Stopping to remember our fallen comrades

PIPED TRIBUTE: Bob Scott’s bagpipes played to total and respectful silence at the Tarcutta Truckies Memorial. Photo: Graham Harsant
PIPED TRIBUTE: Bob Scott’s bagpipes played to total and respectful silence at the Tarcutta Truckies Memorial. Photo: Graham Harsant

IT WAS a sad time - 2.30pm on Saturday, October 27 - when 40 names were read out to a gathered crowd in Tarcutta.

To anyone else these names would have meant little, if anything.

To those present they were fathers, sons, brothers and friends who had worked in the transport industry and had passed away in the preceding year.

Some were pioneers of the industry. Some had died of natural causes, many had died on the job.

While all were there to grieve and mourn their loss, the annual Tarcutta Truck Drivers Memorial ceremony was most poignant for this last group. Tarcutta is one of the last towns to be bypassed by the Hume Freeway and the town was eerily quiet and devoid of the regular parade of semis and B-doubles that used to traverse its main street.

As a major changeover point for linehaul, as well as the memorial, the town has a better chance of economic survival than many of its neighbours who have faded into trucking history.

Doug McMillan, chairman of the Australian Truck Drivers Memorial committee opened proceedings.

"Tarcutta has played an important role in our industry since freight started, from providing fuel, coffee and meals, to being a main changeover point in recent times," he said.

"Tarcutta has been a place where drivers had a chat, a sleep, and since 1994 have visited the names of their mates and loved ones on this wall. This year our service is in a quieter town but, thanks to a new streetscape, in even lovelier surrounds.

"We come here to remember our loved ones; those who are already on the wall and those whose names are to be added today.

"Some of you come each year and for some of you, this is your first service.

"The grieving process goes through many phases and takes place over differing periods of time. This wall offers comfort to those loved ones left behind, and is considered a sacred place. It is a special day, a moving day."

Patron Joy McKeon was the last to speak.

"I look around and think of all the memories that we have. We do have to educate the public a lot more about the professionalism of truck drivers and the importance of this industry," she said.

"Slim (Dusty) and I hit the road in 1954 and over the years we would have passed just about every truck in Australia. The truck drivers and we show people had a lot in common criss-crossing this country.

"We made a lot of friends and have an immense amount of respect for you, the drivers and the job that you undertake."

Joy concluded with some words of a song she had written for the memorial.

"It's the men and women of the highways, and the byways of this land,

"Your lives were spent on one more load to haul,

"But as long as we remember you, you will never really die,

"Even though we see your name's upon the wall."

The Tarcutta Truck Drivers Wall of Remembrance perpetuates the memory of those most important to the transport industry.

Lest We Forget.

Big Rigs