Tuesday 15 October 2013

Hansard of the Legislative Council





Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, prompted by the member for Murchison, I took the opportunity to bring my mind to Darryl Gerrity for this moment. I gave an old mate of mine on the west coast, Tim Tyler, a call. Tim's nickname is 'The Poacher' and he, like Darryl, is a great character of the west coast. He lives around the road from the old hospital. They had been mates since childhood and he was telling me there were approximately 1 000 at the memorial service at Strahan. Tim said it was the biggest funeral he has ever seen on the west coast, and he is 80 years of age. They were going to have a service at the cemetery but they could not have fitted them all in with the cars that would have gone up there, so they had the memorial service at the town hall. They had to put a shelter out the front, put up a big screen and run speakers to cater for this huge funeral.

Darryl and Tim were young men together at Queenstown. He told me Darryl was an apprentice electrician at the mine for five years and three seconds. He said when he qualified it took him three seconds to get out of the place, so he was keen to go. He played football on the wing for Smelters, where his father was president. Tim suggested he did not get many touches but he was fairly fast. I reckon on the famous gravel ground at Queenstown that is a good attribute to have. It was rough-and-tumble football in those days and I remember hearing the story from the chaps about when the visiting teams used to come to Queenstown. The expression was 'they would take a bit of bark off them', to slow them down. It was a pretty tough game.

Darryl, as Tim tells me, was a mischievous boy, and that was being kind. One story he told me was about the delight they took on the west coast putting stones in the hubcaps of the local police car. Have you heard this?

Mr Dean - Yes, I have.

Mr FINCH - So, when the police car went down the road, the stones would be rattling in its hubcaps and everybody would stand and cheer. One of the main culprits was Darryl Gerrity, and they were doing the job when they were spotted by the local constabulary. They chased the three boys, in their car, for quite some time and then the trio decided they would make a getaway across the Queen River, not by the bridge, but driving straight across the Queen River. They got caught in the silt in the middle of the river and the police had to rescue them. They did end up in court and it must have been the last straw - it must have been the straw that broke the camel's back - because the magistrate at that time, Tom McGee, whose grandson was one of Darryl's mates, by the way, said, 'I can't keep you three boys out of gaol any longer. You are going to have to leave town'.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - They were the good old days of dispensing justice, and away the three boys went. Darryl, of course, went to Melbourne. He was over there for a lot of years - probably at least 20 years - but then the attraction of home, and the magic of the west coast, which Darryl loved, drew him back.

Mr Dean - And the magistrate had left?

Mr FINCH - Yes, and I loved the story of the glass-bottomed bus for road kill, but I do have another story. I used to go to the west coast regularly with the ABC, but also with a Christmas concert each year that I did with the Burnie Concert Band. We presented on the wharf there, and we had to deal with Darryl because he was the TasPorts man. He looked after the wharves and the slips and he checked on the boats coming in and out to make sure that TasPorts got their money. So I would run into Darryl every year. He was coming across the wharf in his blue overalls and he had an angle grinder in his hand. I just stepped up to him and said, 'What are you up to, Darryl?' and he said, 'We have a problem here with the ducks.' You know the big lawned area out the front of Hamers Hotel where the ducks congregate - he said that the ducks were sitting down and tourists wanted to give them a pat, but they walked away, so he was going to take a few of their legs off.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - So, Darryl and his angle grinder.

Ms Forrest - He didn't actually cut their legs off did he?

Mr FINCH - Yes, he did.

Mr Hall - I don't believe it, but that's the story.

Mr FINCH - Yes, don't spoil a good story with the facts.

Of course Darryl Gerrity was just what the west coast needed. Well before he became mayor in the year 2000, he was a resounding voice for the region. He spoke up, loved the west coast, pushed the west coast, and was always outspoken. He always fought for the west coast, which was fantastic but, of course, his main characteristic was his sense of humour and his sense of irony. It is largely forgotten that he attempted and failed to win a seat in this place. He was probably hampered by having to sleep in the back of his Holden station wagon when he was out campaigning.

Ms Forrest - There was a picture in the paper of him with his old wagon - in the Advocate.

Mr FINCH - Okay. Darryl of course knew everyone on the west coast and everyone, not only on the west coast but all around Tasmania, and a lot of Australia, knew him. The door of the old Strahan Hospital - his home - was always open to visitors, as was a bottle or two if you happened to call in.

Like the member for Murchison, I offer my condolences to the family - to Robyn, Sam and the twins, Sean and Kelly. Darryl Gerrity certainly is, and will continue to be, an iconic legend of the west coast.

Members - Hear, hear.