September 28th, 2023Farewell to a woodchop champ: Vale Harold
The state’s woodchopping sports fraternity is mourning the recent loss of one of its favourite locals, Korweinguboora’s Harold Suckling.
Mr Suckling’s dedication to responsible management of the timber industry in which he worked – hands-on – for much of his life, and his prowess as a champion woodchopper led to widespread recognition in his community and much further afield.
Harold passed away on August 23 at the age of 79 after many years of receiving dialysis. However his loss still came as a shock. Behind him this well-known local has left a legacy of many friends and of advocating for the responsible management of the forests in which he spent so much of his life.
His daughter Linda says her father’s recognition particularly in woodchopping circles meant that he had made friends nationwide.
“He had a very welcoming character,” Linda says. “Everyone knew him. You could go anywhere and people knew him. He’d stop and talk to everyone and say g’day to anyone.”
Highlights of Harold’s life ranged from taking tea with former Prime Minister John Howard in 2005 when he was advocating for his industry sector, to taking out numerous woodchopping championships including those at famed local events in Glenlyon, Blackwood and Daylesford.
Harold’s prowess in the sport saw him travel Australia to compete successfully in numerous high-profile woodchopping events and later, together with his son Gary, in crosscut-sawing events. Father and son made a formidable team, frequently dominating their sport at events.
In 2002 Harold was squad captain for the Victorian woodchopping side that competed in Perth to take out the state titles three-nil.
Born and bred in Korweinguboora where he resided all his life, the young Harold entered the timber industry at the tender age of 14, working at his father’s Barkstead sawmill initially before branching out more widely in the sector.
He went on to become president of the Central Highlands branch of Timber Communities Australia (TCA).
Former TCA state manager Kersten Gentle once previously reported that Harold had “dedicated his working life to the wellbeing of the forest and wood products industry, leading a team of passionate volunteers who either worked in or supported the sector”.
As president of the TCA branch he engaged with politicians, interacted with the media, gave talks at schools and generously offered his time at local shows, Ms Gentle had reported when Harold was earlier undergoing dialysis.
Having spent many years of his life as a timber worker Harold’s “affinity for the forest was deeply ingrained,” Ms Gentle wrote, adding: “he grew up with sawdust in his boots cherishing the laborious work in this natural setting”.
Gentle had also reported that Harold: “worked to ensure the forests were responsibly managed by replanting one to three seedlings for every tree harvested”.
“In his capacity as president of the TCA branch Harold actively engaged with politicians from all sides of the spectrum. He met with ministers at Victoria’s Parliament House and orchestrated forest tours for key decision makers. Due to his tireless efforts timber workers who faced job displacement received appropriate compensation with provisions for retraining for those in need.”
As part of TCA Harold attended conferences in Canberra, Tasmania and Western Australia. Through his infectious charm he forged lasting friendships nationwide while woodchop events he helped to organise became significant fundraisers for local causes including the Daylesford Hospital.
Harold also served as president of the Midland Axemen’s Association for a quarter of a century and was made a life member. The association has described him as “a true legend of our club,” in its recent online post announcing his passing.
Harold once appeared on Channel Seven’s World of Sport much to the delight and entertainment of his family who also have especially fond memories of watching him compete in woodchopping events at the Royal Melbourne Show.
“Growing up as kids we’d be in the car and be off to the Melbourne show to watch him compete,” Linda says. “He loved family and he loved family life and teaching the kids, especially the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
Harold is survived by his wife of 58 years, Gwen. “But we were actually together for 61 years,” Gwen says.
Harold is also survived by the couple’s children Linda, Gary and Kerrie, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
While there’s a lane in Korweinguboora that already bears the Suckling name, Gary says it’s definitely on the cards that some kind of lasting memorial to his father, perhaps a woodchopping event, will be named in Harold’s honour. Watch this space.
Words: Eve Lamb | Images: Kyle Barnes (top image) and Contributed