Tributes flow for much-loved transport legend Barb Harvey

Road transport legend Barb Harvey, the beloved former transport operator and co-owner of the Little Topar Roadhouse, passed away in Broken Hill yesterday, aged 80.

Heart-felt tributes have poured in from all over Australia on social media for the no-nonsense former publican who ran the Little Topar for 30 years with husband Colin, who died in 2022, aged 84.

Barb and Colin retired to Broken Hill in 2018, but her legendary hospitality lived on in the hearts of the thousands of truckies who passed through the Little Topar and were lucky enough to get to know her.

Big-hearted Barb was like a mum and grandmother to many; an instant lifelong friend to everyone she met.

“One of the kindest, gentlest but toughest people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing – she will be fondly remembered,” wrote Kelly Finch on Facebook.

“Barb actually saved my life when I was a kid. She was at home picking up a load of wool and I choked on apple. She sprang straight into action with her hand down my throat and managed to get it out.”

Nephew Jerram Wetherell told Big Rigs he had a lifetime of cherished memories with his larger-than-life aunt.

They stretch back to ridealongs as a child with Barb in her wool-carting days behind the wheel of her G88 Volvo into White Cliffs.

Barb and Colin, who were inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame in 2005, would also cart general freight into the bush and even had a mail run at one stage that had expanded as far as Adelaide.

Barb would also often take her own children with her on the runs before they were old enough to attend school.

Renowned as a hard-worker throughout the NSW outback, Barb could load wool “quicker than any man” and single-handedly rolled drums of fuel, bales of hay and wool to load her truck.

According to her profile on the Wall of Fame website, she was once bogged in her truck and had to walk 30km through the rain to get help. Once, surrounded by bushfires, she drove her truck to her destinations to ensure the supplies were delivered despite recommendations that she shouldn’t.

When asked to share some stories from her Topar days, Wetherell responded by saying: “I wouldn’t know where to start, there were that many.

“She didn’t take any bullshit. She turned it [the Topar] into a no-swearing pub. She didn’t like bad language, sorted the shit out, and ran a top little business.”

Wetherell loved her regular “cracker nights” at the Topar when farmers, and other locals, would come from near and far for the fireworks spectacle and camaraderie.

“She used to pay for that at her own expense just to see people happy.”

More recently, Wetherell said he was grateful for the chance to drive her the 1000km from Broken Hill to Wagga Wagga in January to see family.

“We joked, we cried and we shit-stirred each other for 10 hours so that was a nice memory, my last memory.”

Barb is survived by son Rodney and daughter Deborah and several grandchildren.

Wetherell said a service will be held in Broken Hill soon, but details won’t be finalised until later this week.

Update – Friday (March 15): Family and friends are invited to attend a celebration of Barbara’s life at the Thyme On Argent Function Rooms at the Democratic Club in Broken Hill from 11am on Monday, March 25.

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