Reminiscences of My Close Friendship with Roy Busby

1949 - 1985

(Ernest) Roy Busby (1917-85)  
© Peter J. O. Ralph 2004 Readers' Stories

I was a close friend of Roy Ernest Busby for over 36 years and during this period shared with him many of my hobbies and interests, the principle ones being cycling, bushwalking, photography, railways and mapping.  I first met Roy in 1949, at an impressionable fifteen years of age during a Youth Hostels Association club night held at 161 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.  I had just purchased an English Humber bicycle with 4-speed gears.  I was also a member of the Cycle Touring Club of Victoria with former mate, the late Doug McLean.  With no car in my family, I was very keen to further my horizons by joining the YHA cycling section and was advised to make contact with an Ad Verschure, but by a stroke of good fortune, was introduced to Roy instead.  Thus commenced a long term bonding to a mate with similar interests.  I guess it all started with Roy inviting me to his family home in Ardrie Road, East Malvern where he lived with his mother…a charming old lady!  I was first shown his bike riding stats where all his daily mileages were recorded.  These included his daily ride to work at CSL at Royal Park, where he was employed as a bio chemist.  I was studying a chemistry course at Caulfield Tech at the time and found his assistance with the theoretical aspects of the course invaluable to me.  Roy proudly showed me all the various places he had ridden around the nearby hills on daily rides, and showed me a wall map of Victoria, where he had shaded in the extremities of these rides and said that it was his prime objective to fill in the missing gaps to become a boundary rider.  These solo day rides - some totalling in excess of 200 miles - took him to places as far away as Alexandra, Echuca, Cressy, Lorne, Tanjil Bren, Tidal River.  His longest day ride was 327 miles in 24 hours.  Roy then produced his extensive collection of maps and showed me the value in collecting one-inch-to-mile military maps for purposes of planning visits to various destinations.  He then got out his photography album to show me pictures he had taken of peaks and waterfalls, all within a days ride from his home in East Malvern.  I very soon realised we shared a passion for reaching such popular destinations as the Stevenson Falls, Masons Falls, Wombelano Falls and the peaks of Mt Beenak, Mt Dandenong, Mt Donna Buang, Mt Juliet, Mt Riddell and Mt St Leonard.  In due course, I too found most were achievable within a days ride of Melbourne due to Roy’s encouragement and accompaniment on at least part of the way.  What would normally occur on a typical day ride, I would meet Roy at say 4:00am on a Sunday at my parent’s home in East Malvern and we would ride together to Healesville where we would stop for a rest at Maroondah Dam lookout.  To increase his stamina for the long climb to the top of the Black Spur, Roy would leave me there and ride solo on to Cathedral Range, to either do some mapping, or on to Alexandra to complete a boundary ride.  This distance being beyond my physical capability, I was quite content to return home via the Acheron Way and Warburton.  As a result of these rides with Roy, I improved my level of fitness and built up my confidence so extended rides ensured.  These were over holiday long weekends to places such as Rubicon Falls, Woods Point, Walhalla, and Jamieson where Roy and I would carry tents and sleeping bags to camp overnight.  Over the years, the extended rides ensured with other mates, which took us over the Alpine Road to Mt Hotham, the Grand Ride Road to Bulga Park, the Great Ocean Road to Lorne, Apollo Bay and Wilson’s Promontory.  Some of these rides involved catching a train part of the way and most were combined with bushwalking.  It soon became apparent from Roy that to really see the bush, one had to get off the beaten track.  I was, therefore, encouraged by Roy to join the YHA bushwalking section and he accompanied me on several of their bushwalks.  My first, being in July 1950 was a weekend walk from Powelltown, Big River were we camped overnight, then up the High Lead (where Roy boasted he could climb the 1,200 feet in 25 minutes), Downey’s Spur to Starling’s Gap and back to Warburton.  The most popular destination for Roy and his mates was Mt Buffalo where we visited on several occasions to participate in climbing the Cathedral and watch Roy knock it off.  Roy also decided to produce his own map of the Plateau and would drive to Buffalo with his bike mounted on the pack rack utilising the bike purely for measuring the various tracks.  Most of the trips were with organised YHA parties or privately during public holiday weekends.  These extended trips continued for well over ten years.  Another extended walking trip was in the Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair reserve area in Tasmania.  This was encouraged by Roy over Christmas holidays in 1952.  Roy being a member of the Melbourne Walking Club, I was unable to accompany him being a non-member.  However, I was invited by a YHA mate to do an identical walk with the Catholic Walking Club, both clubs were going through the Reserve at the same time, so Roy and I constantly met up with each other at the various huts overnight and at Du Cane hut where we indeed were fortunate enough in meeting up with a Graeme Wheeler who became a close mate of Roy and myself over the years.  