Bernie has been a greatly respected long-time family friend of the Sykes family.
He was born in 1942 in Boorowa, and grew up on the family farm ‘Gilray’ with his three brothers Jim, Karl and Dudley, and sister Mary.
Bernie often boasted that he was proud to have attended two fine schools, 'Joeys' and 'Knox' - St Joseph's Boorowa and, later, the school of hard knocks.
Bernie originally came to Binalong for a period of six months to play football at the suggestion of Allan Glover. Algie Davis offered him a job shearing and the rest is history.
Bernie met Barbara in the late 1950s; they married in January 1962 and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year.
In the early ‘80s Bernie and Barbara bought his family's farm ‘Gilray’ and since then he has spent many weekends, when not contract lamb marking, working on the farm. Around about the same time Bernie and Barbara bought the Binalong Post Office.
Bernie was immensely proud of his family - Jenny and Ross, Allan and grand-daughters Jess and Maddy and, of course, his loving wife Barb.
Bernie loved his work and he lived to work, so much so that work occupied his mind constantly, sometimes even during his sleeping hours.
Having moved to Binalong over 50 years ago, Bernie involved himself fully in the local community. Through the years he was involved in building the Binalong pool in the early ‘60s and in helping to organise such things as the Shearers and Squatters balls, the re-enactment of the shooting of Johnny Gilbert in 1965, the railway centenary celebrations and various other community events. One of his proudest moments was when he, with other shearers from his team, shore sheep in Hyde Park in Sydney as part of the Binalong protest against the closing of the local branch of the Bank of NSW in 1980.
Bernie was passionate about the Binalong Golf Club. Not only did he play golf and bowls at the club, he was also known to have the odd beer there. He was president of the club for 13 years, a tremendous commitment in anyone's language.
Up until 2004 Bernie shore continuously at the ‘Illalong’, ‘Balgalal’ and ‘Glendalyn’ sheds without missing a year - a period of well over 40 years - and at that stage he was hoping to get the 50 years in. Unfortunately ill health intervened. He did however get back to shearing for a few years, much to the consternation of his medical advisors.
To put his years of service into some sort of context, Bernie shore at ‘Glendalyn’ long enough to see four generations of the Sykes family on the property, from my grandmother through to my children.
My father Adrian and Bernie were great mates. They shared many hours over the years working together and playing up together, often at the ‘office' across the road or any other 'office' that happened to be on the road to home.
I will never forget Dad's gratitude to Bernie and Barb for delaying payment for a shearing job when things were tight in our family business many years ago.
To see Bernie shearing was to see a man with an incredible work ethic, a man with a very high pain threshold and a man with a great sense of fun - many of us will never forget the lost blows, sky hooks, wrinkle stretchers and the infamous three-man lift. The shearing shed was a place of work and a place of enjoyment for Bernie.
Two weeks before Bernie passed away he received a letter from Norm and Fling Boyer, now resident in England. Barb has allowed me to read an excerpt from this letter as I think it encapsulates Bernie's work and our wishes for him.
From Norm Boyer:
Twenty-seven years helping us at Bobbara Creek, although I've never forgotten to thank you, I've never done so in writing and added how we appreciated and respected you.
You have chosen a hard life and I would have wished a gentle and healthy retirement for you. I hope you get over to the ‘office’ regularly.