Roger Nichols’ Fraser Creek hut – personal recollections
– in parallel to entries in the hut logbooks.
- made some forty years after my first visit.
Not a hut history. Just some memories of my part in it.
I’ve left off the names of several people who were on hut trips with me to respect their privacy.
I’ve never been one for keeping a diary so what follows is prompted by log-book entries and additional, hopefully interesting, stuff included from memory – some vague and others vivid!
I arrived in Tasmania, with family, in March 1974, to a job as General Mill Foreman at the Renison Mine, transferring from another Consolidated Goldfields tin mine, in Cornwall U.K. I recall looking forward to experiencing the many open spaces of western Tasmania I could see on maps, having spent much time on English moorlands and other high places. It came as a shock to see that much of Tasmania’s West Coast ‘open space’ was already occupied – by almost impenetrable bush! I was to learn that there are many magical places hidden in that bush – even if it was often a cow of a job getting into them!
As a boy, I’d had a memorable career in Scouting, as a Cub, a Scout and a Senior Scout. I couldn’t get enough Senior Scouting and was associated with two Scout Groups – my home 3rd N.E. Leeds - St Wilfred’s and with the 10th North Leeds - St Edmunds group, of which several of my high school friends were members. So, when son Richard reached Scout age in Zeehan and the Scout Leader Frank Hohne was looking for a break, I took over as 1st Zeehan Scout Leader and Frank moved to Group Leader. Through this and West Coast District scouting activities I became friends with Terry Reid. Terry was 1st Queenstown Scout Leader and spent some time at Renison as an electrician. We often shared our lunch times in my office, talking over and planning Scout activities.
Dundas Camp Site – Melba Flats
Not really a part of the hut story but did form the pattern of working weekends and camps to bring about improvement and greatly enhance facilities for Scouting on the West Coast. Much development work had already been done before playing my part in it; mainly via the working bees held prior to district cub field days, traditionally held on the first Sunday in December. It was known for its mature pine trees, planted, I believe, in 1952 as a project driven by the then General Manger at Rosebery. Compared to what I’d grown up with as a Scout in the UK, it provided an excellent resource, just ten minutes out of town (Zeehan). Many days of work were put into the camp to improve it for both activities and camping – well beyond it’s prior primary use for cub Field Days. It suffered from a major fire in 1981. Zeehan Venturers were camping there at the time and were directed to leave when a helicopter landed to inform them of the approaching fire.
The site, which was a Crown Lease, was taken back for a mining lease and has since been planted for forestry. A very sad outcome. Prior to that and throughout its life, it suffered from idiotic 4WD and trail bike attack. Many days of work to create and maintain grassed areas were repeatedly ruined by mindless imbeciles. This despite more work placing barriers to keep them out.
My first Fraser Creek Hut visit, on 24 December 1978, indicative of many more to come, involved carrying nails for future repairs. Terry was already smitten with the place and this trip was his first to entrap other adults with its magic. It was also my introduction to Carbine Hill.
The next visit, on New Year’s Eve a week later, was quite different in more ways than one. Thoughts were that Carbine Hill was best avoided, especially when there was a relatively flat alternative along Wallace’s Tram from Confidence Saddle. Driving through the Renison lease, I, with Peter Mundy, Richard Nichols and Jim Docherty found our way to the North East Dundas Tram at Confidence Saddle, the start of Wallace’s Tram. I don’t recall if we had torches or not, but if we did they didn’t help much in finding our way. The tram was largely overgrown and almost impossible to follow when viewed from head height. Fortunately, Peter was accompanied by Cobber his wonder dog who was well able to follow the track, clearly visible from small dog head height. Cobber had a white bum which could be followed as it became visible spasmodically. All went well and good progress made until Cobber decided that chasing wallabies was more fun than supplying his bum as a beacon. Fortunately, he always returned after each foray and we were able to continue, reaching the ‘Junction’ and more familiar ground, still with time to arrive at the hut before the ‘witching hour’.
I’d taken a small container of Scotch to see in the New Year and put a ‘noggin’ into Terry’s cup. It was only later that I learned he’d dumped it, being averse to grog of any sort!
Departed with Peter and Cobber the following morning as Peter had to return to work New Year’s Day.
