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Wangaratta Ski Club reunites in memory of member Charlie Derrick and the 50th Anniversary of Derrick Hut

Former president of Wangaratta Ski Club John Brown.

It takes a special person to bring 41 people together after 50 long years.

This week, old friends and members of the Wangaratta Ski Club skiers in the 60s came together to acknowledge the death of Charlie Derrick and the 50th Anniversary of Derrick Hut up at Mount Hotham.

The group arrived at the Wangaratta Ski Lodge on Monday and spent the afternoon reminiscing on past memories and events. Some of the members even came as far as Rock Hampton and Sweden to commemorate their friend, Charlie Derrick, who perished in the winter of 1965.

Reunion Organiser for Wangaratta Ski Club’s skiers of the 60s John Brown said that the reunion was a way to catch up with old friends and reflect on the life of Mr Derrick.

“The thought came to me last year, when I walked out to Derrick Hut, that we hadn’t really celebrated Charlie’s life after 50 years and I thought we should do something about that, Mr Brown said.

“I thought the best thing to do would be to get some of the people back to the lodge, who skied with Charlie in the 60s, so I got together a list of people and last night we celebrated our time together 50 years back.

“Some of them haven’t been to the club for 40 odd years, so this is their first visit for a long time and a lot of these people I haven’t seen for a long time too, we have all parted or ways, got married and went off working in different parts of the world,” he said.

Mr Brown was the former president of the ski club in the year of Charlie Derrick’s death and was a close friend, who described him as “an inspiration for a lot of the young skiers who followed him” and “greatly admired all these years”.

Mr Brown said that Charlie Derrick had a “big part to play” in the Wangaratta Ski Club in bringing about, and inspiring, people to participate in cross country skiing, and said he would always remember Charlie as “quite a popular fellow, very personable and a really clever skier.”

“We were very good friends, we skied a lot together, but he was a much better skier than me. He wanted to do this last trip of his and he invited two of us to come along with him, it was only my third year on skis so I was still not much more than a novice, Mr Brown said.

 “I think that Charlie was one of those people who, like run distance runners, can push beyond a pain barrier and get into a euphoric sense and can just keep going.

Speeches were held at the Wangaratta Ski Lodge on Monday night and memorabilia was laid out on the table for viewing.

Mr Brown said the night was fantastic and there was a really big turnout of members and their partners.

“I suppose you could call them speeches, a lot of recollections of old times and funny things that have happened in the past, and quite a bit about Charlie because we were preparing ourselves for the walk out to Derrick Hut,” Mr Brown said.

“The people here today all have ski club connections. Some of them didn’t ski in the 60s but they married people who skied in the 60s, so they have that connection.

Ms Elaine Allan joined the Wangaratta Ski Club in 1948 and is one of its oldest members. She described Charlie Derrick as a “casual, fit, and really lovely fellow.”

 At 86 years of age, Ms Allan only stopped skiing at 80 , and said she enjoyed her time up at Mount Hotham for the reunion.years old

“It has been absolutely fantastic being back up here. The mountains are sharp and so blue and there is not a cloud in the sky, it’s all but perfect,” Ms Allan said.

“It was a great night last night and we have another one to go.

“I have been a member so long that I call the Wang Ski Club my second home and I come up every opportunity, which is probably three times out of the winter.

A close friend of Mr Derrick, Robert Madison, travelled 27 hours from his home in Sweden to attend the 50th Anniversary of Derrick Hut and to reflect on the life of Charlie Derrick.

 Mr Madison said that his friend’s death was a tragedy and he acknowledged that Mr Derrick was a significant factor in the course change of his life back in 1965.

“Charlie was a really good friend of mine, and he was one of the reasons I went to Europe. So, when John sent me and email and informed me that he was planning to do this, I thought it was important, Mr Madison said

“I was always skiing with Charlie, we skied almost every weekend together and we went around the Victorian Alps and NSW, and raced on cross country and did all different things at that time.

“He was a fantastic bloke. He was fun, he enjoyed what he did, enjoyed our company and he liked to push himself on skis, and we did too.

“He told me - Why don’t you go over to Europe and do a bit of skiing - and when he died, I thought I’d take the chance.

“I thought of Charlie and if he could only go until 28 years of age, I must make something of my life,” he said.

The Derrick Hut was built, after the club’s decision to recognise Charlie Derrick’s death, and wanted to make the hut accessible to the public for day trips.

The club purchased a lot of the materials to build the hut, members of the club also donated money and contributed to its materials, and the construction was carried out by club working bees, with part of it built in the summer after Mr Derrick’s death in 1965. It was officially completed in 1967 and introduced by the former president of Wangaratta Ski Club John Brown and federal parliamentarian at the time, Tom Mitchell.

Brother to Charlie Derrick and a life member of Wangaratta Ski Club Bob Brown described his brother as a “very outgoing, easy going, great bloke who loved the mountains.” 


10 March 2017