am Wednesday 14th April

St Mary’s Catholic Church

Manly Freshwater Parish

6 Raglan Street, Many NSW 2095

 

Best parking will be in the nearby metered carparks.

After the service, the family has invited attendees to Canapes at the Novotel Manly Pacific on nearby North Steyne.

Nick and the family are hoping that many of the MOC’s friends and colleagues can make it to join  with them in the celebration of his life and to bid him a fond farewell. I have no doubt that there will be many stories told and we will learn many things about MOC that we did not know previously.

9 Comments

  1. Peter Bull April 6, 2021 at 12:11 pm

    I am deeply sorry to hear of Maurie’s passing.

    He was a great guy, straight shooter and a very humane being.

    I know where he will have gone.

    Kind regards.
    Len Wylde

  2. Peter Bull April 7, 2021 at 7:43 am

    One of the best bosses I ever had the privilege to work under. Very sad.

    Kind Regards
    John Stanton

  3. Paul Harvey April 7, 2021 at 10:00 am

    It is with very great sadness that we hear of Maurie’s passing.

    My wife, Monica, her sister, Carmel, and myself all worked for MOC at various times. He was influential on each of us. Firm but fair and the best boss I ever had.

    Our sincere condolences to Gay and the wider family. MOC will be long remembered.

    Paul and Monica Harvey and Carmel Gallagher

  4. Peter Bull April 7, 2021 at 10:05 am

    My wife Monica, and I, and Monica’s sister Carmel (nee Gallagher) worked for MOC at various times and we all have fond memories of him.

    Paul Harvey

  5. Peter Bull April 7, 2021 at 12:28 pm

    I was very sad to hear about MOC’S passing … such a lovely man.

    If possible, could you please pass my sincere condolences to Gay as I remember their kindness to Gray and I during the OTC years.

    many thanks and Kind regards. Bev MacDonald

  6. Peter Bull April 12, 2021 at 12:37 pm

    Greg Sachs was recalling:
    MO’C had written what was then known as “MO’C’s Little Red Book”. It essentially dealt with transmission levels for voice frequency circuits and explained (for the uninitiated) the meanings and uses of such terms as dBm’s, dBmO’s and dBr’s.

    Bob Lions rummaged through his treasure trove of ex-OTC material has found a copy of MOC’s RED BOOK which is attached here
    http://www.otva.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/dB-and-Transmission-units-explained.pdf

  7. Greg Martyn May 24, 2021 at 11:48 am

    From Guntis Berzins:
    Sad indeed, MOC was an outstanding engineer.

    From Jan Titcombe:
    I have fond memories of him as one of my bosses.

    From Ray Barbero:
    I am very sad to hear this. Moc leaves an indelible impression as a fine man and faithful OTC warrior.

    Another from Gregory Sachs:
    Fairly soon after joining OTC I accompanied MO’C to a meeting with the then PMG’s transmission experts at their HQ in Melbourne. From a very rusty memory one of the matters under debate was the PMG’s voice frequency transmission levels into Paddington and on which side of the 2W/4W hybrids should such v.f. transmission levels be measured to meet international (ITU) standards. This seemed to me to be a (fairly sensitive) ongoing issue between OTC and the PMG on which MO’C took a strong position for OTC. Don’t recall how this ended up, but OTC’s message was strongly delivered to the PMG.

    From Bob McAulay:
    Moc – full of surprises!
    Many years ago, I was summoned to Moc’s office. He was by then Chief Engineer and became very conscious of the overheads we were carrying in Engineering Branch. His aim was to understand and then take some control to run a more efficient Business.
    So, my task was to gather the information that would help him put in place measures aimed at achieving his goal. To be honest I was both flattered (that he chose me) but, on the other hand, a little overwhelmed at the task he set me.
    After getting my head around the job at hand I set about badgering our Sectional Engineers to gather the information I believed was required to ultimately plan for a more streamlined workforce.
    To be honest, how I did all this is a very distant and hence very vague but, eventually I put together a report with many figures and a recommendation that I then had to present to Moc.
    I have to admit that I look back at that report and feel a little shameful as it was not structured very well but, Moc did not criticise it and set about reviewing what I had put to him. Eventually, he outlined what was to be done. This was almost the opposite of what I had concluded but certainly plausible. As I was a little perplexed, I asked him how he concluded as he did. The answer was a very simple one – one that I have never forgotten and that was “Robert, you can make numbers say anything you want”.
    Thank you Moc.

