Local Hero: Alan Bailey – a True Blue Aussie

In memory of Alan Bailey 1943 – 2023

Recently one of the Gully’s Greats sadly passed away.
Our condolences to Alan’s wife Ann and all their family and friends.

Footy Clubs are a great place. They provide a sense of belonging and connection. They create relationships, friendships and sense of community. They are filled with wonderful people who work tirelessly for the benefit of others. Most sporting clubs are like this, and Alan ‘Speed’ Bailey was one such person.

On behalf of the Ferntree Gully Football Netball Club we are saddened to hear of the passing of Al and our sincere condolences go out to Ann and the entire Bailey family.

Alan Bailey, who was better known in cricketing circles, started helping out with the Gully way back in the mid 1960s. His family had been a part of the local community for decades. Although Al’s boys – sons and grandsons – played with Upper Gully, he continued to maintain a great friendship and interest with the Gully. Such was the calibre of the man. He was such a great person with such great respect.

For decades Alan Bailey would nurture and develop hundreds of young cricketers and young men. Earning a great rapport and friendships lasting decades. He wasn’t just a legend in sporting circles; he was a legend of Ferntree Gully. He lived in the Gully, he worked in the Gully and he loved the Gully. He was such a great storyteller which we are sadly running low on.

Al Bailey was a True Aussie Bloke. He loved his family, loved his sport, loved his ‘Tractor Pull’, and loved his town. Singer John Williamson penned the great Aussie song, ‘True Blue’. I honestly believe he had Alan Bailey in mind when he wrote it.

By John Turner

Perhaps the best way to tell Alan’s story is in his own words.

A country boyhood in a growing city

By Alan Bailey

Recently we went for a drive on Mother’s Day morning out to Lysterfield to look around at the recent developments and housing going up in the hills. It made me reflect on the early days and my childhood in Lysterfield. The Bailey family were among the early settlers there, living at the back of the quarries in a slab hut. The old well and some fruit trees where we lived still exist on a plot of land now controlled by Melbourne Water.

My grandparents Herbert Austin and Ethel Elizabeth Bailey settled in the hills with their 12 children to clear the bush and build a future for the family. On his return from the First World War Grandpa Bailey helped build the Lysterfield Hall, which for many years was the hub of all family and social activities. It was later taken over by the 1812 Theatre Group for their productions. Unfortunately the hall burnt down and a plaque now marks the site where it stood on the corner of Wellington and Kelletts Roads.

All the Bailey kids went to Lysterfield State School and my Aunty Eva after finishing school went back as the sewing mistress. My father was the fourth in the family, he courted another local girl, Melva Mary Thomas, whom he married. They had three children. Mum used to ride a little black pony to school every day and put it in the paddock next door. Both Mum and Dad were very good with horses and Dad got his nickname ‘Snowy’ for breaking in a white horse no one else could handle.

As kids we lived in an old shack on Wellington Road where the quarry industry now operates. Boyle’s General Store was opposite our house. Dad used to do a run of rabbit traps – 200 every night – over the hills towards Lysterfield dam. This supplemented his quarry income, which he helped set up by building the crushers out of bush logs. Later on he carted metal from the quarries with a horse and dray. He was also the powder monkey and had to lower himself down the rock face to drill and set the gelignite to blow the rock out. He had a couple of bad falls down the quarry face while doing his job but survived. In 1956 I too survived being run over by a metal truck at the same quarry. It rearranged my body a bit but I’m still here to tell the story.

As young kids we moved over to Ferntree Gully and lived in a little weatherboard house on the corner of Burwood Highway and Giffard Avenue where Auto Spares Galore now run a business. Next door at the end of Dorset Road was the local dairy and general store run by Mr and Mrs Vansuylen. My brother Bob and I used to deliver the milk every morning in billies. Dad made special racks for them on the front of our bikes and every family had their own billy. As kids we used to pick blackberries in old kerosene tins for Monbulk Preserves down in the back paddock where the netball complex now is. I can tell you one thing – there’s a bloody lot of blackberries in a kero tin. Monbulk Preserves was owned by the Camm family and Mr Camm bought the first Holden sold by Freddie Bendle who owned and operated the Holden dealership where Mountain Gate Shopping Centre now stands.

After leaving school my sister Joyce worked at the Kayser stocking factory in Rose Street, Upper Ferntree Gully. Brother Bob did an apprenticeship as a plasterer with Joe and Jack Cobb whose factory was in Dorset Road where Pots Galore now operates. I went on to work for Westy J. Wright to learn the trade of welding and blacksmithing.

To help put tucker on the table Mum used to pick produce for the Chaundy Brothers, Skipper and Bunny. She was also the school cleaner at State School no. 1307. We went to school there and later to the good old Ferntree Gully Technical School, another local icon that no longer exists.

After hooning around the Gully in my early model Holdens and Triumph motorbikes I settled down a bit and started taking out a local girl from another well-known family in the district called Ann Frawley. We married at St John’s and went on to have four lovely sons we are very proud of.

As the boys grew up we became involved with junior sport at Bluebirds Football and Cricket Club where we spent many years helping hundreds of kids grow into fine young adults. After leaving Westy’s I continued welding and making truck industry components. I also drove interstate transports for a time to earn more money before going on to work for the Dobson family at the Coolstore for 25 years. I recently left there and I now work for the Pettinella family who own and operate the Fresh Berry Company, so if you see a Fresh Berry truck on the road give me a wave!

As I look around I see so much in the local area that has changed since I was a boy growing up here. But change and growth are healthy and I feel privileged to have watched Ferntree Gully grow from a village on the far fringe of Melbourne into the City of Knox of which I am proud to be a resident.

The following comments from Alan’s wife Ann, spoken at the commemoration ceremony, sum up his legacy.

‘The Gully was a good place to grow up. Great friendships were formed (even to this day). We could be involved with sporting clubs, Saturdays at Upper Gully picture theatre, milk shakes at the Tarax Bar, going to dances, catching trains or sometimes walking home, not all the boys had cars. We walked a long track on the Main Road.

‘Alan loved encouraging me to do things I wanted to be a part of. His thing was ‘She’s never home mate, if she’s not at the tennis club, she’ll be flittin’ around the town somewhere.

‘In 2018 I was part of the Poppie Project, so Alan using his metal and welding skills, made diggers to help us plant all those poppies at the War Memorial. 

He was very chuffed that he played some part in that amazing project.

‘Later he was encouraged to get the tractor going that had been sitting out the front of The Coolstore for Knox Bicentennial. So there started another community family with great friendships. 

. . . ‘So in closing, I will leave you with one of Al’s most important legacies: ‘We are here to make young boys fine adults for their community and families’.

He achieved that in spades. He was our rock.’

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