Alan Carlyle OAM was a gentleman in every sense of the word, a philosopher, and a more humble man you would have been hard pressed to meet.
The man who was the last mayor of Wingham and who has shaped our town and made positive differences to peoples lives passed away in Wingham on November 7, 2019.
Alan Alwyn Carlyle was born in Coonabarabran on July 31, 1924.
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He lived with his parents Lillian and Alan and two brothers Neville and Noel at Binnaway, a tiny town in central western NSW.
When Alan was 10 years old, his father died of diabetes. In 1937, aged 13 and a half, Alan left school and worked in a cafe and had a job as a paperboy for four years.
How Alan Carlyle came to be in Wingham is the stuff of local legend with the old timers, and makes for a beautiful love story.
Alan, 17, and his brother Neville, 16, went to Sydney. The boys, like so many of their generation, lied about their age so he could enlist in the armed forces.
Neville enlisted in the AIF and served in New Guinea and Borneo. Alan got a job doing camouflage work at the naval depot at Bankstown Airport before he enlisted in the army in 1942.
In 1943 Alan's troop was on a train bound for Queensland, before embarking for service in New Guinea.
He spied two girls on the platform. One Wingham lass in particular, Claire Williamson, caught his eye and he asked her to write to him.
She did and the rest, as they say, is history, Alan said in an interview in 2017.
Alan served in New Guinea as a stoker in a laundry attached to a hospital.
After he was discharged from the Army early in 1946, not knowing what would eventuate, he boarded a train to Wingham to see what the place looked like.
"I didn't know what I was going to do," Alan remembered.
Gonna take a sentimental journey Gonna set my heart at ease Gonna make a sentimental journey To renew old memories.Sentimental Journey lyrics
"I never forget the night I was coming up here. I was walking across King Street, Newtown to get out to Central Station and come up here and the song of the day was Sentimental Journey," Alan said, with tears in his eyes.
"And it really was, I didn't know what the hell I was going to do."
Claire had waited for Alan during the war, and the two married in 1948. They had two children, John and David.
When he arrived in Wingham Alan started work at Leo Gleeson's Eclipse Garage where he was employed for 14 years. He blamed his mother for his love of putting things together, as she bought him a Meccano set when he was a child.
In 1960 Alan and Claire started their own business Carlyles Parts Services. After four years in operation, they bought an old house on Isabella Street, demolished it, and built an engineering workshop and spare parts business.
Alan and Claire retired in 1993 and handed over Carlyles to son John and his wife Judy. They continued to run the business until their retirement in August 2011. Wingham Wellbeing now sits where Carlyles used to be.
A life in community service
Alan was instrumental in forming the Apex Club in Wingham in 1955.
Boasting more than 500 members over more than 40 years, Wingham Apex Club was once active and well known in the community. Alan was a member until he was 40 years old, at which age members had to "retire".
He went on to spend 18 years on Wingham Municipal Council, eight of those years as mayor, until the council amalgamated in 1981, a devastating move for Alan.
The biggest achievement council made while under Alan's tenure was a housing scheme that helped out many residents in Wingham.
Alan was awarded an OAM in the 1980s for his community service record and in 2005, he was awarded the highest possible honour for a member of the Wingham RSL Sub-branch, honourary vice president of the club.
"You don't do it for the recognition, you do it because you want to," Alan said at that time.
Alan served on numerous other committees in his lifetime, including the Wingham Memorial Swimming Pool committee, the gun club, Wingham Hospital and Wingham Court, the Manning Valley Historical Society, as a representative on the Manning River County Council, Wingham Neighbourhood Watch, Wingham Senior Citizens Care Association, Wingham Chamber of Commerce, Wingham Anti Amalgamation Action Group, Wingham Probus Club, and the Wingham Anti Green Movement.
Family is everything
Alan cared for Claire at home for 13 years after she was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
Claire died in 2013, and Alan moved to Wingham Court (now the Whiddon Group), where he lived until he passed away.
My mother was in the first intake of people into Wingham Court in 1975. She was the first person here, and she was the first person to die here, Alan said.
I was born lucky.Alan Carlyle
While Alan went from leaving school at 13 years old to becoming mayor of a prosperous council, he counted his biggest achievement as his wife and his sons.
"When you have children, you educate them as best you can, and they in their turn do the same thing for their people. It all fits," Alan said.
"When you think about what your children have achieved you can feel mighty satisfied.
"All in all, I've had a hell of a good life," Alan told the Wingham Chronicle in 2017.
All in all, Ive had a hell of a good life.Alan Carlyle, OAM
Alan is survived by sons John and David and their families.
At his father's funeral, Alan's son David had this to say about his father:
"He really did give us a strong role model for our lives. Hard working and committed to improving the community. Always working to help the lives of others. He was quite selfless in his commitment. The list is almost endless of the voluntary organisations he was instrumental in establishing throughout his life. Even as he grew into old age he still work tirelessly with such things as the Wingham Museum.
"Tolerance and patience was a virtue for dad, but a bit of swearing when things did not go just right showed he was human as well.
And with all of this he remained a humble person who never sort recognition, just content with feeling he had done a good job.David Carlyle
"He was also a grandfather and a great grandfather and the grandchildren were always a highlight of his life. It was a joy to watch him enjoying his role of grandfather and playing with the kids.
"The message he gave them was the same he gave to us: 'You are a competent person, capable, you can do things and achieve things when you put your mind to it'. It was a constant message he gave us all. Not always said, but always demonstrated. You can do this. That was the gift that he gave to everyone.
"And with all of this he remained a humble person who never sort recognition, just content with feeling he had done a good job."