Re­tire­ment bor­ing for Barry

Big Rigs - - TRUCKIN’ AROUND OZ - TRUCKIN’ AROUND OZ ALF WIL­SON con­trib­u­tors@bi­grigs.com.au

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.

PHO­TOS: ALF WIL­SON

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.

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