My next recorded trip was two months later, 3rd and 4th March, to work on repairs with five other adults and Richard.
24th and 25th March saw the Zeehan Patrol Leaders and Assistant Patrol leaders on a familiarization trip. A first for two of them. I worked on what was to become a bit of a pattern for the future. Terry became the structural builder whereas I tended to focus of the finicky bits. This included lining the walls around the bottom bunks, with built in storage spaces.
A milestone on 5th May 1979 with the arrival of foam mattresses. Also work on roof.
19th and 20th May with Zeehan’s Bulldog patrol. Focused on trying to drain the track below the hut.
21st July fitted a tarpaulin over the roof – a heavy load to get there!
5th and 6th January – one of those vivid memories. I was interested in making a connection from the tracks around the hut across to the Moore’s Pimple track. Richard and I went up to the hut on a rare warm and dry day (the day the new Zeehan swimming pool opened). I noted in the logbook that I’d never seen the track so dry. On Saturday afternoon we went up onto Godkin Ridge. This brought the Moores Pimple track link to front of mind. We’d seen that the country on the ridge extension was thick with vegetation and I was concerned about becoming lost. I knew there was a sheet of ‘Forticon’ orange construction plastic at the hut. Richard and I set to cutting it into strips to use as flagging tape. We managed to make 230 strips from what was available.
On Sunday morning we went back up to the ridge armed with our tape. From the map it was clear we needed to stick to the high points but there was a saddle in the middle. We set off attaching tape every few metres, checking it could be seen in reverse. When all 230 tapes had been used and still no sign of the Moores Pimple track, it looked as if we’d have to come back another day with more tape. In one last effort, Richard stayed at the end of the flag line and I pushed on a little further making sure we still had voice contact. At about the limit of that strategy, I peered through the bush and thought I could see an unnatural feature ahead. I pushed on a bit further and ‘wunderbar!’ it was the track embankment. The log-book records that it took us three hours to that point, but only an hour to return.
16th February – The log-book records a day trip and the sighting of a 5ft Tiger snake on Carbine Hill. I can’t recall ever seeing another one. It must have been around this time that I was completing my Scout Leader “Wood Badge”. The final stage was a project and I’d given myself the objective of making a photographic collection of all the vegetation at the different elevations along the Carbine and Wallace’s Tram tracks.
I’d arranged for assistance with identifying plants from Steve Berrigan, District Forester. It was Steve who first brought the hut to Terry’s attention. Steve Berrigan died on 16 the July 2019.
I must have finished the project because my Wood Badge certificate is dated 9 May 1980.
23rd February 1980 - Remedial and construction works at the hut had reached the stage where some heavy lifting was needed. Our roofing repairs weren’t up to the job (or maybe the skills available at the time). Some corrugated galvanised roofing was considered the way to go. The fireplace needed some heavy iron work, plus bricks and mortar. The half decent heavier timber salvaged from the hut environs was all used up so more was needed. All a bit much to carry up on the backs of the fittest young lads and even not so fit, heavy smoking (at the time) Leaders.
Renison exploration had a helicopter contract for the summer which guaranteed a minimum numbers of hours work. An enquiry revealed there was a fair chance of some surplus time coming up. Procurement, mostly by fair means, resulted in two chopper loads being put together in the Zeehan Scout hall garage. One was a net load mainly of bricks and sand. The other a flat pack of timber, roofing iron, cement, a chainsaw and fuel, sundry galvanised sheet and other bits and pieces. I believe there were also two heavy gauge rail sections for the fire dogs and a one inch thick piece of steel plate for the fire back.
The spare time slot came to be and rapid, but planned, deployments put in place. Terry went up to the hut with Queenstown lads, plus Richard, and I attended to the loading in Zeehan. Quite how this was managed I don’t fully recall. But my Renison flat tray came into the equation somewhere. I’d taken the chopper pilot on a recce trip on the Friday evening to show him where the hut was, so became concerned when he’d been gone with the first load, the net, for much longer than it should have taken. He’d said the load was at the limit so he couldn’t take me on the real run. After some time, I was relieved to see him returning but still with the net suspended under the chopper. He landed and shouted to me to get in. That’s a worry I thought. He said it was at the load limit without me! With me navigating we located the hut and, with difficulty, deposited the first load. My recollections including seeing the tail rotor avoiding a small tree only because it was being blown away by the draft from the rotor. Another was the pilot telling me to grab the red handle between the seats and to be ready to pull it if he said to. I had visions of a James Bond type ejection! Fortunately, the call to pull never came and it later turned out the handle was the manual hook release in case the primary electrical actuation failed! An uneventful return to the Zeehan airstrip with me jumping out to attach the heavier second load and waving him off before heading to Dundas for the fast walk up to the hut to check out the results of the operation. Terry recorded a good result with only one broken brick. Richard recalls being at the receiving end and up the bank a bit taking photos – until he noticed the main rotor was passing in front of him within what he considered touching distance!
