A family tribute to a very self-made man

Valerie Gibbins (centre) is proud to donate her father’s autobiography to the Gympie Regional Library, pictured with history officer Beth Wilson and librarian Geoff Barlow.
Valerie Gibbins (centre) is proud to donate her father’s autobiography to the Gympie Regional Library, pictured with history officer Beth Wilson and librarian Geoff Barlow. Contributed

"I'VE worked from before dawn until after dark since I was 14 years of age. I've fenced miles of fence, chopped down trees on literally hundreds of acres of scrub, milked hundreds of cows, dug wells, had 20 or 30 boxing bouts, gone to a few dances, run a few races, played cricket and football on most Sundays when I had time and if that's going to be my life story in the future, it's time for a bit of an interlude."

Whether it was courage or curiosity, or both, Ted Hamill, a 23-year-old Dagun pineapple farmer was looking for something more in life when he enlisted for the army in late 1939.

Now, 74 years later and five years after his death, Ted's family are proud to donate his autobiography, Taking a Bearing; Life, War and Surveying to the Gympie Regional Library.

Ted Hamill in uniform, 1939.
Ted Hamill in uniform, 1939.

Edited by Ted's daughters Valerie Gibbins and Doreen Mellor, the book captures the experiences of a young man at a pivotal period in the history of the nation and the world.

"It gives a picture of what life was like in the years leading up to the war, and how people coped," Ted's daughter Valerie said.

"It's a family tribute to a very self-made man, who was proud of his background."

Born in 1916, Ted was the eldest son of Scottish immigrants Edwin Hamill and Martha Webster, some of the first settlers to Pie Creek in the 1880s.

Valerie said her father had good memories of his youth, despite its hardship.

"His father died when he was 13, so he left school and supported his mother and brothers for 10 years until at the age of 23 he went to war," she said.

After enlisting, Ted spent five years overseas, four as a prisoner of war in Stalag 383, Germany where he took advantage of British university teachers in camp, leading to a career in engineering surveying with Main Roads when he returned to Australia.

Valerie said Ted's drive to write down his war-time experiences were sparked when he read the roll of honour published in the Gympie Times in 2005 marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

"He looked at it, and saw all his friends he used to play football with and go to dances with," Valerie said.

"He thought they were still around the ridges and he got a shock.

"He wanted to honour his friends who'd been over there and didn't come back, the men who honoured Australia."

Valerie, her three sisters and brother are honoured to be part of the process.

"We wanted to make people aware of the goodness of the community spirit in those days, because that's how they survived, they helped each other," Valerie said.

"Dad was grateful to a lot of people who helped him when he was young and when he came back from the war."

Ted Hamill (back left) with fellow soldiers inside the POW camp Stalag 383 hut in Germany.
Ted Hamill (back left) with fellow soldiers inside the POW camp Stalag 383 hut in Germany.
Gympie Times


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