Vale Barry Hickson: a life well travelled

Sally Hopman 28 July 2021
Barry Hickson driving red tractor

Barry Hickson, who died on 16 July, where he loved to be: behind the wheel of a large piece of machinery. Photo: Moruya Antique Tractor and Machinery Association.

Not everyone would be thrilled to be known as a ‘legend of the vintage machinery movement’, but then not everyone was like Barry Hickson.

He was a man of many passions, according to those who knew him.

A devoted partner, father of two daughters, businessman and lover of everything that moved and/or blew smoke –from tractors to racing cars.

And, on occasion, he was not averse to raising his glass to a good red wine.

Barry also had a strong interest in military history – an interest he would maintain all of his life, which was hardly surprising considering his pedigree. Not only did he grow up during World War II, his father, Ernest Henry Hickson, had been a Gallipoli veteran in World War I, his brother, Geoff, a prisoner of war in Changi, and his half-brother, Arthur, died as a prisoner of war on the Burma Railway.

Barry’s daughter, Jennifer Woodcroft, says her family was overwhelmed by the messages of love and support from the NSW South Coast community following her father’s death on July 16, 2021.

“It is very special for us at this time to know he touched so many people,” she says. “People are sharing their wonderful memories with us.

“It really has been heartwarming. We knew he was popular but we had no idea how much.

“When you lose someone you love, hearing how people felt about him does really help.”

Although born and bred in Sydney, it was only when Barry Ernest Patrick Quinn Hickson – “Our father would have loved to see his named printed out in full like that,” says Jennifer – discovered the beauty of the Eurobodalla Shire in the 1970s, and the fact a 30-acre bush block would give him lots more space to pursue house his love of machinery, that his life steered itself in a different direction.

For years, Barry and his partner, Judy, would drive down the coast from Sydney to build their dream house before moving there permanently in 1994.

Within a couple of years, Barry was well ensconced in the Moruya community, and by 1996, during a chance meeting with mates at the Eurobodalla Agricultural Show, they formed the Moruya Antique Tractor and Machinery Association (MATAMA) in 1997.

Since then, he continuously held the office of either president or secretary of the association, roles and devotion which earned him life membership.

Barry Hickson with daughters Jennifer and Virginia

Here’s cheers to proud father Barry Hickson (left), pictured with his daughters Jennifer (left) and Virginia (right). Jennifer says this photo on the right is the last image she has of her father with his daughters. Photos: Supplied by Jennifer Woodcroft.

Jennifer says for Barry it was not just a matter of tinkering with machinery, but rather yarning with mates and exhibiting vintage machinery anywhere there was a crowd. He also provided much strength to mates during the hardest of times, such as when bushfire destroyed most of the South Coast village of Mogo on 27 December, 2019, including the MATAMA shed and its contents.

Almost all of the antique machinery collection was destroyed in the fire, along with thousands of hours of volunteer labour MATAMA members had put into restoration work.

Jennifer says for her father and his mates it was just a matter of starting again. Restoration work is now well underway on many of those pieces of machinery.

Being part of the South Coast and Southern Tablelands communities was all part of Barry’s world. But the highlight was in 2014 when, along with mate David Brown and the strongest of men and beast, they ploughed their way into the Guinness World Records.

They broke the record for not only the largest number of horses ploughing the Yass field at the same time, 28, but also for the heaviest horse which weighed in at more than a tonne.

Although Barry was passionate about tractors and other vintage machinery, he also had a need for speed. In his younger days he was a competitive car racer, competing in touring car and Formula V racing.

More recently, he was a keen Supercars Championship spectator and Formula 1 fan, keeping a close eye on Aussie drivers Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo.

Barry is survived by his daughters Jennifer and Virginia, grandsons Benjamin, Joseph and Lachlan, granddaughter Louise, and son-in-law Geoffrey.

“Because of the COVID-19 situation and lockdowns, we decided to have dad privately cremated,” says Jennifer.

She says the family plans to hold a celebration of Barry’s life at a later date “so we can all be together, family and friends, and give him a send off, according to his wishes”.

A rather large piece of antique farm machinery, or six, will be present, and some fine red wine is more than likely to be on the menu, says Jennifer.


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