2010, People, Stories and Articles

Paddy Taylor

“Them Days,
things were really tough”

Born in 1940, some of Paddy Taylor’s earliest memories are of round the charcoal camp near Winton, Qld where his ‘old man’ worked. He describes big holes, about 6’ deep and 30’ long,stacked full of gidgee wood covered with sheets of corrugated iron and shovelled dirt and then set alight. The flames roared out each end. The charcoal was then collected for use at the power house. “I would get a kick in the arse if I went too close to the hole. Might fall in you know!”

Paddy lived 16 miles from school and rode a push bike everywhere, “…there was no bitumen – no such thing! I was in top nick; I could really ride. When I was under 10 I won both the under 10 and under 14 bike races we used to have in Winton. I used to win medals in running and jumping too. I was fit all the time from riding those push bikes! When I was 13 or 14, a priest at the convent trained me for boxing. In 1956 I was picked to fight in the Olympic Games, but my old man wouldn’t let me go… I fought mobs of ‘em in the travelling boxing tents and I was in amateur middleweight fighting in Townsville, Hughenden, Longreach and Winton, and I won heaps of trophies – probably in the rubbish dump in Katherine… , but that stopped when I started work.”

Paddy would wag school “… I can hardly read or write; I hardly went to school… I could fight… I used to belt everyone!” He spent weekends off siding for shearers at his uncle’s place. In his early teens he learned to drive the mailtruck going to Devonport and a passion for trucks and truck driving began in those teen years. He started truck driving when he left school…carting and unloading wool. “I got 5 bob for unloading, that was big money. You know they were the days when you could buy penny iceblocks.” He also drove bulldozers for Matty Singh’s Grandfather – Paddy is an avid truck and truck driving expert, and he rattles off the details of the trucks he’s driven over the years. He drove a No 11 Mack for NAPCO at Marion Downs, and at 17 or 18 he began 15 years of employment for Noel Buntine. He drove a truck watering the roads under construction from Katherine to Top Springs, and also shifted loads from Darwin and Winton to Brisbane, to and from the Wyndham, Darwin and Katherine meatworks, and all the VRD outstations,“…they were hard to get into.” The loading and unloading was done by hand – loads of 20 to 30 tons – steel posts, wire and cement. “Them days, things were really tough. It was no trouble… I was fit!” Maintaining a keen interest in sport, the wiry truck driver, would sometimes drive all night so he could play footy the next day.

One year during the Dry – the 8 months from April onwards – Paddy completed 27 round trips from Katherine to Brisbane, an incredible feat considering most of the roads were unsealed. He describes in detail the sections of road that were dirt, or bitumen – “I knew every inch of the roads on those trips.” Pointing to the bridge on the highway adjacent to Soudan Station he explains that “back then you couldn’t go across the wooden bridges with the trucks – you had to go around through the creek beds.”

Paddy’s Dad was a boxer, and always had a saying, “size means nothing to me!” Paddy adds “…he was a little fella too – but he was tough! He used to travel to the fights – the longest fight he had was 33 seconds. He’d belt everyone, …the Yanks coming through Winton during war.” So it wasn’t suprising that a 15 year old Paddy entered thebullock ride at the 1955 Winton Rodeo! His Mum objected to fighting and bull riding, so when Paddy’s name was called out on the loudspeaker for the start of the bull ride, he was telling the announcers to “Shut up. Don’t sing my name out!” His Mum, sitting in a car on the other side of the ring, heard the announcement, and came running across the ring yelling at Paddy to “get him off the b…. thing!” Too late, the gate opened, they let Paddy and the bull out! “…I was trying to sing out to her to get her out of there, and I was riding that bull from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail,… I was still there! I come 3rd in the Queensland Champion bullock ride; it was all a big joke! I got 188 quid and a yellow ribbon…it’s still there at home!”

Paddy stopped truck driving a good while ago, and has worked at Soudan for 4 years as a bore runner, currently looking after 25 bores. Previously he worked for Stanbroke Pastoral Co. as borerunner for 16 years. Asked about future plans, he replies, “O yeah, I’ll keep bore running.”

Image captions:

1) Mack Trucks, Marion Downs 1961

2) Diamantina Transport

3) Paddy with Mack Trucks, Marion Downs 1961