    From David Charrett:
    As for anecdotes, my first contact with MOC was before I even joined OTC. In early 1963 when I had accepted a position in OTC and was still employed in the PMG’s Department in Melbourne, I received a phone call from some guy who introduced himself as Maurice O’Connor. After he established that I was joining OTC as he was, he enquired about OTC assistance with my removal arrangements. I responded that as I was single, all seemed to be easy. I then copped an earful about the incompetence of the OTC Melbourne Admin staff in arranging for him and his family and their goods and chattels transfer to Sydney. It was only some years later when I joined his group in Engineering to Project manage the MRS that I got to know him. My contact was on and off over the years and much closer in R&D.

    Some other recollections of MOC (for circulation within the group), were of his description of others. No prizes for guessing who “Stevie Wonder” was. He used the descriptive term of “The Halls of Darkness” often in referring to parts of OTC such as Admin whose bureaucratic approach was offer more of a hindrance than helpful. This was particularly so when we were establishing R&D in OTC. We needed to offer remuneration above the standard levels in OTC to attract the right sort of people and the “Halls of Darkness were worse than no help. The solution, probably from MOC was to offer individual contracts, now common, but unheard of in those days.

    For his major contributions to OTC, I can vouch for his role in establishing and setting up R&D in OTC. Others can attest to his time as AGM(I) and I think his Project Management of the Broadway building.

    Once again at the personal level, I can always remember the late Peter Warrilow’s comment that you hadn’t been trying with MOC unless you had the scars to prove it and not too sure whether it was him that also said that you would march over a cliff behind MOC. However, once you had strips torn off it was all forgotten, unless you repeated the mistake. If you repeated a third time, that was it, you were wiped forever (and in a particular case had your salary increment stopped).

    MOC’s integrity was tested perhaps more than others in OTC in the situations where he didn’t make himself popular with senior management when he stood up for his principles.

    From my observation another of his personal attributes was his dislike of bureaucracy, which was often the target of his many crusades personal and otherwise.
    I miss a friend and colleague and the best boss I ever had.

    From Peter Meulman:
    I’ll try to respond to your request for a contribution about Moc as of all surviving ex OTC staff I probably knew him the longest.
    I first met Maurie when he came to OTC as a Senior Engineer with reputed “long line transmission expertise” in the mid-60s from the Victorian state administration of the Australian Post Office.
    I clearly remember “Day 1” (must have been mid 1965?) when he was formally introduced around the Spring Street office. We had just commissioned COMPAC and were assiduously working on SEACOM when Maurie arrived and in his most direct and confident way he promptly proceeded to draw our attention to the many things that we were doing wrong and what he’d have do to put things right! This of course went over like a lead balloon but in very quick time and with the help of an extensive bar room grooming at the local watering holes by Bob Long, Cyril Vahtrick, Graham Gosewinckel and others including myself we eventually restored the social equilibrium of the Engineering Branch. As an epilogue to this I can attest that he was right about our shortcomings and that he did fix them in due time, the little red book being just one such contribution.
    It did not take us long to realise that we had recruited an engineer of exceptional talent and it was not surprising therefore that he made a huge contribution to OTC. As Chief Engineer and subsequently he established a reputation, not just for himself but for the whole organisation, for engineering excellence. In many and varied debates with Telstra, our overseas correspondents and contractors I was very pleased you have Maurie on our side. Indeed, at times I even felt a twinge of pity for our opponents!
    It was a privilege to have known him and worked with him and I am sure that that sentiment will be expressed by all who knew him at OTC. At the personal level I feel I have lost a real friend of very long standing.
    Greg, you will miss him at your godless lunches and I am so glad that I did see Moc at the last lunch pre-COVID early in 2020.

