Home' South Gippsland Sentinel-Times : January 17, 2017 Edition Contents PAGE 18 - THE SOUTH GIPPSLAND SENTINEL-TIMES, TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2017
• Obituary for Raymond Alwyn Walls
19.11.1932 – 21.10.2016
MANY people now remember Ray Walls
only as the Shire Engineer of the former
Shire of Korumburra, but that was his
last public profile. There was much more
to the man than he revealed.
He was born at Eaglehawk, Victoria on
November 19, 1932, the youngest of the
five children of Ethel and Norman Walls.
He never allowed his physical disability to
limit his opportunities, but it did mean
that from the time he could walk he al-
ways wore carefully crafted surgical boots
to support his right leg.
At an early age he was a prodigious
reader and particularly during school va-
cations, he used the membership cards
of all the family to borrow three books at
a time from the local library. The family
had a deep interest in music; he was a
teenager when his brother Ron brought
home a record of Bessie Smith singing
“Nobody knows you when you’re down
and out”, and his musical focus was de-
When Ray shared his excitement with
his school mate, Jimmy Goyne, he kept
saying, “Listen for the tuba Jim”, and
both were seduced by the complex har-
monies of the traditional jazz of American
Negro bands. The mellow tones of the
cornet really appealed so he borrowed a
cornet from his brother-in-law Bill Perry
and taught himself to play.
Successive instruments were carefully
cared for and to the end of his life when
the cornet came out of the case, the first
and sometimes the only thing he played
were the 12 major scales.
In the 1950s there was a resurgence
of interest in traditional jazz and it was
appreciated by many students at the
Bendigo School of Mines where Ray was
studying Civil Engineering, but few main-
tained their interest and involvement as
he did. His talent was appreciated across
the whole culture in this country but he
realised the impossibility of playing jazz
as a career; so music was displaced by
Until recent years he was the leader of
the South Gippsland Jazz Group which
delighted their supporters at social func-
tions throughout Gippsland and Mel-
Ray’s brother-in-law Bill Perry encour-
aged Ray to join the local rifle club. The
rifle range at Eaglehawk was very chal-
lenging, particularly in hot weather, when
the breeze could simultaneously blow
from opposite directions, and mirage dis-
torted the target. Ray never did things by
halves. He regularly attended club meet-
ings and he served a term as secretary. He
participated in inter-club competitions
with distinction and at the time was the
only person to shoot a perfect score from
the 900 yard mound, but his successes
would later exact a huge price.
By his mid-fifties his hearing was flawed
and testing indicated he no longer heard
a number of notes in the middle range.
His success as a rifle shot had taken a toll
so Ray just continued to hear the notes
in his head.
In 1955 Ray was appointed the assis-
tant engineer at the Shire of Rochester
where he learned how to build roads in
irrigation country. There are lasting mon-
uments to his years in that area; notably
the swimming pools in Rochester and
Lockington and the large concrete bridge
to Gunbower Island, all of which he in-
spected recently; and he was satisfied
with his work.
He was an enthusiastic and talented
amateur actor and it was at a rehearsal
by the local reparatory company in the
spring of 1960 that he met Wilma Dwyer,
a local primary school teacher; and they
married in the late summer of 1961.
By 1963 Ray had added his Municipal
Engineer’s qualification to his civil engi-
neering diploma and was appointed to
the United Shire of Beechworth. This was
a very different environment to the work
at Rochester and the shire was also re-
sponsible for water supply.
Whilst at Beechworth, he became ac-
tively involved with the work of the Na-
tional Trust in North East Victoria, and in
particular the preservation of the historic
Buildings in Beechworth. He was instru-
mental in the restoration of the Powder
Magazine and developed the first overall
plan for the preservation of Beechworth’s
In March 1969 Ray was appointed as
Shire Engineer to the Shire of Korum-
It was not a very prosperous shire but
with the support of the councillors and of
his work force who knew about mountain
roads, the forests and the climate, in six
years he had turned the shire around and
it was time to look for a new challenge.
It’s a high rainfall and productive dairy
industry presented added challenges.
