Meet the Member

Meet the member:  

Gerry O’Leary, Illawarra Rambler member and keen paddler

Interview conducted by Julie McDonald, Publicity Officer

Can you tell me a bit about your background?

I was born in England and came to Australia with my parents and siblings when I was five. We initially lived in Balgownie Hostel and then moved to Lake Heights.  I did my apprenticeship as a Fitter and Machinist which I didn’t like and then joined the Army. I served in Vietnam in 1969 and came back from Vietnam in 1970. I met my now wife, Diane, we got married and have three daughters (Lisa 50, Jennifer 48 and Chantell 41), and two grandchildren (Priya 10 and Declan 8). My brother Paul is also a Rambler and has accompanied me on most of the trips.

When and why you joined Illawarra Ramblers and what you were looking for?

In about 2010 I was invited to go on an Illawarra Rambler’s 5-day paddle trip by a friend and had to join the Ramblers in order to do that.  In my early days as a member, I also went on a number of walks with Peter Bique and bike rides, but I guess paddling became an addiction, and I increasingly spent time doing this. I’ve paddled the length of the Murray River twice, and these trips have been terrific adventures. Kayak trips with the Ramblers have been the Ghost Island Tour in SA, the Gunbower in Victoria, and all of the Murrumbidgee from below the Burrinjuck Dam. I’ve also paddled the Macquarie, Namoi, Lachlan, Goulburn Rivers and more.

Some of the like-minded Ramblers I’ve enjoyed paddling with over the years include Rod Leary, Peter Bique, Peter Witt, my brother Paul, Tony Jennings, Frank Marinelli, Judy Engall, Jan Phillips, Kim Geissler, Dave Slattery, Alan Wilson and many more.

 What made you step up and lead paddles and what’s that been like?

I was asked to lead some paddle trips and I was happy to do this given my experience in the Army. I used to teach and lead the outdoor adventure type activities such as canyoning, abseiling, caving, and kayaking. So I felt I had the leadership skills. I lead Thursday paddles on Lake Illawarra that Jack Gal started. If it wasn’t for Jack Gal, we would not have the numbers we get each week.

I’m particularly interested in multi-day kayak trips, especially those that involve one-way paddles that start from a point and involve camping along the way to the end point, rather than car shuffle trips. Fortunately there are enough other members interested and keen on these sorts of adventures. Everyone accepts the challenges and sometimes bad weather we experience on these trips with good humour and acceptance. I’ve started planning a multi-day trip (5-6 days) on the Tumut River. It is not on the program yet but later this year and I’m looking forward to that.