From dev­as­ta­tion to de­gus­ta­tion

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - by PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

FOR­MER Army en­gi­neer and man­ager of the Port Dou­glas Com­bined Club Kym Row­ley has gone from pick­ing up the pieces af­ter Cy­clone Tracy vir­tu­ally wiped Dar­win off the map to pour­ing pints.

But his great fas­ci­na­tion can be found a world away.

“I’m sure I was a Chi­nese per­son in my last life - I just love the peo­ple and the place so much,” he said.

Kym has been fas­ci­nated by China and the Chi­nese peo­ple ever since he can re­mem­ber and has trav­elled to the coun­try six times al­ready and will be go­ing on a three-week back­pack­ing jour­ney of “his adopted coun­try” in De­cem­ber.

He was first bit­ten by the travel bug while he was in the Army and in the Engi­neer­ing Corps.

“Like a lot of army peo­ple we got to move around a lot inside Aus­tralia and over­seas and for some it proved pretty tough but I em­braced it,” Kym said.

’But af­ter 21 years I couldn’t ad­vance any fur­ther and so I de­cided to get out and try my hand at some­thing else and here I am liv­ing and work­ing in paradise.”

Hav­ing made the rank of WOI ( War­rant Of­fi­cer First Class) and work­ing in the Engi­neer­ing Corps where he was in­volved in de­mo­li­tion, bridge build­ing and road build­ing his job took him New Guinea, on the Indonesian bor­der, where they ran the depart­ment of works for the PNG gov­ern­ment.

“New Guinea was a fan­tas­tic place and I was thrilled to be work­ing there and the op­por­tu­ni­ties it gave to us all,” Kym said.

“It was also quite an odd sit­u­a­tion be­cause we were the Aus­tralian Army but we were run­ning the coun­try’s Depart­ment of Works at the time but it re­ally was a great time in my life and I was met with many chal­lenges - fan­tas­tic - best two years of my life.”

On re­turn­ing to Aus­tralia he then spent time work­ing on projects in Sydney, Mel­bourne and Townsville.

Then the big­gest day of his life seized him when he and his team were called to Dar­win on Box­ing Day af­ter Cy­clone Tracy smashed the town on Christ­mas Eve in 1974.

“I had never seen dev­as­ta­tion like it ever be­fore and I don’t ever want to see it again - the town was flat­tened,” Kym said.

“Af­ter the ini­tial shock we had plenty of work to do as ev­ery­thing needed to be re­built - the roads, bridges and reroof­ing the few re­main­ing houses and of course the body re­moval.”

Seventy one peo­ple were killed in what was Aus­tralia’s worst ever cy­clone and of the 30,000 peo­ple who lived there at the time, many never re­turned.

Kym and his team re­mained in Dar­win for three months help­ing to re­build the shred­ded town be­fore re­turn­ing to Sydney.

It was then he de­cided to try his hand at run­ning golf clubs. He was al­ready the sec­re­tary of the army golf club and be­gan manag­ing other clubs in Sydney and on the Sun­shine Coast.

He found he had a skill for this and he loved to play the game him­self and can be found most Satur­day morn­ings at the Sea Tem­ple Golf Course.

In the mean­time he has trav­elled to Europe on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, the US and Canada and of course his beloved China.

But it was now time to get se­ri­ous and get work to fund his travel ad­dic­tion.

A friend of his who had been em­ployed as the man­ager of the Tin Shed rang Kym 18 months ago to see if he would be in­ter­ested in be­ing in­ter­viewed by the club’s com­mit­tee for the job be­cause his wife had fallen ill.

“It was sad news to learn of my friend’s ill­ness of course but I de­cided to have the in­ter­view see­ing as I was in Cairns any­way and then I drove to Port and was then told I had the job,” Kym said.

Do you know a lo­cal char­ac­ter with a great story to tell about their past? Email the gazette at

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