Banjo al­ways played our heart­strings with laugh­ter

Balonne Beacon - - LIFE -

THE Balonne Shire has lost a leg­end. One who made many laugh, one who was a lo­cal footy stal­wart, a bloke who was al­ways ready to help those in need and one who will live on in the me­mories of a very large por­tion of the re­gion’s pop­u­la­tion.

Wil­liam ‘Billy’ Ben­nett came to St Ge­orge in the early 1950s. He was a keen rugby league player in school – a sport he was ex­tremely pas­sion­ate about – and was a de­voted sup­porter of the Syd­ney St Ge­orge footy team.

It was while at St Ge­orge State High School, and a mem­ber of the agri­cul­ture and gar­den clubs, that he earned his more well-known nick­name.

The story goes that, dur­ing a gar­den les­son, his teacher Ian Den­nis pointed to a shovel and told Billy, “That’s your banjo and you should get to work play­ing it.”

From that day, Billy was known as ‘Banjo’.

Banjo con­tin­ued to in­dulge in his footy pas­sion and in 1985, with coach Ron­nie Wa­ters, he man­aged the St Ge­orge un­der-18s team, which won both the mi­nor and ma­jor pre­mier­ships.

He fol­lowed this the fol­low­ing year by man­ag­ing the St Ge­orge U19s team when, with John Robert­son as coach, it won the mi­nor premier­ship. He has been af­fil­i­ated with the club ever since, hold­ing var­i­ous po­si­tions on the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. Billy ul­ti­mately worked with Ron Wa­ters for Sun­wa­ter for many years and was a very well­re­garded mem­ber of that or­gan­i­sa­tion. He also loved golf and was a mem­ber of the St Ge­orge Golf Club for 20-odd years and club pres­i­dent for six years.

Golf club cap­tain Trevor ‘Trader’ Hourn said he would re­mem­ber Banjo as “a leg­end in his own right”.

Al­ways com­mu­ni­ty­minded, Banjo was a long-time mem­ber of the St Ge­orge Li­ons Club.

Fel­low Lion Keith Co­dring­ton said Banjo was “a top fella.”

“He was al­ways the first bloke with his hand up to help peo­ple in need. He was a great mem­ber of the com­mu­nity,” he said.

Billy also loved Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture and lan­guages and was one of the few who knew Kamil­laroi lingo.

Sadly, Banjo Ben­nett was di­ag­nosed with leukemia late last year and had been un­der­go­ing treat­ment un­til he fi­nally suc­cumbed to the dis­ease last Sun­day.

Hav­ing known Banjo since 2000, Balonne Shire Mayor Richard Marsh said he was a great guy and a great sup­porter of the com­mu­nity.

“He re­ally will be missed and I’m very sorry to hear that he has passed,” Cr Marsh said.

Banjo’s fu­neral will be held on Mon­day af­ter­noon.

He was al­ways the first bloke with his hand up to help peo­ple in need.

— Keith Co­dring­ton

PHOTO: FILE

BANJO'S BUGGY: Bill ‘Banjo’ Ben­nett at the St Ge­orge Golf Club a few years ago.

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