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Les Ridd – OAM
Les Ridd, one of several CFA members to receive Australia Day honours, is the driving force behind an annual event which over nearly four decades has raised more than $200,000 for at least 20 different charities, organisations and emergency services.
The Molesworth Easter Bazaar & Auction was started by Les, an officer at Molesworth Fire Brigade, as a way to raise money to fix up a run-down community hall. Still going strong 37 years later, it has become a community institution.
“It’s the one day of the year that brings the whole community together. Everyone comes and brings all their relatives,” said Les.
The quietly-spoken beef and sheep farmer said he can only accept the medal on behalf of his wife, children and organising committee. “It’s fantastic, but everything I’ve done has been so dependent on the work of others.”
Born in Trawool, Les moved to Molesworth, a town of just 30 people, in the mid-seventies when he bought the Ridd family farm that belonged to his grandfather. The farm was completely burnt out by bushfire in 1969. Although the house was standing, everything Les had treasured from childhood – the barn, trees, sheds, fences – were completely wiped out.
While restoring the farm has been a labour of love, so was his mission to bring the community hall up to scratch. In 1976 Les took the initiative to apply for and win a grant for 50 per cent of restoration costs, and needing to pay for the other half, decided to hold an auction – an idea he got from Fish Creek brigade. (Fast forward to 2015, and with the auction still going strong the committee is looking at a second round of renovations to modernise the hall).
His personal experience with fire impact has given Les a deep appreciation for the value of what brigades do to protect lives and property.
Generations of Ridds have been firefighters, and Les’s two sons are Molesworth members. His grandfather was the first captain of Molesworth when it became an official brigade upon formation of CFA in 1945 – and prior to that when it was a bush brigade run by landowners with their own vehicles.
Les no longer goes out on the truck following an accident which affects his eyesight, but he remains a core part of the brigade as secretary/treasurer.
“Every election that comes up I say, right, time for someone else to have a go,” he says. “But they like that I know how to do it.”
Les said it’s terrific that Molesworth, with its ageing membership, has just welcomed eight new young members. And he expressed how incredibly proud he is that his kids have found time to follow in the family footsteps while forging ahead with their own careers.
“It’s very important to me,” he said. “Very important.”
Molesworth is in the upper Goulburn Valley region of Victoria. For more information about the Molesworth Easter bazaar, go to www.molesworth.info