EVEN among the special breed of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter staff, crewman Barry Walton is exceptional in his 44 years of service to the community. Barry talked about why he has been so passionate about his job and his special connection to Scone.
“My mum was a Scone girl, she was a McNamara and they are pretty well known up through there,” said Barry.
“Heather McNamara was her name, the daughter of Roy McNamara who worked at Dalgety’s; she moved to Newcastle to get work, met my dad and hence I’m here,” he laughed.
Barry’s work history traces from the beginning of the chopper service in the Valley, joining as a volunteer through Surf Lifesaving in 1975, moving into working with paramedics in the early 80’s, through to the Royal Newcastle Hospital beginning to use them to transfer patients from rural areas, until it became the service it is today responding on scene to a range of incidents.
“As we moved on and got more involved with the ambulance service our role was more or less to guide and navigate to scene, load and unload patients, ensure the safety around the aircraft, make sure no one walked into tail rotors or main rotor blades and so forth, as well as the water work,” said Barry.
“We’d only done a St Johns ambulance course over a 12 week period when we first got together and they needed to prepare us for what we would encounter on scene,” he said.
“In the infancy when the crews from the 1975 era started, we’d have two members go up to the Royal Newcastle Hospital accident and emergency to ‘blood’ ourselves as to what you were going to see at the operations that the aircraft would go to.
“We’d be in A&E and see patients come in from accidents, or someone who has been punched and cut their eye and sometimes we’d get called to go up to theatre and watch an operation performed,” Barry Walton said.
Barry has no idea how many jobs he has been to with the service, but he has done more than 1,000 hours in the air.
One of his most memorial jobs was a call out to Denman.
“We got tasked to Denman one afternoon, when we were just about to knock off work and we had a report of a guy stuck in a willow tree,” said Barry.
“He’d swum out earlier when the river was low, he’d been on the booze and there was a thunderstorm up the Valley a bit so the river rose and he got stuck in the Willow Tree with a few snakes,” he said.
“Anyhow we flew up looked at the scenario landed on the shoreline, laid out the rope and ball because we had no winch in those days, we had 50 foot of rope and a soccer ball full of polystyrene and two lifting prongs on the end of it,” he said.
“So, I attached the rescue harness to one of them, hooked myself up and I got lifted up like a tea bag and flown over to the tree and ended up getting him out and getting him back to the shore,” he said.
Unbeknown to me at the time, there was a young bloke standing on the bank with his dad, they’d moved from Newcastle and his name was Mark Donaldson who became a Victoria Cross recipient and he wrote about it in his book called The Crossroad,” Barry Walton said.
The aspect of the job Barry loved the most was the community.
“I just enjoy the job and like to do the work for the community,”said Barry.
“The community value what the service does and their ownership is what raises money and all the various towns up that way are behind us; so at the end of the day it is their service and we run it with assistance from them and make sure we are available wherever possible,” Barry Walton said.
While Barry’s first priority was a few beers to celebrate, he is already talking about running a few fundraising events for the Service, so we may still see him around.
Thank you for you incredible work at the countless number of jobs you have been to and local people you have helped during some of the most difficult times of their lives. And while juggling all of that, still making time to send out a text or shoot off an email as you are flying to scene to keep the community informed about what the Service is up to. We’ll miss you!