The ‘chopper’ deliveries flagged the start of a very busy construction period; putting to good use all the dropped goodies – and many more transported by more conventional means – mostly the backs and shoulders of boys, girls and a few more senior in years.
7th March 1980 – Renison Day - Day trip to start fitting the new roofing iron assisted by Glenn McGuiness. Access was again via the Renison lease and Wallace’s tram. The work had two effects on Glenn, one painful, immediate but relatively short lived, and the other profitable in the much longer term. The first resulted from our lack of skills and decent tools to punch holes in the iron to take the fastening screws. The punches didn’t have hand-shields, so knuckles caught many blows. The better outcome was Glenn’s development of his interest in real estate. Our day on the roof was interrupted by the arrival of several members of Renison’s mining department. The excuse was they were checking the outer perimeter of the mine lease. It was useful that they happened to be carrying a couple of translucent roofing sheets plus a Lions Club donated mini chainsaw, which did excellent service replacing handsaws previously used for ‘cabinet making’ of hut fixtures.
On the 8th and 9th March the roof was completed (for the time being) and the back wall partially demolished and rebuilt to accommodate the new fireplace. The following weekend saw a massive load carrying, including the kitchen sink, bricks, the swinging cooking pot hangers and a myriad of other items. My welding skills had been stretched in building the pot hangers the week before. (I disposed of the second-hand welder, via the Leven District annual Scout auction, only this year 2020). As Terry noted, when he added photos to the logbook nine months later, “This weekend would have to go down as the hardest - the amount of gear carried up and the amount of work carried out.” The added photos also referred to the arrival of the new windows and the building of the table on 1st February 1980.
A bit of a landmark on 22nd March when the full Nichols family, including Scruffy the adopted dog, overnighted at the hut. Apparently, taking advantage of being able to avoid the washing up, I did some work on a fire-side kindling box and started on the sink unit.
A 12th April note says I completed the Stage 5 project vegetation photography and carried up the stainless steel ‘smoke shelf’ to go in the fireback/chimney (made from a tumble drier drum recovered from the tip). Also put in a waste pipe from the sink and recommended a grease trap be incorporated. Laid the residual fireplace bricks and furthered the sink unit. The following Saturday saw the sink unit completed together with a second kindling bin and the mantle shelf. The table was better secured and the adjacent wall lined.
A day trip on 3rd May with King Billy palings (Lake Margaret pipeline stave trimmings), accompanied by Steve Berrigan to review progress. Terry commented that I also took up a tap and some hose to get running water in the hut. I don’t recall how it worked but his closing comment was “What next?” Time would tell! Though the next phase occurred nearly four years later and was completed (sort of) two months after that.
The 10th May saw a 1st Zeehan patrol activity weekend which included clearing the bank ready for a porch and the construction of the ‘Leaders” bunk. A new level of sophistication reached with curtains, table cloth and tea towels – courtesy ‘Mum’ Reid.
10th and 11th June – another 1st Zeehan trip with more ‘cabinet making’, porch preparation and a walk to Moores Pimple. Noted that the log-book box was completed.
A quick trip on 19th July saw the cut out Scout emblem added to the log-book box and the cutlery drawer installed. Also noted that I took the chainsaw for a service and use at the Zeehan Scout Hall (for work which would turn out to be a waste of time seven months later).
The next recorded trip was 29th November. A day trip with a couple of 4 x 2 timbers, a hearth shovel and a candelabra!
The next few months saw sparse visits, given the Zeehan Scout Hall burned down (together with much of the old town) and shortly afterwards the Dundas camp site copped it too. Focus was elsewhere for a while.
