Border Mail farewells long-time production manager

Robert Lappin, right, pictured in September 2000 with then graphic design apprentice Marcus Kostelac.
Robert Lappin, right, pictured in September 2000 with then graphic design apprentice Marcus Kostelac.

ROBERT Lappin, the long-time production manager of The Border Mail in Albury, oversaw technical advances that propelled the newspaper to the forefront of modern newsprint technology.

Robert died of a heart attack on his farm at Splitters Creek last week. He was 60.

A third generation newspaper man, Robert rose through the ranks, starting in 1971 as an apprentice machine compositor in the old “hot metal” days at the Herald and Weekly Times in Melbourne, to finish his career as general manager of Border Mail Printing in 2003-04.

After completing his apprenticeship at Herald and Weekly Times in 1974, he worked as a computer typesetter and graphic designer at Thomas W. Williams and Associates before joining the Border Morning Mail in 1976.

He was day foreman until 1981, and production manager from 1988 to 2003, when he became general manager of BMP, responsible for the production of not only The Border Mail, but several other publications.

A hands-on manager, he showed his future managerial potential at the age of 21 when he was responsible for the introduction of new technology at TW Williams, and later at the much larger Border Morning Mail.

His 28-year career with the company ended in 2004 and he worked for Cosgraves Property Advisers before joining the Child Support Agency in Albury.

He eventually retired to concentrate on breeding cattle and working on the 100-acre farm and family home, Hill End, which he built from scratch with wife Robyn on Barwonga Drive at Splitters Creek.

Robyn was his high school sweetheart. They were married in June 1972.

Robert was born at the then Bush Nursing Hospital in the Melbourne suburb of Springvale to Margaret and the late Bert “Darkie” Lappin, who spent his working life with Herald and Weekly Times, as did Robert’s grandfather, Jack Sullivan.

He attended Noble Park primary and secondary schools, and played football for Noble Park until he was 18. He then played for Noble Park Methodists, making life-long friends at both clubs.

He did the same when he went back to his family roots to live in Chiltern, where he was a back pocket in the town’s famous team from 1977 to 1982.

He won Chiltern’s best and fairest in 1977 and played in the 1982 grand final.

There were 10 Lappins (11 including the boundary umpire) in the team, and most of the others were related through marriage.

After he moved to Albury, he joined Lavington Football Club in 1983 and played there until 1986, and was the players’ advocate at the tribunal.

He then played in Walla’s premiership team in 1987.

He was a passionate Carlton supporter.

Although city-born, he had a strong yearning for the country and a love of animals.

As a boy, he rode horses at Smithy’s in Noble Park and was forever arriving home with stray dogs in tow and saying to his mother, “Can we keep it; it’s followed me home”.

Robert was known for his generosity, with family and friends saying he would give anyone the shirt off his back if they needed it.

Robert is survived by his wife Robyn, children Paul and Aimee, grandchildren Ally, Charlie, Chloe, Bella and Jessie, mother Margaret and sisters Suzanne and Janice, and their families, and his border collies Rex, Cass, and Chachi, who went everywhere with him.

Gerry Carman is Robert Lappin’s brother-in-law