Vale Eric Woods, former Narromine Shire resident

VALE: Eric Hodgson Woods 1924 - 2019.

VALE: Eric Hodgson Woods 1924 - 2019.

Eric Woods was born in Parkes in 1924, the last of four children to James and Elizabeth Woods of 'Allendale', Tomingley. His grandfather, Moses Woods, had travelled to the Parkes area from Victoria in the 1870s and established his family on properties in that district.

Moses, noted for his physical strength and endurance, had farmed in Victoria. While doing so he had in his employ for 12 months the famous (or infamous) Ned Kelly. Moses always spoke in kindly terms of Ned.

Eric's father James died in 1926 as a result of fighting a disastrous bushfire. Eric was only two years of age. That resulted in his mother being left with four young children under 12 years; a burnt-out property and without the security and help of a very capable husband.

Nevertheless she was determined to hold on until all her children were able to make their way in life and Eric commenced running the property when he reached 21 years of age.

After James' death, the depressed years of the 1930s soon followed with the price of wool and wheat dropping dramatically. Hard work and thrift saw the property and family survive.

Eric rode his horse three miles to a one-teacher school, the car was left unregistered and in the shed. Wheat was gristed into flour for bread which was baked in a wood-fired oven.

Bad times however never last and in 1938 Eric was selected as a boarder at Hurlstone Agricultural High School from which he gained the Leaving Certificate in 1942 and represented the school at rugby union.

In 1943 Eric volunteered for enlistment in the RAAF but was not accepted because of his sight. Instead he was drafted into food production by the manpower authorities.

There he remained for the next 60 years a food and natural fibre producer. His farming activities were concentrated on sheep and wool production where he gained prominence as a breeder.

He completed a Professional Woollclasser's course and bred high-quality, medium-wool Merino sheep, topping local breeders sales for both surplus ewes and wethers over many years. At the same time he increased the property's size 6-fold.

Eric was elected to the Timbrebongie Shire Council in 1959 based on a promise to improve local roads. Forty years later he retired from the Narromine Shire Council with the satisfaction of having seen many of the Shires' gravel roads sealed and made passable in all weather.

Eric held the view that the quality of the roads reflected the quality and determination of the people and their lifestyle and that each generation should build a road for the next.

In 1977 Eric attained the highest office possible in Local Government being elected by his fellow Councillors to the Presidency of the Shires Association of New South Wales, where again improving roads, this time over the whole of New South Wales, became his priority.

Eric also served on the Local Government Boundaries Commission as well as other State and Federal committees while remaining Captain of his Local Voluntary Bush Fire Brigade.

He was awarded in 1977 the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal for community contribution; in June 1980 The Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to Local Government; and in 1994 The National Medal and First Clasp for 25 years' service as Captain of the Tomingley Bush Fire Brigade.

Eric wrote many articles for 'The Land' newspaper and a family history entitled 'One Hundred and Fifty Australian years'.

In 1947 Eric married Patty Dickson, then a young Prince Alfred Hospital Nursing Sister and he often said he could not have achieved such community work without her constant help and loyalty. They were celebrating 70 years of marriage in 2017 when Patty passed away.

In 2005 'Allendale' was sold after being in the Woods family for nearly 100 years and the family left Tomingley and the Central West of New South Wales.

But Tomingley and the Central West never left Eric Woods. It was always where he came from and to where he returned.

Eric is survived by his daughter Elizabeth; his granddaughters Jane and Caitlin and his great-grandson Hugo.

They and their families have lost a remarkable man whose lived example of community service and selflessness was typical of his times.