The new hall was officially opened on 4th December 1981 by Sir Stanley Burbury – only ten months after the destructive fire. Thus, the diversion of primary attention from the hut for a while. Although that was the case, Zeehan scouts didn’t turn away completely.
On 9th May 1981, several investitures were conducted at the hut, including AVL Vicky Wickham and three Venturers. It was VL Alan Riles anniversary of his arrival in Tasmania from the UK (and just after my seventh).
Day visit recorded on 11th July visiting Zeehan Venturers, apparently accompanied by two young ladies – who I don’t recall!
1st August – another day trip with three Venturers in support of six young Scouts and two leaders from 2nd Moonah who stayed the night.
14th November – porterage of two chain saws ready for block cutting for wood shed shingles. Day trip.
It was around this time that I changed jobs at Renison. Increased responsibility in a new role meant time was not so plentiful.
January 1982 – Tasmanian Corroboree in Hobart – Terry and I had jobs leading up to and during the Corroboree, both involving some epic experiences, stories in themselves!
13th March – Day trip with the Flanagans and Owen Bantick, carrying palings. Woodshed site clearing
11th April – visited Easter group who were working on woodshed construction and fitting high windows in gable ends.
16th May – day trip with a new Renison arrival as part of the getting to come aboard routine!
10th July – overnight – general pottering about jobs
30th October – the day the dunny was chemically excavated!
21st November – visited apparently because Sir James Plimsoll was visiting the West Coast but missed the hut, so I went instead.
Several mentions of kero being carried up to the hut. Also lamp mantles and glasses. A bit of family heritage was associated with the use of the kero. I gifted a ‘Primus’ stove (actually an Optimus, I think) to the hut. It was part of the family camping set up brought from the UK, so it was a bit sad that it disappeared. I still have a smaller one that my Dad bought me for my fifteenth birthday. It went all over the UK with me and was used nearly every weekend. Kero pressure lanterns were used at the hut early on but became more trouble than they were worth in inexperienced hands. Broken mantles and glasses were common, as were badly smoked glasses. One outcome of this need for parts was an excuse to visit the oil lamp shop in Melbourne – TW Sands – on Elizabeth Street until 2004 and still in business in Huntingdale. A virtual treasure trove and a visit for washers or other parts was often used to fill a gap between meetings in Melbourne or waits for flight times.
5th February – logged that Terry and I cut steps to access toilet. Overnighted
An undated entry between 26th February and 5th March by Sue Nichols remarking a major improvement since her last visit two years previously – a dunny. Apparently, Terry promised a shower for next time (but I had to organise building it).
13th March – day visit for general work including wall in front of toilet and cementing door step.
3rd April (Easter) – stayed one night during the epic track cording effort. Recorded that it was on this trip that the bog roll holder was fitted. I made the actual round bit that the roll sits on from a piece of broom handle. It seems the use of this foreigner did not please Terry, who later replaced it with a piece of King Billy dowel.
4th June 1983 - 21 nights – after 4˝ years – a laggardly performance!
25th June – must have been there because I started the petition for a pot-bellied stove at the hut. Enough said about the result! I moved the motion and Fred seconded it. Look what happened to Fred. Some nasty sod burned him! (Fred can be seen at the back of the Christmas lunch table - 14th December 1984 picture)
9th July – the glow worm epic. Up with Terry and stopped on the saddle for Terry to take a photo of the glow worms. Problem with walking off in the dark for a fag, so the light didn’t get in the camera, then trying to find it without stuffing up the picture with a torch, is that it’s a bit of a sod finding the camera in the pitch black! Didn’t work anyway!
24th September – not sure if day or overnight but had a rant in the logbook about a mob who’d been up bragging about how much grog they’d consumed then left their empties and other crap behind them.
END OF LOGBOOK ONE - 29TH OCTOBER 1983
13th – 15th January – Looks like a couple of nights, engaged primarily on firewood
22nd January – probably a day trip noted as the annual inspection by Sue Nichols expressing disappointment that the requested shower had not been installed.
19th February – phase two of the water supply. After an epic job by David and Richard getting the pipe up there, it was installed in the creek as far upstream as it would go – about 200 metres. A rough low dam in the creek to give it a head start, though probably inadequate given the problems keeping the flow going. From there the pipe fed a tap at the sink. Cold water done!
