Stellar service to Newdegate

Daryna ZadvirnaCountryman
Newdegate farmers Barry and Eileen Ness.
Camera IconNewdegate farmers Barry and Eileen Ness. Credit: Jon Gellweiler

Described as a “well-oiled machine” by the community, Eileen and Barry Ness are a perfect case in point of Newdegate Machinery Field Days’ theme, “Emergency Services in the Bush”.

Having run the North East Bushfire Radio Base for more than 45 years — and still on standby to help today — the couple are an admirable example of ordinary community members who have stepped up to volunteer their time.

According to Mr Ness, Newdegate’s bushfire brigade was formed in the late 1950s. “We needed a bushfire brigade, so we had a meeting at the pub and that’s how it originally came about,” he said.

“We were the only ones around the place to do it, so you sort of had to — and anyway, the meetings were a good excuse to go to the pub.”

Mr Ness said one of the worst fires he had fought was in the late 1950s during a dry summer.

“We didn’t have much equipment, it was mainly buckets and tanks on the back of the trucks, because the pumps were pretty poor,” he said. “A lot of townies came out to help and the one copper we had in town came out too.”

In January, Mr and Mrs Ness were awarded the title of Newdegate’s Senior Citizens of the Year, for their diverse involvement within the community.

The couple said they were surprised to find out about the award.

“I was quite shocked — you just do what you have to and don’t think anything of it really,” Mrs Ness said.

As well as long-standing emergency volunteers, Mrs Ness said they could be counted among the pioneers of the Newdegate Machinery Field Days.

“We’ve been in it from the start,” she said. “It was just something that we both really wanted to get off the ground for the town.”

Mrs Ness said unfortunately they had not been able to get involved with the event this year, as they had been preoccupied with their farm.

“We’ve been busy feeding our sheep because of the drought,” she said.

“We’re pretty flat out — it’s just the two of us and, you know, we’re 80 and 82 years old now.”

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails