The Goulburn region has lost a true bushman, horseman and family man. Reginald Anthony Willoughby (Reg), one of the founding members of the Goulburn Rodeo Club passed away on Tuesday, September 4.
Many people will remember Reg swinging the gate open to let the livestock out of the arena after they had performed. It is only in the last few years as age caught up with him that he took on less demanding work behind the scenes.
Reg was born in Crookwell on July 24, 1930, the 10th child of William Willoughby and Sarah Sillis.
He was one of 17 siblings born to William and Sarah. They were tough times back then but then if you couldn’t ride a horse you didn’t go anywhere.
Bushcraft skills were passed on through his family. He and his siblings learnt how to tan hides, plait leather and make whips and other leather crafts. He learnt to crack whips when he was quite young, taught by his older siblings. They used the whips to drive the cattle. Reg would later win the over 50s championship for whip cracking at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.
Horse riding was in his blood and he left home to pursue an apprenticeship as a jockey. He spent time in Sydney and Melbourne and was apprenticed to Theo Green. Reg had some success riding race horses but decided to turn his hand to breeding and training.
The district around Goulburn and Crookwell where he grew up was always home and it was where he found his future wife, Nita Larkham. Nita had a similar rural lifestyle background and they married in Mackay, where Reg was working at the time.
They returned to the Goulburn district where they raised their five children, Dale, Craig, Shane, Scott and Todd. There was not much Reg couldn’t do with a horse, from shoeing to filing teeth, breaking them in or bareback riding in the rodeo arena. He went into partnership with Jock Gardner and together they achieved a degree of success. Reg became known around the district for his horsemanship, knowledge and practical skills.
Goulburn’s first rodeo was held in 1942 as a fundraiser for Legacy. But it was in 1968 the Goulburn Rodeo Club was formed and the club’s first rodeo was held on the February 11, 1968. John Goff and Bill Dutaillis were the initial instigators and the first rodeo was run to aid The Sisters of Mercy.
Reg Willoughby was also one of those founding members and he was actively helping with events up until a couple of years ago. He was quite successful as a competitor in the Southern Zone and there are plenty of old trophies bearing his name. This year, the rodeo club celebrated its 50th anniversary and Reg was there looking on with several of the other early members of the club.
Reg also helped out with other rodeos including Crookwell, Taralga and Gunning. Over the years Reg was one of the small band of volunteers who spent countless hours setting up for the rodeos that were initially held using portable and temporary fencing, yards and chutes. Eventually the club acquired a permanent arena at the Goulburn Recreation Area and Reg with his boys helped to build the facilities. The Arena became known as the Reg Willoughby Arena.
His son Scott said his dad had plenty of stories about his past including how he (Reg) and his siblings used to walk miles to school often without shoes.
“A lot of the skills dad learnt as a boy and later he passed on to us kids,” Scott said.
“Dad was of a generation of country folk who grew their own vegetables, like his parents had done and killed and butchered their own meat.
“I remember riding to school in a cart. Our home always smelt of horses and dad passed on many of his skills to us.While we didn’t have a lot as kids we had a happy home and we were really close as a family. We will always treasure those memories.
“Dad loved country music, particularly Slim Dusty and he and his mates, Trevor Mills and Graham Power would sometimes have all night sessions relaxing listening to country music, or around at Merv and Gloria Smith’s chatting around a fire.”
Reg's family and friends are invited to attend his Prayers of Christian Burial on Friday, September 14, at 2pm in Ss Peter & Paul's Cathedral, Bourke Street, Goulburn. Interment will follow at the Lawn Cemetery, Gorman Road, Goulburn.