During this visit, Roy and I came together again on a walk to Frenchman’s Gap, where Roy had retraced his steps two miles to correct a spelling error he had made in the visitors book at Lake Tahune - he had spelt the word “unforgettable’ with one ‘t’.  Such was the nature of the man!  Back in Hobart at the Hobart Walking Club meeting, Roy spoke about his walk through the Reserve, describing the climb of Mt Pelion West as like walking through ‘ready mixed concrete’ which brought a few laughs!  Another hobby shared with Roy was knocking off various railway lines around the State where my being a railway enthusiast may possibly have influenced Roy with this interest.  At every opportunity, Roy generally did not need much persuasion to accompany myself and a group of fellow railway enthusiasts on a pre-arranged excursion.  The day trips were mostly hauled by steam trains to destinations such as Beech Forest/Weeaproinah, Timboon, Mortlake, Port Fairy, Mornington, Foster, Healesville and Warburton.  Extended weekend railway excursions ensured to places such as Cudgewa, Orbost, Mt Gambier and Yarpeet with overnight sleeping carriages attached.  Most of the excursions were to destinations that could only be reached on a goods train.  Passenger trains had long been discontinued and most of these lines are now closed and pulled up, hence the fascination to reach them whilst we could.  Photography was also a fascination for Roy.  He always carried his camera on walking club trips, recording on black and white film in precise detail the places he visited and views from various peaks he had climbed.  Some of Roy’s pictures appeared in the Melbourne Walking Club magazine ‘The Walker’.  This was until I introduced him to Kodachrome in the early fifties when Roy decided to purchase a 35mm Exacta camera and commenced taking slides.  Roy was an excellent photographer and was fascinated with photographing steam trains.  As a testament to his high standard of photography, several of his pictures finished up in various train hobby publications.  Peak bagging and waterfalls became a preoccupation for Roy.  It also enticed me to climb peaks I would not normally have considered doing such as Mt Ellery and Mt Tingeringy in East Gippsland, and Mt Wilson at Wilson’s Promontory.  As far as waterfalls were concerned, the more remote they were, the greater the challenge and I along with other mates, were indeed fortunate to have made our way into the Yarra Falls, long after the original tourist track from McVeights to Wallhalla was closed due to the 1939 bushfire.  Another waterfall that I had the pleasure of reaching with Roy was the Matthina Falls at Healesville in the MMBW (Melbourne Water) Maroondah Dam catchment area and before the building of the dam.  On another occasion, whilst I was living in Warrnambool, I was shown on a 1933 tourist map of the Western Coastal District the Aire Falls.  No track was shown leading to the fall from the Hordon Vale/Apollo Bay Road.  This immediately became a challenge for both Roy and myself and it took two attempts of bashing through lush rain forest along the Aire river valley to reach.  These discoveries were as rewarding as climbing some of the more remote peaks.  On extended walks led by Roy, we would always get a very raucous wake-up call at six o’clock to rise and shine.  I distinctly remember trying to solicit Roy’s infamous wake-up call on a walk I was leading up to Mt Feathertop.  At the Feathertop Hut where we camped the first night, it was my objective to get the entire party up to the summit next morning for the sunrise.  However some couples were not impressed with being disturbed at such an early hour, so I asked Roy to be selective on who he woke.  The next thing I noticed was Roy had packed up his tent, sleeping bag and was heading off!  I will never forget the image silhouetted on the ridge against a big full moon heading for the summit alone - he simply had jacked up!  During the early 1970s at the time of my divorce, I was placed in a single parent situation and found in Roy a very compassionate and caring man offering guidance and moral support in handling my affairs.  One a month, we would meet at his Dallas Avenue, Templestowe home and have a meal at the local pub.  Roy had moved to this lovely property after the death of his mother, and was very proud of his clinker brick home named Yarra View.  It had a lovely wattle lined curved driveway with a backyard that gently sloped down to the bank of the Yarra River, a perfect spot for a field naturalist.  He boasted that he had 120 gum trees in his backyard and was also proud of the fact that he had meticulously removed all the weeds in his back lawn by using a Stanley knife and scissors and carefully placing them in Wheetbix boxes for removal in the garbage collection.  Once a year, Roy would invite all his friends from YHA over for a BBQ, to reminisce about all the fun times we had shared over the years.  This all came to an abrupt end when Roy sadly passed away in 1985.  Long may Roy be remembered.



Reminiscences of Peter Ralph.


Last Updated: 02-Dec-2018 11:49.