Gordon Braithwaite passed away on March 2, 2017 at the Bellingen Hospital. He was 86-years-old. Mr Braithwaite spent more than 32 years as a councillor and 14-and-a-half years as either Mayor or Shire President, he is the longest serving councillor in the history of Bellingen Shire. The former logging contractor was first elected in 1971.
In an interview with the Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun in 2012 he said: “I have enjoyed my time as a councillor, but I’m now in my eighties and feel it’s time to make way for someone younger”.
He said that among his other achievements as Shire President or Mayor were three new libraries across the shire, two surf club houses, four senior citizen centres, sewerage extensions in Urunga, water supply to Repton and Mylestom, purchase of property for the Valley Rose estate in Bellingen, establishing the Connell Park sporting fields, funding for Bellingen and Dorrigo swimming pools and assisted with the establishment of the Nursing Home in Bellingen.
The list goes on …
“Whilst in the top job, I arranged finance through cash and loans for a new high level concrete bridge between north and south Bellingen,” he said.
“The new council at the time voted not to proceed with high level bridge to go for a lower, cheaper option.”
Gordon Braithwaite has made a huge contribution to growth and development of Bellingen Shire.
Gordon Braithwaite, not a large man physically, but in terms of what he achieved in his life, an absolute giant. Gordon was born and lived his entire life in Bellingen.He will leave a huge footprint. I can not recall anyone who could exceed his sheer physical output. By any ones estimation, an incredible worker, but also could put his hand to many other things. A sharp mind and an incredible memory. His brain an encyclopaedia, he never forgot a thing. Coming from a humble background like many of his day, he easily adapted to change. Axe and crosscut saw,over to the chainsaw, one of the first in our district, and later quickly adapted to the computer age. Still can recall the laughs from all those jokes via emails, all totally clean of course.
His name was floated about, but my first connection with Gordon was late 50s when he was share farming on Harold Raymond’s farm at Marx Hill, a weaner pig for 10 shillings. Gordon must have been in his 20s, I was just starting to grow hair on my chest. These were lean years.
Gordon’s career was about to evolve, the caterpillar tractor with a blade, and the stihl chain saw was about to revolutionise the timber industry. Suddenly, no tree too big and no mountain too steep, with that tractor and blade, if you could dig it, you could get there and get it. Gordon jumped onboard and this was the beginning of his long career in the bush. Everyone in the early 60s talked about Gordon with his chainsaw and Ian Younger with Huey Waugh’s D7. Into those huge trees where no one had ever before ventured. Stony Gully and Buffer Creek was where the big ones grew – a two log load was common, anything more than five was a no go.
I worked with Gordon and Ian (Bongo) Younger for several years as a (blue tonguer) offsider, hooking up via that 30ml, 300ft steel rope. I clearly remember at Stony Gully one Monday morning after a game of football on Sunday. I was a bit bruised and sore. Gordon quickly picked up on this, and said young fella, if you want to keep this job, better give the football away. That was Gordon 100 per cent always, no room for error.
Gordon’s next move was to branch out on his own and purchased a tractor, I think a D4 which Allan Scott drove for some time. Then there were log trucks and more dozers and he became quite a large contractor in the industry for a considerable period. But even this wasn't enough for this man, who still had energy to spare, so he put up his hand and ran for council. Mayor for many years. These were the days when the mayor was the boss cocky.
For years, up at 2 or 3am, out to the bush, back home at 1pm, a clean up and down to the Council Chambers to fulfil his duties there. All this on top of his civic duties, he had a finger in every pie in the Shire.
He was a remarkable man. Just to of come out unscathed from working most of his life within the most dangerous of occupations is proof of his skills and mental sharpness.
However, more often than not, standing in the shadows, for every great man stands an even greater woman. Doreen, always there to keep the billy boiling.
As we say our farewell to our old comrade, let's not forget all those that worked in the industry in those early days who can't be here to-day.
Gordon Braithwaite was a staunch supporter of Urunga SLSC and it saddens the hearts of members to hear of his passing. Gordon and Doreen attended the 70th Anniversary Dinner on last year (November 19) in what was his last official engagement as Club Patron. Gordon was a Patron of the Club for more than 40 years. In 1987 Gordon, who was Shire President, was the driving force behind the Clubhouse as it stands today. On April 5, 1987 at the Official Opening of the new clubhouse Gordon stated in his Opening Address: “This new surf club facility is undoubtedly one of the best and most attractive buildings on the coast if not in New South Wales, Australia and must be the envy of many surf clubs. I pay tribute to the architect, Mr Steve Gorrell and in particular Council’s Health and Building Department staff who costed, supervised construction and organised all sub-trades as well as designing the observation room. I also pay tribute to the subcontractors involved in construction of this building, their fine workmanship has resulted in construction of this truly magnificent structure.”
Gordon also went on to acclaim our Life Savers: “Life Savers perform a very important service, that is of cause, saving lives, it is therefore important that a Life Saver is trained to perfection, and this perfection can only be achieved when there is a properly equipped facility in which to undertake the necessary training.”
Gordon’s involvement in Urunga SLSC has been one of a very supportive community member. He has only missed one AGM during the last 30 years that I can recall and that was due to an illness in the family. Gordon was never short of a few words to say and always addressed our AGM with stories of events and happenings of years gone by. These tales would often bring a wry smile to the members in attendance. Gordon and Doreen always attended the Annual Presentation and were in attendance in 2012 at the President’s Dinner to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Clubhouse’s opening.
Gordon’s achievements throughout the Shire have been varied and substantial. To Urunga SLSC, Gordon epitomises all that is good and will be sadly missed.
Gordon Braithwaite’s funeral is on Thursday, March 9 at 10.30am at St Margaret’s Anglican Church followed by a wake at the Bellingen Golf Club at noon.