Bendigo Junior Fire Brigade celebrates 50 years

Junior Fire Brigade running team member Blair McCormick  goes through his paces Picture: DARREN HOWE

Junior Fire Brigade running team member Blair McCormick goes through his paces Picture: DARREN HOWE

BENDIGO Junior Fire Brigade will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a special function this Saturday night.

As a former junior member of the brigade, Emergency Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley will launch the celebrations, which are being held at the Bendigo Fire Station.

Included will be the launch of a book on the junior brigade’s history by George Flack.

Guests include Jock Dorbie, who is one of the four founders of the Bendigo Juniors, and will make the tip to Bendigo from Shepparton with his family.

Bendigo CFA’s George Flack said the the Bendigo Juniors had earmarked themselves as a formidable combination on the running tracks around Victoria and Tasmania during the past 50 years.

“The very first Junior competition won by the Bendigo Juniors was in 1968 at the Bendigo and District Winter Competitions, with Geoff Flack winning the under-14 aggregate,” he said.

“Since then the Bendigo Juniors have consistently won individual events, team events, broke numerous records across the state and brought aggregate trophies back to the station on a regular basis.

“The huge juniors trophy cabinet constructed by Geoff Flack and other members in the 1985-90 era reflects the vast contributions the juniors have amassed over the past 50 years”

The function starts at 7pm.

The following is an excerpt from George Flack’s book on the history of the Bendigo Junior Fire Brigade.

The idea of forming a Junior Fire Brigade came from four men - two who were career fire-fighters and two who were Bendigo Fire Brigade Volunteers at the time. 

Whilst there had been junior firefighters at Bendigo Brigade in past years (late 1890s through the early 1900s), other local sister brigades had successfully managed junior firefighters in recent times such as the Golden Square Junior Fire Brigade. 

And so career fire-fighters John Rowell and Jock Dorbie combined with volunteer fire-fighters Peter Brown and Geoff Thompson with the approval of the Bendigo Fire Brigade members. 

Over the coming few weeks the number of junior fire-fighters swelled to over 20 members. 

Additional members from the Bendigo Fire Brigade such as Alan Rogers and Phil Neander assisted the other four – for example on the trip to Geelong/Norlane in December 1967. 

A photograph was taken outside the View Street Fire Station in front of the bus with both John Rowell, Phil Neander, Peter Brown and Alan Rogers accompanying the 21 Junior boys undertaking their first trip away. 

There was much enthusiasm around the View Street Fire Station which retained it’s “look” from its earlier days of 1899. The horse stables and the upper hay bale storage reflected its past as the La France Extension ladder, Bedford Tanker and International Pumper reflected the currency of the late 1960s. 

Blair McCormick

Blair McCormick

The two permanent staff members of John Rowell and Jock Dorbie devoted a considerable amount of time and effort in educating the boys (and later girls also) whose ages ranged from 10 through to almost 16 years of age. 

This dedication has continued throughout the past 50 years involving not only career staff but numerous volunteers, the parents and their committees of the juniors and even retired staff such as former OIC, the late Mr Vince Lapsley, the late volunteer Ron Wee Ray Brad and Kris Watt, current Commissioner Craig Lapsley of Emergency Management Victoria, Ron Schintler, Geoff Flack, Laurie Anderson and myself. 

I assisted with the organisation of the 25th anniversary during the early part of 1992 through to the celebration held on Saturday August 8, 1992. Leading up to this occasion the Bendigo Advertiser published an article in June 1992 titled “ Twenty-fifth anniversary from Bendigo’s junior firemen.” 

Our first elected Captain was Arthur Pratt and I was the second elected Captain prior to being promoted to the senior ranks after my 16th birthday in 1969. 

I recalled at the 25th anniversary how my two younger brothers Geoff and Trevor plus myself began our junior membership on the second evening (Tuesday 15th August 1967) by our mother Anne Flack (Maiden name Dorrington) encouraging us to join. She accompanied us brothers up to the View Street Fire Station that had been there since 1899. 

I recalled meeting both Jock Dorbie and John Rowell and was overawed at the range of fire-fighting appliances, the number of men on station, the old photographs and trophies displayed around upstairs walls and in the stairwell. 

The existence of the Bendigo Fire Brigade and the Fire Station had always been impressed upon the Flacks by our Grandmother Mrs Margaret (‘Peg”) Dorrington and Grandpa George Dorrington. 

Their eldest son George (two years older than our mother Anne) was a branchie with Bendigo Fire Brigade between 1938 and the early 1940’s before he joined the Armed Forces, became a commando and was sadly snipered and died on 22nd October 1943. 

I had heard there was a marble plaque proudly displaying Uncle George’s name together with all other past and future career and volunteer members who had passed away. 

This marble plaque is displayed proudly in our multi-purpose room of our “new” fire station in Chapel/Hargreaves Street Bendigo. 

In addition I had been told of a very large billiard table and also a photograph of the late George Dorrington and an inscription that had been presented to the Bendigo Fire Brigade by my grandparents following Uncle George’s death. Again this was on display at the View Street fire station. 

In later years George, Geoff, Anthony, Joanna, Jarrod and David Flack presented a suitably inscribed life member certificate to our Dorrington grandparents. This is held on display in our secretary’s office at present. 

Having satisfied their curiosity the Flack brothers and the other juniors faced the task of being trained in all aspects of the fire service.

They were taught the history of the fire service in Victoria, the methods of transportation to fires, the communication methods, the competitive side of the service, respect for one another and discipline. 

They were shown how to run a marshall event and taught to respect the equipment and their fellow man or woman.

The Bendigo Juniors earmarked themselves as a formidable combination on the running tracks around Victoria and Tasmania during the past 50 years.

The very first Junior competition won by the Bendigo Juniors was in 1968 at the Bendigo and District Winter Competitions, with Geoff Flack winning the under-14 aggregate.

The trophy – an elegantly coloured fruit bowl sits graciously in the juniors’ trophy cabinet.

The juniors competed in their first official demo in March 1969 in conjunction with Chelsea Youth Week.

Geoff Flack won the under-14 hydrant race while brother George was second placed in the under-16 one man marshall.

The Flack brothers teamed up with Ray Watt and Allan Rollason for a third place in the four-man marshall event. The brigade finished second in the under-16 aggregate.

Since then the Bendigo Juniors have consistently won individual events, team events, broke numerous records across the state and brought aggregate trophies back to the station on a regular basis.

The huge juniors trophy cabinet constructed by Geoff Flack and other members in the 1985-90 era reflects the vast contributions the juniors have amassed over the past 50 years. 

Perhaps the greatest achievements of the juniors was in a period of the mid 1980s through all the 1990s and early 2000s.

Significant mention should be made of juniors such as Leigh Schintler winning three State Junior Championships in 2000, 2001 and 2004, with Leigh’s photo proudly on display in the brigade’s multi-purpose meeting room.

Others in that era who were also successful included Brock Pinner, Michael and Debbie Newlan, their cousin Jodie Jones, Dean Murphy, Richard Brierley, Jeff Wooster, Joanna Flack, Sam McCaskill and Andrew Johnson. 

My son Anthony Flack created an under 14 one-man marshall record in the Castlemaine Winter competition in 1992 – this record continues to stand to date mainly because the competition is no longer conducted.  

Juniors were eventually taken around all the gear in the station, rode in the trucks and were tutored on each item’s application on the job.

They were taken on guided tours of various premises in the Bendigo district and actively encouraged to mix as a team.