Salute to the late Norman McVicker OAM 1920-2012
“Some people are volunteer fire fighters, some rescue squad. I am too old to be fighting fires or rescuing people, so I do what I can do – I write the people’s history.”
These are the words of the late Norman McVicker, local historian and volunteer writer of Tales Along the Wallaby Track for the Mudgee Guardian for 23 years, having written 1,180 local and national historic articles about the people who pioneered the land we live in today.
This was his gift – the legacy he gave us all – our own history.
Norman might have been too old to fight fires, but he was in the thick of community life from the time he arrived in Mudgee to ‘retire’ in 1980, while living an alternative lifestyle on his native bush herb farm in Pipe Clay Lane surrounded by his huge colony of kangaroos, wild parrots, and wild wattle trees.
Drawing from his immense experience in the world of theatre and art, he became a foundation member of the Mudgee Arts Council and organised their first art show, also becoming a mentor for Mudgee High School musical productions. Norman inspired many of our young actors to follow their dreams.
Not satisfied there, Norman lobbied for implementation of the Mudgee Shire Australia Day Arts Award, designing the Council Chamber’s Roll of Recognition for Australia Day award recipients and also designing and writing the Wall of Reflection in the Mudgee Shire Library.
A passion for history saw Norman lobby for the retention and restoration of the Eurunderee School site, where Henry Lawson attended school as a boy. Norman designed and arranged the sign posted history tour of Lawson Country, The Wallaby Track. The site was visited by Rear-Admiral Peter Sinclair AC Governor of NSW in 1993.
Norman began writing Tales Along the Wallaby Track for the Mudgee Guardian in 1989; first a single column on page 2 every week, later flourishing into the weekly full page story and photo features of today. He was an expert storyteller, his work written in the quirky, interest grabbing language he learnt when he began his writing career in 1937 at the age of 17 when he did his first radio play ‘King Peter’ for 2SM in Sydney and then wrote and broadcast for 2UW’s Children Session. Gone were the boring, dry history books. Norman’s history came alive for his readers and his latest publications, written at the grand old age of 92 still enthral and capture the imagination.
Norman was born at Tempe, Sydney, in 1920. During his early career as a freelance journalist and playwright, he was appointed the Unit Education Officer for the Australian Army Service Corps before joining BCPA and QANTAS Airlines Audit Department as audit manager. He worked with QANTAS for the next thirty years and while constantly travelling the globe, Norman became a Council Member of the British Drama League of Australia and was heavily involved in tutoring and mentoring the theatre world. He was involved in the emergence of the Pocket Playhouse in St Peters, Sydney and founded and directed the Pocket Playhouse Children’s Theatre. In 1966 Norman was appointed by the Prime Minister Harold Holt as a member of the Australian UNESCO Committee for Drama and Theatre.
And these are the skills he ‘retired’ to Mudgee with, imbedding his crafts within our community.
Norman received a number of achievement awards for his contributions to art by the Mid Western Regional Council, being nominated for Council’s Citizen of the Year many times, but sadly, never appointed that award.
George Souris presented Norman with the highest possible state award for NSW in 2007, the Premier of New South Wales Community Service Award, for outstanding services to the Mudgee community for his history writing, theatre and art work.
On a National level, Norman was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2003 for his service to the performing arts, theatre and the Mudgee community, the award presented by the Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir AC. Norman was also twice nominated for Australian of the Year.
Norman was the longest serving journalist at the Mudgee Guardian and served six editors over his time there. He grew from typing his stories by hand each week, to learning and mastering computer techniques in his mid 80s, always handing in impeccably presented work that no one would dare touch – nor did they need to even check it. He saw the Guardian staff as his family and no matter how many staff changes occurred, each wave of new journalists adopted Norman as their own. His history segment each week was a labour of love, given to the people of Mudgee, the town he loved and cultivated in the history, arts and theatrical world.
Vale Norman. Thank you for all you have contributed to the collection and story telling of Australian history. We trust we will meet again one day. In the meantime, you will be sadly missed.
About Norman McVicker OAM
Norman McVicker is a history researcher and writer in Mudgee who has written a continuous weekly column in the Mudgee Guardian, Tales from Along the Wallaby Track, since 1989.