    From Chris Mutton:
    To understand MO’Cs importance to OTC, we need to appreciate where OTC stood in the 1980s. We had been incredibly successful at mastering new technologies to provide efficient services to the Australian public. Growth rates had been very high. But on the horizon, we were about to face dramatic change. Voice based, analog communications were to be replaced by integrated digital services, as we now see in the internet. Networks & services would no longer be provided by monopoly, government affiliated entities, but now there would be global competition, between and within countries.
    MO’C was a man of vision. He was commissioned by CEO and General Manager, Bill Schmidt, to canvas this future and to drive the organisation to meet the challenges of change. In 1982, MO’C initiated a set of consultancies or strategic studies, that would clarify the threats and opportunities, and identify a range of paths forward. At the same time, he created a corporate planning secretariat that would assist senior management to build and implement a process of analysis, decision making, and performance monitoring to establish clear, consistent and bold objectives across the organisation, and to put in place strategies and tactics to achieve those objectives.

    MO’C was leader, and a leader of leaders. To achieve the change needed, he worked across the organisation to gain consensus from senior management, and to empower and motivate staff. He had a special ability to cut to the heart of an issue… to present with humour and simplicity so that we all knew where were going. Visibility was a key theme. to make both our objectives and performance clear to all, so that we could see ourselves what had to change.
    So, in 1985, an external review of the corporate planning process found that “though much has been achieved to date, corporate planning has not reached its potential for becoming the major management tool for initiating change and for improvement in performance of the organisation.” The foundation was there, but gaps lay in middle management appreciation of the corporate planning process and in the bedding down of business planning, a focus that was still relatively new. In the years that followed, prior to OTC’s merger with Telecom, that business planning process did in fact mature and provided a sound foundation for the merger. A stronger strategic focus, and an organisation better equipped to respond to change resulted in benefits for our customers, our people and our owner.
    With rapid technology change underway, OTC needed to have an independent capability to assess and develop solutions. In the past, we had typically sourced off the shelf solutions from our suppliers, then adapted those to meet our very unique needs. We needed to get ahead of the curve. Digital switching and transmission were upon us, undersea fibre optic cables were following close, and we needed to have an in-house research and development capability. MO’C founded our Development Division. We set out to be Australia’s leader in the worldwide information transfer business. We funded and fostered external research relevant to OTC’s needs, and we undertook internal R&D and strategic development to experiment, develop and adapt new technologies.

    From Alan Brand:
    As a non-engineering OTC marketing person, I never worked closely with MO’C but I do recall a couple of personal stories which may be of general interest. In addition, I did know both he and Gay socially through some of the Executive get-togethers George Maltby used to hold.
    First, and I can’t recall how or why, MO’C and I found ourselves together in an after-hours Alliance Francaise class I think in York Street or somewhere close by. While I had the benefit of a few years of schoolboy French and could follow the basics, MO’C had no previous exposure to the language, struggled a bit and occasionally came up with the most extraordinary pronunciations imaginable – but persevered with strong determination nonetheless! Can’t recall whether either of us ever finished the course but I do remember clearly whenever we met from then on, the greeting was always Bonjour Alain…., Bonjour Maurice!
    Second, in the late 1990s, I was the Executive Director of SPAN, the Service Providers Industry Association. Sometime into the role, I learned MO’C was one of the candidates passed over for the position on the basis that he was considered “over qualified” for the job! Eh? Yep, that’s right! I suspect the real reason was that he would have been more than a match for the then current Chairman at the time!! Those were the days.

    From John Hibbard:
    I worked for MO’C both as Deputy Director Planning when he was Director and as Asia Pacific Manager when he was head of International Business. He was a superb boss. He gave you great flexibility and encouraged you to develop ideas. When you did he gave you constructive critique enabling the idea or plan to be pursued. Often, he would say either “I need to put a towel over my head and give it a deep think” or “it took several glasses of red wine understanding that initiative”. Dare I say that most of the initiatives actually came from MO’C himself and the contributions of others were generally mere titivations on his core ideas. I really missed his guidance when he retired very early (at 60) due to the superannuation regulations at the time.