Here the roads must be designed to carry
heavy multi-axle tankers, often across
small bridges, and with safe access to
His forward planning, careful financial
management and lucid reports greatly as-
sisted the councillors to make decisions
for the benefit of the whole district.
The seventies and eighties were years
of conspicuous progress. The marketing
of beef cattle was changing so he and Cr
Des McRae set out around the country
to South Australia, New South Wales,
Queensland and Victoria to research the
best developments to incorporate into the
intended local sale yards. The first stage
was such a success that the next two stag-
es were soon completed.
Raymond’s designs were later utilised
for sale yards in Victoria, South Austra-
lia, New South Wales and Queensland,
as well as New Zealand, and the United
States of America. The land adjacent to
the sale yards was developed as an indus-
trial estate to his design and his work to
design and build small bridges was used
in other parts of the country.
His foresight and imagination is evident
in other district projects:
• The streetscape development in Ko-
rumburra with additional parking at the
rear of the shopping strip.
• The original design and engineering
of the Coal Creek Historical Park.
• The location and initial planning of
• The River Improvement Trust.
• The establishment of the Poowong
Loch Nyora Waterworks Trust
• The location and design of the short
term emergency housing accommoda-
• The evolution and establishment of
Milpara Community House and Birralee
Child Care Centre.
He was particularly proud of the Rec
Centre, and its ability to serve the com-
munity by accommodating social events
and sporting competitions year around,
and he became an enthusiastic volleyball
player using the completed centre.
Ray also served on the Council of Ko-
rumburra High School for several years
as well as the Engineering Advisory Com-
mittee at Gippsland Institute of Advanced
Education. Shire amalgamations in 1994
offered retirement a little earlier than he
had intended, so one of his projects was
to research the history of the Shire where
he had been the longest serving Shire En-
gineer. He worked through all the records
and after 12 years, in 2008 published
“Five Fighting Shires”, the history of the
Council since its inception in 1891 until
the new Shire of South Gippsland was
There was always time now for theatre,
writers’ festivals and art exhibitions, and
travel. He and Wilma travelled widely in
retirement to Europe, Asia and Iceland.
Membership of the Korumburra His-
torical Society inspired detailed research
of aspects of local history and twelve
booklets are lodged with the society’s
archive and the Prahran Mechanics Insti-
tute Library collection of local history.
Raymond died suddenly a month be-
fore his 84th birthday. His contribution to
the community, all his life and his worth
was acknowledged in the large number of
councillors, colleagues and former em-
ployees who paid their last respects at his
Raymond, this modest man, leaves a
grieving family, his wife Wilma, his chil-
dren Stephen, Andrew, Elizabeth and
Brenda, their partners and seven grand-
children; and lasting monuments in all
his spheres of influence.
Edited by Stephen Walls for the South
A well-attended memorial service, to
‘celebrate the life of Ray Walls’ was held
at the Korumburra Showgrounds Ame-
nities Complex on Saturday, November
26 at which members of his family and
the community spoke. Music included
‘Noboby knows you when you’re down
and out’ by Bessie Smith (listen for the
Sounds like Korumburra
will miss Ray Walls
Former Korumburra Shire Engi-
neer and jazz musician, Ray Walls,
died on Friday, October 21 after a
brief illness. He was aged 83.
THE early pioneers of South Gippsland had the task of felling the
huge gum trees that covered the hills.
The bigger trees had a huge circumference at ground level that
made them very hard to cut through with the axe or saw, the only
tools available at that time.
To make the cutting job easier, they would cut holes in the trunk
and insert pointed boards on which they could climb up the tree
to a level where the circumference was much smaller. They would
then stand on these springboards and cut the tree down in much
less time and with less effort.
These springboard tree stumps that once were common are now
almost a relic of the past, most have rotted away and no longer
The Korumburra Historical Society is interested to find any of
these stumps that still exist, if you know of any in South Gippsland
we would appreciate you contacting Doug Boston at the Society,
phone 56551932 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The photo is of a springboard tree on the Ritchie family farm at
Dorothy Boston beside springboard tree at Don Wylie’s farm
Are any ‘springboard
trees’ left in Gippsland?
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