Ken Holmes – A Real Character

Northern Sydney Wellbeing Officers Norm Pounder and Ken Vessey recently had the pleasure to visit a real North Narrabeen identity Ken Holmes at a well appointed nursing home in the lovely seaside suburb Collaroy, where they were fully entertained by Ken with his stories of the past. Ken proudly stated he was born, grew up in North Narrabeen and has never moved out of the area. He was attracted to the ocean at North Narrabeen Beach at an early age and subsequently became a very active Member of the North Narrabeen Surf Life Saving Club, where is a proud Life Member.

Ken was a competent surfboat crew member for the Club and whilst contesting in the Bondi to Wollongong surfboat race in March 1959, when at the Stanwell Park Stage 1, 30 odd boats faced a stiff southerly wind, a few boats had arrived dangerously after Sundown. The Dee Why crew tried valiantly to go ashore but their boat capsized with only 3 crewmembers reaching the beach, in very rough surf and there was great concern for the other two crewmembers.

Because of Ken’s exceptional surf swimming ability he was reluctantly given permission by the Race Organiser Max Stringer, to put on the belt and line to enter the darkened raging surf to search for the missing rowers. As you can imagine, a strict time limit was placed on him and it seemed ages before the surf reel line was nearly exhausted and it was decided to haul Ken back into the beach. As the linesmen hauled in an extremely heavy weight line, not knowing if was seaweed or Ken with the Dee Why crewmembers, much to their delight and the cheers of hundreds of anxious lifesavers lining the beach, they saw Ken’s huge bulk emerge from the broken white water clutching the two rowers. He told us of another remarkable occasion years ago at the Club during a Coke Classic ,when he meet Pamela Anderson, USA movie star/beauty, one on one much to the envy of many of his surf club Mates to this day.

Away from the beach/surf, Ken as a robust centre played rugby league for the Narrabeen Surf Life Saving and the Newport RL Club’s through all grades. He was selected in the strong Manly Warringah District Rugby League President Club team in 1960 and went onto to play many grade games in both third and Reserve Grades. When asked if he had ever been sent from the field, he reluctantly told us the full details of a past incident at the sacred Sydney Cricket Ground in which whilst trying to catching up with a South Sydney opponent, he could not effectively do that, so he threw out a stiff arm, connected and was promptly sent off by the Referee. Today, he watches lots of NRL matches on the television, supports no one team and strongly believes there are too many referees/too much blowing the whistle.

He told us the nursing home staff care for him very well and he has many visitors including his special friends Jim Shearer and Tom Adams, who visit him regularly. We presented Ken with a Men of League Foundation polo shirt and cap, thanked him for allowing us to visit and wished him improved good health . Ken thanked us for our visit, taking the time to visit him and encouraged us to continue to enhance the activities and good reputation of the Men of League Foundation in the Northern Beaches territory.

By Ken Vessey, Wellbeing Coordinator Northern Sydney Men of League Committee

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