    And another from John Hibbard:
    One of the things that MOC achieved in his time looking after international business was to greatly help the creation of an effective World Partners organisation. World Partners was a concept developed by AT&T to enable more efficient implementation of services for business customers between USA and some 9 Pacific Rim countries but at the same time leveraging AT&T’s position to increase its share of the revenue. This last feature was unacceptable to the Pacific carriers including OTC. Instead of receiving traditional 50% of the revenue they would receive a lesser share. Maurie devised a means to address this and negotiated very hard with AT&T on behalf of the other Pacific carriers and succeeded in securing a much fairer arrangement. This enabled World Partners come into fruition with the consequence that World Partners provided the most efficient implementation of private line services and as such it prospered by putting those carriers involved in a far better position to win corporate business and in doing so strongly enhanced OTC’s position against competitors.

    From Rick Abbasi:
    I still have a copy of MOC’s little red book on transmission levels and clear definitions of the different dBx measures. Very useful and I had the need to refer to it on several occasions over the years when producing training material for both colleagues and customers.

    MOC was Director of Engineering when I joined OTC in January 1980. I had just completed by science degree while continuing to study engineering part-time and was assigned to the clerical section in Engineering Branch. Upon discovering that I had some technical ability, MOC started assigning me tasks like searching for definitions and other information in ITU-T and ITU-R recommendations and reports. These were rather tedious activities at the time before the advent of word processing, on-line documentation and all the search capabilities we enjoy today. However, that early introduction to an information gold-mine on all aspects of telecommunications and familiarity with the structure of ITU activities so obtained was to have a major impact on my career and has served me well to the present day.

    From Dr Terry Percival, AM, FTSE:
    Judy Ryan passed onto me a message that you are not so well. Hearing about this triggered a lot of interesting memories and reminiscences about my time in OTC Research Development and the monumental changes it made to my career and many others. Your vision and drive to implement it gave us all a sense of what was possible if you set high goals and worked hard to achieve them. A number of small hi-tech companies owe their genesis to the skills we learnt in the late 80s under your guidance. I know not only have financially successful companies been created by the alumni but also international recognition with awards including the European Inventor Award, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineer’s medals and many more. You and your family can be very proud of what you achieved in those days and the many young careers you helped launch.
    Thank you very much for making my life much more interesting and successful.

    From Tony Stuart:
    Back in 1971, OTC let a contract for the Hasler Telex Exchange, with overseas development expected to take around one year in Switzerland.
    At the end of three years, I well recall Moc visiting the OTC team and Hasler in Bern armed with encouraging words and a rocket launcher.
    Outcome enabled us to return to Sydney after some four years.

    And lastly, from Bob Lions:
    SEACOM — Madang landing with Father O’Reilly’s fish finder.
    If you know aught of the geography of PNG, you would know that on the North side of the island lies the Bismarck trench, a submarine trench as deep as Mt Everest is high (about 29,000 ft [8700m]). The difficulty was that the SEACOM cable was to pass along this trench on the way to Guam and along the way, make a landfall, to drop off a few circuits for traffic to PNG and to get a feed of power.
    From a communications point of view, Lae was the ideal location. It was the geographical and communications centre of PNG. There was only one problem; at Lae, the land descended to the bottom of the trench in a near vertical cliff – not a good place for a cable landing!
    Investigation showed that Madang, about 200km North West of Lae was near the mouth of the Gum river which had for many years been depositing silt in the trench. While it would be soft and somewhat unstable in the event of an earthquake (not unknown in PNG!), it was all that was available. A young Maurice O’Connor, newly arrived in OTC was delegated to investigate this landing. He was duly despatched to Madang to find out whether such a landing would be feasible and get some idea of the underwater topography.
    My memory is deficient as to whether he was despatched with adequate instrumentation for this task, but at that time, OTC was running on a very slender budget and it is likely that the tools available would have been very limited. What transpired is that Moc eventually completed his underwater survey using Father O’Reilly’s fish finder (Apologies are due here as I am unsure of the Father’s real name, memory only noting that it was a good Irish name!). However, during the course of the work, the fish finder was damaged and after a lot of heart searching and humming and ah-harring by the bean counters in Sydney, it was agreed that we could afford to buy Father O’Reilly a replacement. So somewhere in the records of expenditure on this multi-million-dollar project will be found a bill for a new fish finder and the costs of its dispatch to Madang!

