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The latest two additions to the Koondrook Barham Red Gum Statue Walk were publicly revealed on Sunday, November 13. The Roy Higgins and Sidney Reid statues brings the Red Gum Statue Walk to a total of 20 features capturing the twin towns’ history, ecology and pioneering spirit.

The project was spearheaded by Koondrook Development Committee (KDC) with support of the Gannawarra Shire Council, Arbuthnot Sawmills and the Barham Koondrook Historical Society.

“Today, Sid Reid and Roy Higgins’ memories are being immortalised in Koondrook’s Red Gum Statue Walk,” said Tom Chick, KDC chairman, as he addressed the crowd gathered at Sidney Reid Park Koondrook.

“This walk is a very unique feature of our towns and highlights the versatility and magnificence of sustainable red gum timber.

“We like to consider ourselves the jewel in the crown of Gannawarra.” Paul Madden, executive chairman of Arbuthnot Sawmills, welcomed Sidney Reid’s grandson, John Eberbach, his wife, Denise, and their family, including three generations of Sidney’s descendants.

Born in Grafton NSW in 1889, Sidney Reid came to Koondrook in 1918 to manage the sawmill after the death of the founder of the saw-mill, Alex (Sandy) Arbuthnot, and assisted Sandy’s son, Alexander James Cook Arbuthnot, until ill health forced AJC Arbuthnot’s early retirement.

Sid worked for Arbuthnot for 44 years, becoming a shareholder and manager in 1921 and went on to manage the mill until his death in 1962.

“As well as managing the sawmill, Sid oversaw the construction of the Alexander Arbuthnot from a working barge to a paddle steamer and commissioned the boat in 1923 for its role as a new logging steamer to tow outrigger barges laden with logs into the slips at the sawmill,” said Mr Madden.

“The AA, as it is known, turns 100 years old next year and is a testament to the skills of yesteryear that a boat made of red gum can endure all the Murray River and years of hauling logs can throw at it.

“Today, it carries tourists as it continues to ply the waters of the Murray River and made its return to Koondrook at the opening of the Koondrook wharf 70 years after it finished its role at the sawmill.

“Sid would be a proud man to know this part of his legacy continues after almost 100 years since he commissioned the boat in 1923.”

It was said that Sid Reid possessed a tremendous capacity for ‘getting things done’ and had a strong social conscience, highlighted by cutting mill margins to almost zero to keep mill hands employed during the great depression.

As well as overseeing the mill, Sid ran other businesses, including a dairy farm in Gannawarra. He was also the first person to grow tobacco on the sandhills of Gannawarra, and proved that sultanas could be grown locally, and founded the IXL Stores in Koondrook.

Sid was also instrumental in establishing the Barham-Koondrook Soldiers Memorial Hospital, raising funds for its build and continuing support as the first president of the hospital committee and the first chairman of the board of management.

He was appointed as one of the first life governors of the hospital. Sid was also secretary of the Koondrook Race Club, a Justice of the Peace, member of the Koondrook Progress Association, Koondrook Hall Committee, treasurer of the Barham Bowling Club, member of the Barham-Koondrook Services Club, member of the Kerang Masonic Lodge, and an honorary auditor of the Koondrook Baths Committee.

The crowd then moved to the corner of Main and Thompson Streets, Koondrook. Another welcome by KDC chairman, Tom Chick, before Greg McNeil gave a brief history of Roy Higgins.

Born in Koondrook on June 5, 1938, Roy was delivered, along with thousands of other babies, by Nurse Rosen, who has her own red gum statue.

“Roy Henry Higgins was known affectionately as the professor,” said Mr McNeil.

“In 1953, at the age of 15, Roy became an apprentice jockey to Deniliquin local, Jim Watters.

“Roy rode a total 2,312 winners during his career. Roy won the Melbourne Cup twice, on Light Fingers in 1965 and Red Handed in 1967. It does distinctly come to mind that he probably should have won a third Melbourne Cup.”

This was the nail-biting finish of Hyperno over Salamander in the 1979 Melbourne Cup.

Roy has a long and illustrious racing history, including winning the Caulfield Cup, two Cox Plates, five VRC Oaks, four Victorian Derbys, Blue Diamond Stakes, six AGC Oaks, two Sydney Cups and two Golden Slippers.

Roy won 11 jockey premierships in his time and rode internationally in France, South Africa, Hong Kong and Belgium.

He was awarded Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1974, was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to horse racing and was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1987.

Roy’s last race ride was at Flemington in October 1983, after which he continued to be employed in the racing industry as a commentator on TV and radio, also going on to lecture in the jockey training program at the Northern Lodge Training Centre of the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE.

Roy’s daughter Nicole Lund gave the crowd a glimpse of growing up with Roy as a father.

“They always wanted to know what Dad did away from racing, and that was to spend time with us kids and horses,” said Nicole.

“Dad taught me how to ride from the age of two. My first pair of boots look like they could hang from your rear vision mirror.”

Nicole told stories of memorable moments like being on a photo shoot riding with her father when her runaway Shetland pony landed her on the back cover of the Herald Sun after colliding with a sign, the headline read ‘Higgins Takes a Fall’.

“We can’t thank you guys enough for doing things like this for us and our family and the community, we thank you so much.” The day concluded with a light lunch held at the Koondrook CFA sheds.

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 17 November 2022

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 17 November 2022.


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