25th & 26th February – a design day – how to get the hot water system built and installed.
11th March – must have had a productive couple of weeks because took up PVC pipe, fittings and tools ready to install the hot water system. The hot water tank, built by the Renison town workshop, was left at the top of the four-wheel drive track ready for porterage the rest of the way. It was to be the first of three, increasingly robust models installed over several years.
17th March – a big day of piping, heat exchanger and hot water tank installation. Left on the 18th with phase two complete – hot and cold running water in the hut (though a few tweaks were to be needed later).
7th April – fix it weekend. Hot water tank raised and syphon breaker installed. A kinky poly pipe realigned. Actually, quite a personal landmark reached. I think my model of hut perfection differed from Terry’s, being based on BP Lodge at Cradle Mountain with its bells, whistles and other conveniences!
9th / 10th June – must have been a bit of a flood in the creek because the lads had to fix a twisted pipe and I noted that the expensive stainless strainer fitter to the intake end of the pipe had disappeared. Started on taking my ideal hut a step further by preparing the shower base, able to be concreted due to a negotiated helicopter lift of cement to the drill site on the ridge. Shower design downgraded to acceptance that a camp shower would have to suffice, with its canvas bucket filled with a bucket from the hot water tap at the sink and temperature controlled by adding water from the cold tap in the shower. The shower base is noted as being completed on 25th August following a number of concreting sessions (and cartage of cement from the drill site).
23rd September – day trip to work on water line – joiners and weights to hold it in place. Not the first, nor last, such exercise!
27th October – tour of inspection. Found in reasonable order other than an axe left outside.
12th & 13 January – mainly roof painting, interspersed with curried stew cooking and eating interspersed with Primus stove trouble shooting.
No visits recorded between January and Easter. I don’t keep a diary but a look through the photo archives indicated daughter Kirsten and Helen Flanagan at the national Venture in W.A. I also had an unexpected trip to the UK when my mother died.
Easter – Works program planned and conducted included return of a repaired? Hot water tank and the construction and commissioning of the shower.
Very little hut time until the Zeehan Venturers Christmas party on 14th December. I recall having mixed feelings with the change of hut usage from 95% Scouting to 80% Murray High use. A great scheme but a change and change takes getting used to.
19th November - There was an adventurous night which brought together my old UK mountain rescue days and my responsibility for emergency services at Renison - which had some very competent people between me and the sharp end. My part seemed to be primarily making sure resources were available and letting the relatives know of bad things happening to their loved ones.
Was having the evening meal at home in Zeehan when there was a heavy knocking on the door. For some reason, I knew it was Terry before I opened the door. A girl in a Murray High group had broken a leg. Terry had built a makeshift stretcher and with a teacher had carried the casualty over the saddle and a good way down the other side until the teacher’s exhaustion called a stop. Terry had dashed from there to Zeehan. Thus the knock on the door. I’m a bit vague as to what followed but my recollection is that after a quick snack, Terry headed back to join the teacher and the casualty. I initiated a Renison Mine Rescue team call out and the recovery mission was underway. I think I must have led the way and the patient was picked up and on carried to the town ambulance waiting at the bottom. I don’t recall if the Renison 4WD ambulance was used from the top of the 4WD track or if the stretcher carry went the whole way. My job was then to go door knocking and inform the parents in Zeehan. Terry records that the leg was broken at 4.30 p.m. and the plaster was on at 1.15 a.m. Not a bad effort all round.
14th / 15th December
Zeehan Venturer Unit (part of anyway) formal Christmas dinner. Also, Vicki Wickam’s farewell from the unit. Final comment from Vicki was the hut had progressed greatly since her first visit, when she was invested, but had a complaint. The toilet seat was too high for her short legs! I later managed to catch up with her at her then home in New Zealand and again in Sydney.
1st January – Day walk – to clear the head apparently. Took up a new guy from work, who took his family up overnight the following weekend.
