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Ted Taylor, man of the high country

A memorial service will be held at the All Saints Anglican Church, Tumut, this Tuesday, March 28, for Ted Taylor, an iconic figure of the high country.

The service will begin at 11am.

Ted was a renowned stockman, a straight-shooter and at times a fierce campaigner for what he believed, be it the management of Kosciuszko National Park or lobbying for adequate health services. He was a loyal and loving family man.

Ted was born in 1936, the second son of Tom and Mollie Taylor, and brother of Don.

For most of the past three decades or so, Ted lived in the Gilmore and Tumut valleys, but it was the high country that held his heart and was never far from his thoughts.

“I think if you are brought up in the bush it becomes a part of you,” he said.

His first home was at Coolamine, near Blue Water Hole, a place his father and grandparents had trundled into on a bullock wagon in 1908.

Over the years the Taylors lived at Pocket Hut, a one-room hut with a dirt floor; at Old Currango, and Adaminaby, where his father Tom was given the position of senior ranger.

Ted said they were hard days but they were also good.

“It was a great life and everybody enjoyed it,” he said.

In 1946, the family settled at Currango, where his father Tom and mother Mollie would live until 1988, and where Ted would always call home.

A stint at boarding school only increased his appreciation for Currango.

“I had two years there (at Epping). I thought I was in a bloody prison or something but I never let on I was homesick,” he recalled. “I think it was a waste of money sending me there. I didn’t learn much, or probably learnt the wrong things anyway.”

Ted was most comfortable in the wide expanses of the mountains.

“To camp in the bush never worried me, there is nothing in the bush to be frightened of,” Ted said. “As long as you have plenty of tucker and a warm bed, it doesn’t matter where you camp.”

He painted a picture of a tough but idyllic childhood spent in an uncompromising but beautiful setting.

He and brother Don fished, hunted, ran brumbies, got into their fair share of mischief, and also worked around Currango, looking after stock.

Here, his skills as a stockman and bushman were forged.

In 1953, at age 17, he got a job with the Snowy Scheme, supplying workers with horses and guiding them to trig sites, to Mt Morgan, Mt Jackson, the Jounama Peaks and all around that area.

In 1955 he started work on the scheme itself, getting a start at Indi, with a surveyor, then around Geehi, and while conditions were rough, Ted remembered it was a great experience.

“It taught you to get along with people from all walks of life, to work with them and live with them and to form a mateship which would last for years,” he said.

“It’s great to look back on the Snowy Scheme and know I was a part of it. It was a marvellous feat, really.”

He’d move on to work on the machinery in the construction of the scheme, working right through with contractors until 1974.

Work involved ten-hour shifts, no smoko’s, a half hour meal break.

It was while working on the Snowy Scheme in August, 1958, that he spotted Helen McAlister. She was skiing at Kiandra at the time, and Ted was snow clearing for the Snowy Mountains Authority.

“She was wearing black ski trousers, red wind jacket with hood, and a beautiful bluey-green fair-isle jumper – and she looked great,” Ted said.

They were engaged by Christmas that year, and married in January, and for the first 12 months they lived in a caravan at Sue City.

His work would eventually take him overseas, to Malaya and Bogainville, in between stints working on the scheme at Talbingo and Blowering Dam.

It was then onto Timberland Forests, working around Tumut and Brindabella, and the Taylors moved to the Gilmore Valley in 1978.

But they would return to the mountains in 1996, when the caretaking of Currango came up, and he and Helen won the contract.

“It is home to me and always will be and it’s home to my family,” Ted said.

They were there until 2003, moving between Gilmore and the high country, before settling into a new home they’d built in the Gilmore valley.

They had thought they would grow old there, but were forced to move into town when Ted was diagnosed with kidney disease, a life-altering diagnosis, and he would ultimately move onto dialysis, making the trip to Wagga three times a week for treatment.

Ted and Helen battled fiercely to have a dialysis centre opened at Tumut hospital. After years of lobbying, they ultimately had a win of sorts, when the health service agreed to open a nurse-assisted facility.

For a man who had spent so much of his life outdoors, dialysis was a cruel fate, but he faced his illness with dignity and courage.

And he never stopped thinking about the high country.

“They can take you out of the bush, but they can’t take the bush out of you,” he once said.

Ted is survived by his wife, Helen, and children Kim, Marden, Jill and Fiona.