    Origins of the “Godless lunch”
    Many of the OTC engineers continue to meet at the Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay every couple of months or so. Invitations go out by email and some years ago, one went out noting that at the last meeting we had not set a date for the next lunch. In an effort to show my education, I used the term which the lawyers use – “sine die” which means “without a day being set”.
    However, our great friend, Murphy, stepped in and the message went out “sine dei” which means “without god”. Most of the recipients didn’t notice. Brian Curran, who had done Latin for the leaving certificate, noted it but let it go through to the keeper. But not MO’C! He called the mistake and henceforth these meetings have been known as “Godless lunches”, not due to any anti-clerical feelings but because of a simple typing error!

    Interpretation of his miniscule writing
    When we were young engineers, documents were typed from hand written notes given to our secretaries. These ladies diligently interpreted these scratching, often with the semblance “of a thumbnail dipped in tar” and turned them into an original and generally 3 carbon copies – one for the file for circulation and approval, one for the originator’s records, one for various uses and the fourth for the “chronos”, a set of chronological copies from all sources which was a useful search source when trying to find a particular document. If there were more than a few minor errors, the whole document needed to be re-typed!
    MO’C had a unique writing style which looked like a line with ants running along it and was often very hard to interpret. I became quite adept at reading it and accordingly was able to help some of the secretaries when they were having difficulties with a document.

  8. Greg Martyn May 28, 2021 at 10:01 am

    From Graham Markey
    A couple of memories (among many others) that I have of Maurice.

    In 1991 I relocated with my family to London to run the OTC office there. Maurie was the head of International at the time and came over in the same week I arrived for a series of meetings (including social functions) with British Telecom and others. I had to attend these so my wife was left with the task of managing 3 kids under the age of 10 for about 15 hours a day in a 2-bedroom apartment surrounded by suitcases and boxes. Maurie knew the burden she was under, so arranged baby sitters and took us (and Ian MacDonald and his wife) to dinner one evening. Jenny fondly remembers him giving her a magnificent peony rose in full bloom. Maurie was very aware of the important role of the spouse in corporate life and, I recall, kept a register of all of the given name of spouses so he would be readily informed at the right times.

    Before going to London, I was involved with Bruce Barry and Alan Brand (and others whose names I can’t recall) in a skunk-works team to push the case for OTC to be Australia’s second carrier. Peter Shore and Deena Shiff handled the political side. Lots of planning and modelling went into that but it lacked coordination and leadership. Maurie was parachuted in to coordinate our efforts and within a day had a total grasp of the details of all facets, including the political. His clear-sighted leadership was inspirational and thanks largely to him and Peter Shore (and the support of Paul Keating) OTC damn near pulled it off.

    Another overseas memory, Maurie and I had a meeting with France Telecom (I came over from London). The venue was in an outer suburb of Paris and, not knowing what the traffic would be like, we arrived about an hour early. So we found a coffee shop (actually a Tabac – which sells coffee in addition to cigarettes and other evil things). Having virtually no French between us we ordered coffee from the waiter as best we could and said “oui” to the barrage of French that followed. When the coffee arrived it was accompanied by 2 sizeable shots of cognac! This was 8am! I took my lead from Maurie who shrugged and downed it in a gulp. I recall the meeting went well.

  9. Greg Martyn May 31, 2021 at 11:19 am

    From John Phillips
    “Given my long and varied career experience in OTC, it was surprising that I never worked directly for him.
    However, as part of the PacRim project team, I was asked to perform a desktop survey to find an optimum route for PacRim West. The “customer” for this work was MoC.
    Bright eyed and bushy tailed as I was, I proceeded to map out the shortest possible route (least $$ cost) and proudly took my effort to MoC.
    He took one look at my route and proceeded to give me lesson in geo-politics.
    I had threaded the cable through the territorial waters of both Bougainville and New Caledonia!
    I don’t recall being admonished – just given good advice and gentle direction from a great leader and role model.
    The eventual route obviously cost more, but avoided any potential problems of territorial jurisdiction.”

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