15th March – more work on the hot water system. Mk II. Replacement of the original, much patched up Renison made galvanised one, with a flash My Lyell made model, which had been carried up by Queeny Venturers on 14th January. A slight problem with the tank was there was no way to get the cold water in to be heated and thence push the hot water out. Not much of an issue in a well tooled workshop but a bit of a problem at Fraser Creek. It seems the problem was overcome by salvaging a fitting from the old tank and some ‘skilled’ blow torch soldering work. The end result, after some pipework modifications to suit, was recorded as a leak proof hot water system. This left the boxing in to be completed which was done the following weekend by Queeny Venturers.
It was about then that we bought a house in Ocean Vista and spent most weekends up there working on the place.
13th – 14th June – Overnight trip just because. Went up with Helen F and shared the hut with some Queeny Venturers – who rudely recorded what they thought of some sophisticated music (probably traditional jazz) I must have entertained them with. Noted a plumbing job in need of attention. Visited Curtin Davis mine as a side trip on the way out.
16th August – Day trip to return a repaired lantern and to take up Chris Wilson and her three year old son (who walked the whole way up and only needed a shoulder ride for some of the way down). The later outcome of the trip follows (apologies about the perspective – trying to keep the flash reflection out of the picture).
An odd entry from me indicating a shift in popular view about the benefits of a pot-bellied stove being installed. Can’t recall where it came from or where it went. Maybe I was suffering from some mental issue (in additional to the usual one).
23rd January An interesting start to the year with another deployment of my old mountain rescue training. I can’t recall the exact sequence of events but three Queeny Venturers had become lost on a walk to Moores Pimple. After an unsuccessful search by the group, a full scale police led search started. I presented to the search HQ at Dundas and, given my local knowledge, led a team which was transported, probably via Mt Read and White Spur roads, to close to Moores Pimple. We walked from there down the Moores Pimple track then onto the Godkin Ridge track (surveyed by Richard and me seven years previously). I remember being amazed that the helicopter crew couldn’t see us on the Moores Pimple track, even though we were looking directly and horizontally at the pilot. Our party included SES members wearing bright orange clothing. We got to the hut by mid-day and I recorded leaving at 12.15 p.m. after hearing good news via radio.
My lasting vision of that episode was seeing Terry in the Search HQ tent at Dundas, sat on a chair, wrapped with a blanket and looking like I’d never seen him before and hope I’ll never see him again – despair! (I’ve just come across a photo of what I’ve described on the last page of Log Book No. 4)
The ensuing press coverage, some factual, some imaginative, reminded me of being centre stage in a Senior Scout incident in the UK when I was a similar age to the three missing adventurers. With a group of Scout/school friends we set off to do a difficult cave system traverse and grossly underestimated the complexity of the system and the time it would take us. As a result, we became the subjects of a major rescue operation – a successful one! We also became the subjects of frontpage stories in the UK national press. We’d been extracted from the cave system in the early hours and returned to the Youth Hostel where we’d based ourselves. We weren’t due to be picked up by my father until late in the afternoon, so spent the day hiding from the press in hay barns around the village. Not having slept for around 48 hours, I took the day off school on the Monday. On Tuesday I was called to the Headmaster’s office and told I was self-indulgent for having the audacity to take time off school simply because I’d missed some sleep! I was sympathetic to the subjects of the stories resulting from the Moores Pimple track misorientation!
8th February – a day trip to take up a new logbook box and to leave a note for Terry who’d been knocking himself about a bit as a result of the recent misadventure.
24th February – an evening trip with the Zeehan locum doctor – Tanya (unpronounceable eastern European surname) and Jeanette McKenzie who was doing some conflict resolution training for me. They were both staying at the Heemskirk motel and needed an evening out of the bar. Terry was there with a school group of grade 8 girls and teacher and added us to the dinner sitting.
I do recall driving the ladies out in the GM’s BMW, which I had the use of whilst he was away. Doubt he meant for me to take it out to Dundas though! Postscript – I met Tanya again in Sydney when she was trying to flog Occ. Rehab services to RGC. Jeanette returned for more on 3rd July
26th April – day walk hunting for black and white photo scenes
27th June – at least that’s what the entry is dated but Terry commented it was only the 23rd on the following Tuesday! Day trip with ramblings about a kero heater. Looks as if I’d given up on the pot-bellied job. More mentions of kero technology issues relating to ‘Primus” stoves and pressure lanterns.
