Retirement boring for Barry
RETIREMENT at age 65 was totally boring for long-time truckie Barry Gower and lasted just five months.
Eleven years on, he enjoys life to the fullest driving an International T-Line on the tropical paradise of Thursday Island in the Torres Strait.
One of the Australia’s oldest truckies, the 76-year-old Barry has been in the road transport industry is some capacity for more than 50 years.
Born in Wilcannia, in New South Wales, on September 4, 1941, as one of six children with three brothers and two sisters, Barry started his career driving a T-Line International in NSW at age 25.
“I got into trucks at Cobar in 1964 carting logs and later was at Dubbo driving a two-year-old Dodge transporting sheep to and from sale yards and to abattoirs,” he said.
After that Barry worked for Kevin Davis at Dubbo driving a Mercedes 1418 carting fruit and general freight and really enjoyed it.
Barry then worked for Kevin’s brother Alan Davis behind the wheel of a Mercedes and travelling into Queensland.
“I got up to Rockhampton along the Bruce Hwy and out to Winton and the road between Longreach and Charleville was terrible. Narrow and lots of dirt and dust,” Barry said.
Versatile Barry also carted cattle from the Northern Territory into NSW for the same employer and said the job was great but often dirty and smelly.
“Cleaning the poo left by the stock in the trailers had to be done once a week and was challenging,” he said.
Barry then moved on to another job driving a Mack R Series out of Cobar carting sand from there to Wilcannia and other places.
1974 was defining time in Barry’s life when he became an owner-operator and he purchased a near new 1418 Mercedes.
“I used to carry grain such as wheat, oats and sorghum from Dubbo to Sydney and lasted about two years,” he said.
From there Barry moved to Moranbah in Queensland working for more than a decade at an open cut mine.
“I was driving a Euclid dumper truck and that was a great experience,” he said.
It was back to NSW in 1989 when Barry worked for Readymix driving a 1995 Mack and he enjoyed it so much that he stayed for 16 years.
“I drove a million kilometres in that truck and that was the longest time I have lasted in one job,” he said.
Soon after Barry celebrated his 65th birthday in 2006, he moved to Cairns in far north Queensland to retire but that didn’t last long.
“I just couldn’t handle doing nothing and did part time jobs. But my retirement from trucks lasted just five months and I moved to TI and was there for three years,” he said.
Next up Barry drove a Kenworth at Cloncurry in the Queensland outback in 2007 before moving on to another chapter of his long and colourful life.
In 2008, his Torres Strait-based son Craig told Barry there was jobs for truck drivers at Horn Island in the Torres Strait which is where the airport is located.
The nearby Torres Strait business centre of Thursday Island is too hilly to have an airport and passengers travel to there by ferry from Horn Island.
“I drove a Ford Louisville and carted road base as they were re sealing the Horn Island airstrip. We lived in dongas near the Wongai Beach Hotel there,” he said.
On Horn Island there are many wrecks of military trucks which were used in World War II by the Army and Torres Strait Light Infantry Brigade.
The Torres Strait was the front line of Australia defences when a Japanese invasion was feared.
It was a life changing experience for Barry who got to see and work on many remote Torres Strait islands when his boss won a new contract.
“We went by barges in the trucks to Murray, Mabuaig, Darnley, Saibai, Duaun, Coconut and Boigu islands and I never got seasick,” he said.
Boigu Island is Australia’s most remote outpost in the north, with the coast of PNG in sight just 8km away.
He may never have been seasick however landing at one of Australia’s shortest airstrips by small plane at Mabuaig Island was a different experience.
“As you landed you came in just over from the sea and then the plane stopped not far from the ocean on the other side. It was a hairy situation,” Barry said.
Barry moved to TI eight years and drove an Isuzu Tipper on Horn Island after that hauling road base from a quarry.
His latest job has been driving an International T-Line on TI for Mac Birney and he loves the lifestyle there.
“You either love it or hate it here on TI and I like it. It is pretty laid back and I even got to see a crocodile near a beach in a back suburb here off Tamwoy Town,” he said.
You can never keep a good man down and Barry carts metal on TI and is also a genuine Jack of All Trades.
“I also do a bit of mechanic work and handyman jobs,” he said.
His brothers and sisters are all still alive and Barry said they lived at various places in NSW and Queensland.
Youngest son Craig lives on TI and runs a floor laying business while daughter Rachael is in Sydney and other son Stephen resides in Dubbo.
I asked Barry what was his favourite roadhouse during his career driving the highway and byways of Queensland, NSW and the NT.
“I used to often stop off at the Shell near Lithgow,” he said.
And what has been his favourite truck: “It would have to be the Kenworth,” he said.
So when does this gentleman of the road expect to finally retire?
“I am fit and don’t drink or smoke and don’t take pills. I would like to continue until I am aged 80.
“Life for me is great at the top of the world. Or should I say the top of Australia,” he said.
TRUCKIE LOVES HIS JOB: Barry Gower near his International on Thursday Island.
Aerial shot from back of Thursday island with Horn Island in background at left.
A small boat being placed on a trailer with trucks on a TI jetty in background.