GOING WAY BACK: Warren Lowry (right) with small fleet owner Kevin Bailey at Strahan.
GOING WAY BACK: Warren Lowry (right) with small fleet owner Kevin Bailey at Strahan. Alf Wilson

Legendary Kev works in one of the most remote communities

FOR 48 years, Warren Lowry drove trucks for his school friend Kevin Bailey, a legendary small fleet operator at one of Australia's most remote communities - Strahan in southwest Tasmania.

The 71-year-old Kevin runs the family company KJ and C Bailey Earthmoving with his wife Colina and is a genuine Jack of all trades.

Testimony to that is that Kevin is an ordained Anglican priest, a champion axeman, and was named Citizen of the Year on Australia Day in 2018.

At the ceremony, Kevin was described as a man "who pours his heart and soul into the community”, which is an apt description.

Scenic Strahan is 300km from Hobart along the Lyell Highway and is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists.

Recently Warren retired from his job with Kevin after almost five decades and I asked him to reflect on that long innings.

"I went to Strahan Primary School with Kevin and we have been lifelong friends so it has been wonderful,” Warren said.

Kevin has three trucks: a Mitsubishi FB 418 powered by a 320hp motor and with a 15 speed gearbox, and a trusty 1986 Ford Louisville with a 475hp Caterpillar under the bonnet and a 1998 Ford LTA.

"I purchased the Ford brand new and it has 2.2million kilometres on the clock and now into a third motor. We employ five drivers and Strahan and surrounding areas are beautiful places at which to work,” he said.

Kevin is enjoying his sixth decade on the southwest coast of the Apple Isle being the youngest in his family with three older sisters.

Becoming a bit emotional when asked about his vivid memories of when his dad Bill purchased the family's first truck.

"It was a 1943 Chev bought under the lend lease scheme in 1961. We do our work around the western coast and have built a lot of roads in forests. I have memories of my father Bill carrying firewood in the Chev,” Kevin said.

Not many truck drivers have worked for the same employee for such a long period and Warren said he enjoyed it.

Warren drove many trucks over the decades including a J6 Bedford, an International ACCO, a Mitsubishi and a Hino.

"I remember all those years ago Kevin came and asked me would I like a job and I was happy to take it and I am so glad I did,” Warren said.

But soon after retiring Warren felt bored and wanted to drive a truck in his community.

So in 2019 he drives a Toyota Dyna for mainly local jobs around Strahan.

"I don't do anything too strenuous and have been flat out carrying gravel locally and am delivering some today to a block of land here at Strahan, I purchased the Dyna from a local bloke and it does the job well,” Warren said.

Warren will also travel to near Strahan such as the old mining towns of Zeehan and Queenstown.

Zeehan and Queenstown are both about 30km from Strahan in opposite directions.

The trip between Strahan and Queenstown in particular requires extreme care especially over the range section.

Born and bred in Strahan, Warren enjoys going fishing when he can.

"I go down to the harbour and waterways and catch a few crayfish and I used to have a boat big enough to carry three motorbikes. But I sold it,” he said.

The temperature was a cool 14 degrees when I phoned Warren and asked him some of the highlights of his long career.

"We used to cart sand to the hydro station and also to the mine up at Rosebery. I got to meet many people over the years. Strahan is one of the best places in the country and I will never leave here,” he said.

Warren said he had also driven numerous excavators for the company over the years.

Kevin is still physically fit and competes in wood chopping competitions in the veteran's class.

He has led an extremely interesting life and in his role as a priest does weddings, funerals, christenings to serve the community.

The history of the company is interesting. On leaving school in 1963 Kevin went to help his dad who had just bought the Chev and was working with the local council.

From this humble beginning was born KJ and C Bailey Earthmoving.

"I am a committed family man and a sports lover barracking for Essendon and for many years was a successful competitive axeman in Tassie and interstate,” Kevin said.

Kevin was also a West Coast councillor for a long period and has also served on many boards and committees around the West Coast.

Quietly spoken Kevin is widely recognised for his involvement with the Anglican Church and his pastoral care work.

"It completely changed my life in 1986 when I became a Christian,” he said.

Strahan normally has a population of 700 that swellswith a large number of tourists.

Strahan Harbour and Risby Cove form part of the northeast end of Long Bay on the northern end of Macquarie Harbour.

Strahan is an access point to the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, which was declared part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area in 1982.

For several years Strahan became the focus of a conservation campaign opposed to the proposed Franklin-below-Gordon Dam.

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