3rd – 5th July – return trip with Jeanette McKenzie, this time with her partner John. Walked to Moores Pimple on the 4th and somewhere else (not recorded) before out on the 5th
27th September – quick day trip.
16th January – another day trip, noting having spent two weeks with Queeny Venturers, first in Frenchmans then in Hobart for the tall ships bicentenary celebrations.
11th February – evening trip to trade with the wood cutters - a bottle of Coke for a steak sandwich
13th February – a hut trip I’ve never been allowed to forget. Went up in the morning and returned via the Moores Pimple track with Queeny Venturers, leaving at 1.30 p.m. What I didn’t know was that wife Sue had decided to walk up on her own (a first) with a batch of fresh scones, arriving at 2.30 p.m. to find the place abandoned – which was odd because the vehicles were still at the bottom of the track? I had some explaining to do!
24th February – day trip with a Renison group.
15th March – evening trip for tea with a MHS group.
9th &10th April – noted my first night since July ’87. Mentioned by a Renison guy as not snoring loudly enough to disturb his night. Not sure who was there. Lots of disparate entries with little mention of each other
– walked up for a late lunch with Sue. Took the chainsaw down for overhaul in Burnie.
2nd/3rd July – mixed group of friends from Hobart and a Burnie neighbour. Took them up to Godkin Ridge. Mention of returning the following weekend for an almost pot-bellied stove installation.
9th/10th July – noted as night 43 and being stuffed up again re. the pot bellied stove.
29th/30th July – a quick overnight trip for a recharge before heading off to the mainland for a couple of weeks, probably for a management development program at UNSW.
23rd August – an evening trip for tea with MHS group
22nd September – another tea trip
15th November – 44th night
4th December – Farewell at Cub
Field Day – Dundas
6th/7th December – 45 nights - Last night before the big move to Sydney. Had let go the chance at it being the 46th by opting for an overnight trip to the Raglan Hut before I left. Went up with Jenny to look for an extras role in the movie being made there by Murray High students/Queeny Venturers. Didn’t get a part but did get a very wet sleeping bag and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Early departure to get back to Mt Lyell for the famed ‘Morning Prayers’ meeting.
Left my wet sleeping bag in the drier at Comrie and got back after work to find it had stuck in one position and scorched the nylon. Fortunately, it continued to provide good service and has been passed on to grandson No. 2
End of log-book number 4. I think my last entry said I have five nights to go get my 50.
I don’t recall when it became known that time living on the West Coast was coming to an end. The industrial situation at Renison continued to be moronic. The solution which was finally implemented - a shut down and clear out, had been put to the Board by the then GM and myself at a meeting in Sydney earlier when tin prices were high, but had been rejected because Renison was the cash cow of the group and the loss of revenue unacceptable, so had continued. A change of financial circumstances and a GM with a firmer hand had provided some hope, but not for long, as he had confided in me that he’d been offered another job which was either going to make him rich or put him in jail. I don’t know if he became rich, but he died from a heart attack on a London station platform. His replacement thought he was going to fix things by having the managers wear ties and espousing respect for the ‘working man’. He also wanted to move out the department managers to enable the new broom to get into all the corners. It didn’t work. The final solution was to carry out what I’d proposed well before then.
Finished at Renison but the deal was to stay in Tas until the end of the school year, so moved to Mt Lyell and lived at Comrie during the week and up to Burnie at weekends. My termination date at Renison was 31st October 1988. Presumably, I was on the RGC payroll from 1st November.
Although moved on, I was well looked after with a new corporate job in Sydney. I was very unhappy at the time (especially because Sydney house prices were rising about $1,000 each time we looked in the estate agents windows and the interest rate was in the teens). As it turned out, my ten years in Sydney gave me experiences I would never have had otherwise. These included international travel and being paid well for rock-climbing and abseiling in the Blue Mountains, Kalbarri Gorge, the Perth (W.A.) hills quarries and Banka Island in Indonesia! Caving in the Margaret River region too. A visit to Yosemite didn’t go amiss. Nor did a canoe trip down an alligator filled Florida river. A weekend at Rocky Cape with my Blue Mountains outdoor activity provider, teaching the Renison mine rescue team some vertical rescue techniques, made a change from the usual management development programs. Some said the view from my office window over Circular Quay to the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House wasn’t bad either! I did do some indoor work too, when time allowed! Fortunately, the commute in and out of Sydney wasn’t too onerous because I was away about a third of the time – including back in Tas on the West Coast, when every opportunity was made to gather up those missing five nights at the hut to make the fifty.
