Barry Knight was named this year’s Australia Day Citizen of the year for his volunteer work in the community over the past year but it seems he’s been volunteering most of his life.
“Barry’s contribution to Cobar during 2019 has been truly outstanding,” his nomination for this year’s Australia Day awards read.
It listed his involvement in the Festival of the Miner’s Ghost which included the organisation of the Night For Our Lost Miners memorial event; the dedication of the Harry Marshall Memorial; the erection of a memorial plaque at the Cobar Cemetery to honour lost miners who are buried there with no headstones; and the organisation and running of a Mini Mining Expo.
In 2018, Barry also collected the Australia Day Community Event of the Year award for the inaugural ‘Night For Our Lost Miners’.
But it’s not just the past couple of years that Barry has been volunteering his services to
the Cobar community, giving back is something that has been modelled to him his whole life.
“My grandmother was involved in heaps of charities and events, as well as my mother,” Barry told The Cobar Weekly.
“I was even an honorary member of the Hospital Auxiliary. They used to cater for balls and I would help with the washing up.”
“I guess it’s just in my nature.”
Barry is a fourth generation Cobar-born Knight and his son Troy and grandson Tommy make for six generations of Knights to have lived in Cobar.
“Dad’s great grandfather, his eldest son Harry (who was my great grandfather) and his brothers came here to work carting wood and freight to the copper mines in 1871 or 1872.
“My dad also worked in the mines but mostly did rural work like tank sinking and shearing.”
Barry said he enjoyed growing up in Cobar and remembers having a lot of freedom as a kid.
“We always had jobs to do, but we also had a lot of freedom to sort of roam around town, which was a lot smaller back then.
“The police had a lot more control about who came and went from the town.
“I remember old Senior Constable Jim McGuire, or ‘Fullbore’ as he was known.
“He was tough but fair.
“There was plenty of employment, you were pretty much guaranteed to get a job when you left school.”
After Barry left school he gained an apprenticeship with Cobar Mines in 1970 as a fitter machinist.
“When I left there (because there was a rule then that it was compulsory to leave for 12 months after you finished an apprenticeship) I went to Western Australia to work.”
Over the next five years Barry found work in Albury, Newcastle, Bega and Melbourne along with carrying out a three month stint in a mine in West Papua. Then I came back and got a job at the CSA Mine.”
The family had plans to stay for five years however, some 40 odd years later, they are still here.
In that time Barry’s served 12 years as a Cobar Shire councillor, including four years as deputy mayor to Cr Lilliane Brady.
Barry said Council had a number of achievements to celebrate during his time that included: stopping the construction of a toxic waste incinerator at Canbelego; the sealing of the Kidman Way; building the basketball stadium at the youth centre; starting the Festival of the Miner’ Ghost; the construction of Tom Knight Memorial Oval (which was named in his brother’s honour); and washing for Nyngan residents following the floods of 1990.
“I also opened a ‘bikie show’ at the back of the Grand Hotel when I was deputy mayor and got a write-up in a bikie magazine.”
Barry has also helped out with a number of junior sports when his kids, and later his grandkids, were involved including junior league, Little A’s, junior cricket and netball.
Barry has also served as president of St John’s School P&F and the St John’s School board.
Currently he volunteers his time with the Brennan Centre aged care committee and the RSL Sub Branch Cobar committee and is the driving force behind the construction of the Miners Memorial Project.
“A few people talked about doing something in the park to honour miners who’d lost their lives but nothing really got done.
“I thought stuff it! And I bit the bullet and here we are.
“I was a bit lucky as a mountain of the research had already been done by Joy Prisk and Kay Stingemore.
“When I got involved my plan was to have some engraved pavers underneath the headframe up there in the park.
“It was going to cost about $6,000.
“I got in touch with the shire and Chris Higgins from the Peak also came on board with the project and it soon went from $6,000 to a $250,000 project.
“And then Chris left town and left me alone with it!”
Barry said he was however excited by the prospect of building what will be a substantial memorial.
He feels it will be a worthwhile way to honour our many fallen miners, including one of his best mates Harry Marshall, who was killed in an accident at CSA Mine in 1973 when he was just 20.
“I worked with a lot of the guys unfortunately who have been killed over the years, and growing up in Cobar I knew a lot of the older ones as well.
“I think the memorial will be good for the town and good for tourism also.”
Barry also encourages others to get involved in all aspects of the community, whether that’s through sport, charity or in your child’s
school as he’s always found it to be very rewarding.
Barry said over the years one of the important things he’s learnt over the years is to “do your homework before you open your mouth”.
“Don’t ask questions unless you know the answer,” he said.