The 14th service of the annual Putty Road Truck Drivers Memorial took place in Milbrodale, a small town in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley region on Saturday, June 3.
This year’s event was attended by over 200 people, many of whom were former truckies, who had travelled from all over NSW and beyond to pay tribute to their friends or family members and meet some of their old mates from their driving days.
Speaking to Big Rigs, Marie Warby, who is one of the main organisers of the event, said the memorial service is far from being a sad event.
“It is a happy occasion because it’s a memorial service plus a reunion for all the older truckies who have retired but they travel to Milbrodale for the service to see all their old mates. Even the young blokes seem to love it which is great to see. Seeing the camaraderie between truckies, both old and young, is great,” Warby said.
“We had a beautiful service with a bagpiper playing and families laying down flowers in memory of those who have gone. The memorial wall is in a beautiful park but there is not much around. We all travel to the memorial site for the service and have an official dinner afterwards.
“We all stay together at the Charbonnier Hotel in Singleton for the beautiful, big dinner where we have further social programs like novelty competitions to celebrate all the attendees. We all stay the night in Singleton before going our way on Sunday morning.”
There were 12 truckie plaques that went up on the wall this year in the memory of: Michael James Kerrigan aka Mizpah, Michael Morris aka Micky M, Ronald John Andrews aka Ron, John Stewart, John Arthur Gibbons, Raey Lancelot Hargy aka Hargy, Edward John Bowles aka Mr Ted, Ross Larkin aka Tiny, Roy Thorncroft, Harvey Raymond Murphy aka Harve, Laurence John Doran aka Lil Chooka, and Denis Roderick Anderson aka Ando.
Over 200 people travelled to Milbrodale for the memorial service. The Putty Road Truck Drivers Memorial is a sponsor-free event and the organisers wish to carry on that tradition even though at one point during the lead up to this year’s event, it seemed highly unlikely that it could go on like that another year.
“We know a lot of truckie memorial walls have sponsors and good on them, but we don’t want a sponsor’s ad stuck over our memorial wall. We also don’t want to be at the mercy of the sponsor telling us what to do with our wall which is a bit of pressure when you have a sponsor.
“A lot of organisers from other memorials tell us that if you don’t get a sponsor, you’re always going to stay small and we tell them, ‘that’s just the way we like it’,” she adds.
As a result, the Putty Road Memorial is funded through raffles, auctions and donations. “We really push our raffle and auction every year. There are a lot of donations for that. We have a monster raffle every year with a 15-foot long table covered with raffle prizes.
“If we get priced out one year, maybe we’ll have a sponsor but we’re not considering that now,” Warby said even before, she admitted, she had counted all the money the event made over the weekend.
Warby said that she and the other two organisers, Shane Kent and Paul Crollick, had a few bumps along the road of planning this event. One of the Putty Road members, Andy Nash, jumped quite a few hoops to help make it all come around in the end.
“Normally, our service starts at 1pm and we have cleared the park by 4pm, but this year we were asked to have a traffic management plan for the memorial service. That involved getting Transport for NSW, the local council and the police involved, and we had to get trailers with signs on them.
“We were nearly not going to have it because we’re small we’ve got no money and the costs were rising. The traffic management plan also was costing us upwards of $2,000.
“But then a private company named Roadwork Solutions from Seven Hills in NSW came to our rescue and they said they’re going to wipe the slate for us so we won’t have to pay anything. That was so nice. It let us breathe again because we have so many other costs to cover and not a lot of money.
“In the end, we had the best truckers memorial this year. It all worked out like a wedding where everything goes wrong at first and then on the day everything works out all right,” she said.
Two locals from Bulga also helped the organising team. “Fred Fairfull cut all the grass around the Memorial Wall to make it neat for the service and another local, Brad Dunn, being the Jack of all trades on the job in case anything went wrong.
“We were also very lucky to have Bob Easter, a very popular country music entertainer, perform for us each year. The little Milbrodale School with a total of just 17 pupils provide the hot and cold refreshments for us each year that then provides the school with resources that otherwise they wouldn’t have.
“We give a big thanks to two accredited traffic controllers, Mark Robinson and Peter Coward, who are Putty Road members who volunteered their service to meet regulations for our service.”
Warby’s husband, Sunny Warby, 58-year-old B Model Mack is always right next to the memorial wall each year. It is perhaps the last remaining truck of its kind in Australia that is still owned by the original owner.
“It would be a shame to end this memorial service because it really means something to all those blokes out there and the families of those whose names are on the wall.”