I don’t have records of all the catch up nights but one early Zeehan trip was to sit in the town office and act as security guard for the pay clerks whilst they paid off the work force. Some really good people were dragged into the situation by the rat-bags. I don’t recall any hut nights being associated with that trip!
The usual arrangement was to stay at the Renison ‘Guest House’ in Zeehan. The deal was to head back there from the mine site, stopping for dinner makings at the supermarket. Change and head off to Dundas to walk up the hut. Cook dinner, sleep and up early in time to get back to the guest house for breakfast (makings supplied) followed by a shower, then off to work. Usually a one night stopover and back for a late flight out the following afternoon or evening. One such dash included a Sydney colleague who was doing a pay and personnel system job with me at Renison.
Log book entries mention:
3rd December 1989 – noted at the hut after being at Cub Field Day – a year after my farewell attendance. Suspect there was some work event on because I was back again on -
5th December – took up a small group from W.A.. They went down and I stayed with a borrowed sleeping bag to spend some time with some of the Queeny Venturers whose company I’d shared on a Frenchmans trip. Up at 5 a.m. to head back down after night 50-1, presumably to work.
6th December 1989 - Looks as if I couldn’t resist making the 50. Tea in Queenstown with Terry and the W.A. group then up to finally make the 50 nights. Noted that it took me 3,993 days and I travelled more than that number of kilometres to do it!
2nd February 1990 – a night with Terry and others, squeezed in on a multi-purpose trip from Sydney to Renison, with an appointment at Cradle Mountain the following morning – taking two hitchhikers as far as the valley turnoff. They’d had an extended trip from Queenstown on the way from the end of their Cradle – Lake St Clair walk. Hitching to Launceston, Terry had picked them up leaving Queenstown and by the time they’d got to the Dundas turn-off he’d persuaded them to try a night at the hut, with the promise of a lift onwards with me in the morning!
8th May 1990 - up for a night with Terry after a couple of days at Renison, prefaced by some family errands including a night and a day’s sailing on the Tamar with Richard.
Outside of official work out of Sydney, other outdoor activity included canyoning, cross-country skiing, assisting with events (including a Cointreau Ball), two winter mountaineering courses (one accompanied by Terry and the other by Jenny Mudge) at Blue Lake in the Snowy Mountains
At the end of 1999, RGC merged with another company and the Sydney office closed. I was out of a job but with long service leave to take me to age 55 (the then tax friendly age) and 28 year’s of service, the whoopees were louder than the sobs! Time to pack up and move back to Tassie, where the family had stayed.
The West Coast was not where we chose to re-settle. My primary passion at the time was sea-kayaking, so our choice of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel suited that nicely.
Some event management, including a couple of large jobs involving outdoor activities around Coles Bay, provided some pocket money and logistical challenges (plus a couple of free feeds at Freycinet Lodge).
Another interest, which arose from the renewal of an acquaintance made guiding a Hobart four-wheel drive club on their West Coast trips, was amateur radio. This led to an association with car rallying and horse endurance riding which continues to this day, though not in the driver’s seat of either.
Back after 23 years – September 2012
In July 2013, the time came to move from the south back to the North West. The sea kayak was gone due to a shonky shoulder. The fire threat every summer with the never ending raking up of leaves and twigs from the many trees on the 4 hectares around the house became more trouble than even the spectacular view was worth. Working with the Tas Fire Service on radio communications at major incident centres made me very fire risk conscious. The move made the hut a bit more accessible.
A trip to show off the “Never underestimate an old man with Scouting skills” t-shirts
November 2017 - Chimney repairs with Terry and Bill (Reid). Most concerned that the sink, carried up 37 years previously, was no longer level due to the hut leaning over towards the creek.
26th September 2019 - Levelling up the sink by inserting a length of King Billy under the front
Mainly a photo trip. Terry went back down to bring up another of the new mattresses while I took photos, fixed the sink and spent forever removing the binding tape adhesive residue from a new mattress carried up earlier.
Time moves on
1985 Kirsten, Taff, Russell, Helen