Tim Horstead, Narooma Men’s Shed (NSW)

He is proud, proud of his pioneer heritage. He is practical; he understands the difference between a spade and a shovel. He knows how best to use both. He is forthright, some might say opinionated, but never arrogant. You might not agree with him but, somehow, you know he is “kind of right”. He is no man’s fool. He can pop pomposity with a satirical sabre-barbed tooth and gnaw it to the bone. He is humorous and he is not afraid to turn his humour on himself. His language can be colourful. He is a rich source of quotable quotes. He is a man who gets things done simply by doing them. He is a man who gets things done simply by doing them. He is independent and self-reliant. He is a man in touch with reality. He has seen the good side and the hard side of life yet he has taken the time to smell the roses.

John, the eldest of four, is followed by Jeanette, Robert and Margaret. Only Jeanette is still alive. A former nurse and Trauma Sister at Westmead Hospital, Jeanette lives in Baulkham Hills. In 1840, great grandfather Thomas and his brother, John, leave Kent. Having outgrown their farms they seek a better life in the Antipodes. They try Tasmania first but find it too cold and too like England! Two years later they move to Bowning in the Yass region. In 1858 they take up title on good orchard land. Under the free land selection system of the colonial government, which aims to encourage settlement in the rural areas, the Glover brothers pay 1/- (one shilling) per acre per year and achieve freehold of their land after twenty years.

The brothers start a tradition of a Thomas and a John popping up in every generation of the family. John’s father, Roy Glover, is born in Bowning in 1912. He marries Ruby (nee Armour) who descends from West Highlands stock who settle in the now Canberra area about the same time as the Glovers. Old Alex Armour is brought out to look after the cattle of the pioneer Campbells. The old dairy at Duntroon is still standing. Ruby herself is a good horsewoman and a keeper of the family accounts. In 1939, Thomas Glover and Co. hold “Red Hill”, a spread of ten thousand acres, operate a saw mill and run a local store. The property next door to “Red Hill” is “Illalong” where the renowned poet, A.B. Paterson is in residence. (John recalls his father being able to recite anthologies of verse and admits to having tried penning a few poems himself. He fears he is guilty of plagiarism!)

John’s first memories are of the war years and being with his grandfather, Thomas, in the seven bedroomed homestead on “Red Hill”. They listen to the news. He remembers one uncle, who is training with the Light Horse in Queensland, sending them raw peanuts and grandmother roasting them. He remembers another uncle coming home from the war and the night long party celebrating his return.

School for John is a little one teacher school, Goondah School, an outstation of the “Red Hill” property. A single room, a verandah and an open fire nurturing thirty or so of the children of the area. The school is to close in 1955 shortly after John leaves. John’s favourite subject at school is English. But sports are just as important. The seeds of later successes in athletics, cricket and football are put down. They are fostered at boarding school when John wins a scholarship to Hurlstone Agricultural College. The batsman-wicketkeeper turns into a quickie bowler. (John is to continue playing District Cricket until the age of sixty-one when the game gets a bit harder as the body gets a bit stiffer!) At hurdles he leaps to High School Junior Champion. Later, finding it difficult to continue athletics in the bush, John donates his spikes to the local athletics club in Yass.

Agriculture and science join English as the favoured subjects and a career in veterinary science is considered. The least liked subject is history. Ol’ “Snake” Hall has a nasty streak. He has his favourites and his favourites to pick on. However, the mature, reflective John concedes that “I never shut up – so that didn’t help.”

When John is twelve his father dies. His mother has to sell the farm to pay probate duty. Ruby moves her young family to town. Her father helps her buy a house in town and she becomes a florist to support herself and the four children. John is very close to his mother. Their new home is a former orchard with a chook pen. He helps to restore the old property to plant new trees. He isn’t too keen on the chooks and finds them a pain in the …

John the teenager gets along with most people. He seldom has disagreements and the friends he makes at school are life long friends. Girls aren’t quite the thing and they have to wait untll John is seventeen or so. He and his mates are more into hunting, fishing and high country skiing rather than courting. Though there is Julie Brassil …

John’s taste in music is a little unusual – Country and Classical. John’s mother is a classical pianist and he remembers her playing both the piano and the organ. In balance, Tex Morton, Buddy Williams and Slim Dusty warble the airwaves.

Driving since the age of seven, as you do on a working property, John handles the 1924 Chevy truck during the drought of 1944–45 dropping wheat and barley for the sheep and throwing down pumpkins so they break for the cattle. The seventeen year old goes to town to the local police station seeking his licence. “I’ve seen you driving the trucks during the bushfires,” says the local copper. “Here, here’s your licence. Now, piss off!”

John’s first car is the 1956 Holden Ute – the one with the best suspension to suit the terrain although the brakes are not so crash hot! Now that Holden Ute is his pride and joy – “Flash as a rat with a gold tooth!” It has both a heater and a radio ! The radio is an early AWA Cruiser with half a dozen valves. “You can listen to anywhere in Australia” boasts John, “until it flattens the battery drawing too many amps!”

Finishing school, John is unable to meet the costs of a Veterinary Science degree at Sydney University. Instead, he takes on Wool Classing. After completing his studies he takes time out to go bush, hiring himself out as a “knockabout bushie” before seeing out as a jackaroo. But the practicalities win out: 11 pounds per week jackarooing versus 39 pounds per week plus keep Wool Classing. John is to continue Wool Classing until 2002 – at $500 per day or nothing! Brother Bob goes into Wool Classing too.

John’s first serious girlfriend is Elaine Burden of Yass, a book-keeper with the Rural Bank. He is twenty-three, she is twenty-two. They marry. He takes her home to the property left to him and his brother a couple of years earlier by their grandmother – (Now there’s a history to be told about her family in the Gunning area!) – who, seeing some value in the boys, leaves them 500 acres. The boys continue Wool Classing and work the property on the week-ends. Through what John calls “good and aggressive management and personal up-skilling” they grow the sheep run to four thousand acres.

Along comes the family. Carolyn joins Elaine and John in 1963. Then comes Andrew in 1965. Stuart rounds off the trio in 1969. Carolyn has a financial planning and accountancy firm in Goulburn. Her daughter, Alice, is studying medicine in Sydney. Her son, Matthew, graduates from Duntroon and is working towards a second degree. Andrew holds a significant position with the Sporting Shooters Association of New South Wales. He has two daughters; Abby, is a high school teacher in Moree and Virginia is a paramedic stationed in Liverpool. Stuart is a lecturer specialising in genetics in the School of Animal Behaviour at Sydney University having spent some time in England. His daughters, Lydia and Bethann are still at school. John is very happy (and proud) to be “Grumpy Grandad”. That’s John the family man. There is, of course, the “other life”.

By 1973 John decides to put his advice regarding the financial management of the local Goodradigbee Council (later to be known as Yass Council) into action. John becomes an independent councillor and subsequently mayor with a rallying cry: “If you haven’t got an argument, shut up!” John is to serve his community in this capacity for thirty-two years. His service is acknowledged in 1998 when he receives the OAM to complement the Premier’s Medals for Services to Local Government and to Agriculture. That is one aspect of the “other life”.

Another, just as significant, is John’s vital interest in the Agricultural Show Societies and the value they are to agriculture. Show President of theYass Show for five terms; voted on to the Agricultural Society Council of NSW as a regional delegate in the 1980’s; John is to serve as President of the Agricultural Society Council 1998/9. In his various capacities John travels all over Australia. In 2000 he is a delegate to the Welsh Royal Show enjoying the hospitality of the Prince of Wales private Royal Box. “Treated like royalty – or, at least, like Lord Muck!” John travels broadly overseas – New Zealand, the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, New Guinea and even stopping off in Havana, Cuba.

Of all the places he visits the “stand out” memories John expresses are of New Zealand and Ireland. He supposes it’s because of the affinity he feels with those people on the land. As a sideline, John is also a Specialist Judge for The Young Australian of the Year. One notable recipient of this award is Ian Thorpe. And that is how John comes to enjoy some six Prime Minister’s Dinners at Parliament House. Busy, engaged and active as he is, there comes a dark time in John’s life. In December 2002 John loses his beloved Elaine, struck down by an aortic aneurysm. Over the next twelve months he is to lose his brother, Robert to cancer; his best mate and best man, Wal Smith; and then his mother, Ruby, who has been so important to John and his siblings after the tragic death of their father when they were so young. It is time for change.

John’s friendship with Judy brings comfort to them both. Judy, herself a widow, has known John and Elaine for some time due to her working with State and Federal politicians and John’s involvement in local government. Judy wants to move from the cold of Yass and John just wants to get away. The climate of Narooma is appealing to Judy and John has fished there many times. It is time to get out the Webster Twin Fisher and so some serious fishing – reminiscent of his youth trout fishing in the high country. They sell up and buy a property in Narooma with a shed big enough to house his boat and all his tools. John is no stranger to Narooma. Through fishing activities and The Lions Clubs here and in Yass he has a network of acquaintances and new friends. He is involved in fund raising for the Lions’ food and barbeque trailer which he helps to build and modify. He joins the Wooden Boat Builders at Taylor’s boat shed where he teams up with the likes of Brian Craven.

When The Lions put up a grant of one thousand dollars to set up a Men’s Shed John is quick to take up the challenge in partnership with Rob Atkinson and June Sheard of the Whale Real Estate. John is full of admiration for his partners in this project. Despite seeming to be opposites, John, the down to earth get on with it type, and Rob, the calm thorough researcher and networker, become firm friends straight off. As John puts it : “a deep, meaningful and very red-full combination”. Together they make a formidable team and form the nub of a first committee. A public meeting is held and the search for a Shed site begins. They investigate a variety of sites offered as a “home” for the Narooma Men’s Shed – including the Scout Hall. Eventually, with the support of Col and Christine Macauly, the Glass Rocks Road site is secured. The Shed is up and running. John is involved with with all the fund raising activities and even gives many of his own tools to the Shed. John is becoming more interested in wood work and takes on a new hobby – restoring furniture. His particular interest settles on the older Australian furniture working with cedar and Huon pine. Of himself John asserts: “I can fix anything – except a broken heart.”

John and Judy keep themselves active. No longer a farmer, John keeps his link with the land through gardening. As for fishing, well he’ll get out on the boat as often as he can get a crew! While John is caught up in his “things” Judy takes on the presidency of Montague Arts and Crafts. As John says: “She is quite clever. Quite creative especially in mosaics and needlework”.

For John the Shed has special meaning. He reflects on the good it does for its members and what it offers us. He believes the Shed helps to fill a void in Narooma. In its development, its evolution. It is a guide to how to share and support an important group in our community.

In John’s words: “ It’s bloody wonderful. A really valuable part of our community’s assets. I am so bloody happy it has happened – the challenge with the $1,000 grant from Lions and we have met the challenge. As for advice for the Shed? The best of my advice has been given.”

Tim Horstead is the Secretary of the Narooma Men’s Shed. Tim has written many biographies showcasing the stories of Narooma Men’s Shed members, published in the Narooma Men’s Shed monthly newsletter. View the catalogue at naroomamensshed.com.au/newsletters

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