2 November 2020

Mr West, from way out west, Bribbaree's quiet ambassador

| Edwina Mason
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Bill West standing in front of Bribbaree Show & Recreation Reserve sign.

Longtime Bribbaree showground stalwart Bill West has been named a finalist in the 2020 NSW/ACT Regional and Community Achievement Awards. Photo: Supplied.

Bill West is wondering what all the fuss is about with him being named a finalist in the 2020 NSW/ACT Regional and Community Achievement Awards.

The Bribbaree farmer likes to keep to himself and go about his daily business. Talking about himself usually involves saying “we”. He takes no individual credit for his achievements.

But if you know Bill and his role in his community, you know he’s definitely deserving of something far greater than a pat on the back.

When Region Media spoke to him late last week, Bill had just finished mowing the lawn at home. The last time he was on a lawnmower was the day prior, mowing the local showground which sits on the western outskirts of Bribbaree, a small NSW community with a population of 141, about 35 minutes west of Young.

The showground is what keeps this village’s heart beating, along with the bowlo, pub and public school. People outside of the district know more about the showground than the village itself.

For much of his lifetime, Bill, 72, has kept a watchful gaze over that showground which is a horse magnet to anyone who knows what a saddle, girth and bit is.

Bill West receiving pin from woman.

Bill West is a finalist in the 2020 NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s Individual Excellence in Crown Land Management Award category. Photo: Olwyn Hanigan.

And not just shows, mind you – campdrafts, team yarding, team penning, the mighty Bribbaree Pony Club, Man of the Land Bribbaree Stockmans Challenges and even tractor pulls.

The October long weekend is when the annual Bribbaree Show – dubbed locally as the Mini Royal Easter Show – usually takes place. This is when the showground shines beneath the sound of a crackly loudspeaker, show rides, squeals, hoof on timber jumps, clunking antique engines and laughter.

But not this year, thanks to COVID-19. However, just like every one of its 93 years, something small is still planned.

The Bribbaree Show – like many of the people from the land that surrounds this spot out west – is known for its superb horse competitions. Those who ride away with the champion’s ribbon are likely to end up in that great arena at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show.

Joh Bailey, Double Bay hairdresser to the stars, was once one of those riders.

Bill is a Bribbaree Show Society member, trust member, Show Society chairman (13 years), secretary (22 years) and land manager. He knows just about every divot on the grounds of the 50-acre allotment.

He’s a third generation West to cast an eye over the goings-on there. His son is now the fourth generation to be involved. That’s why there’s a West Wing toilet and shower block at the showground. It was named after Bill, but he credits his entire family.

He can tell you when the first dunnies that weren’t long drops were built. And who wins the ribbons for wool and wheat. He will even turn his hand to baking an entry for the men’s chocolate cake competition.

He knows that once there were pigs in a pavilion, and that one year a piglet escaped, much to the joy of the kids attending the show. He will also tell you that once there were chook exhibits and a rustic old bar. He could tell a few stories from around that bar and what’s next for the prize fowls of the district now their aged shed is out of commission. He tells of stewards in the ring who for years were treated to real tea, scones and jam.

Bill has built, cleaned up, carted sand, soil and water, desilted dams, plumbed pipes and sprayed weeds. Overseeing each electrical upgrade means he’s the source of all power. And that doesn’t even scrape the gravel off the surface of his efforts.

But much as he might be the lone ranger out there most weeks, he’ll always tell you, “We did it.”

Just this year, in fact, the showground has seen a major overhaul of the horse arenas and cattle yards, and the committee struck gold in getting water piped into new tanks from a stock route bore on that vast open plain called the The Bland, many kilometres away, which has secured good water not just for the grounds, but the entire village.

Ask anyone with a horse – that ground out there is one of the best in NSW. Not just because of good grants and enthusiastic generations of committees, but because there is someone who cares enough to deal in the detail.

As testimony to that, if people have a question about anything relating to Bribbaree Showground, the response is always, “Ask Bill West.”

Bill has been named a finalist for the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s Individual Excellence in Crown Land Management Award, as part of the 2020 NSW/ACT Regional Achievement and Community Awards.

He is also up for the People’s Choice Award to be run in the lead-up to the awards night.

Stay tuned for more details on that.

The awards will culminate in a prestigious awards gala presentation dinner at the Fairmont Resort at Leura, in the NSW Blue Mountains, on 20 November.

To cast your vote, visit Awards Australia.

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Bruce Cadwallader2:49 pm 08 Oct 20

He deserves to win

Peter Skillen12:18 pm 07 Oct 20

He has done a wonderful job for the past 30 od years he is a hands on type of person who knows the show ground in and out he is worthy nomination for such an award

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