THE second-longest-serving member for Tamworth in history was Ernest Noel Park, known as Noel Park (1920-1994).
Mr Park was the quintessential countryman: a Manilla-born grazier, a decorated soldier with a long military service, a father of six daughters, a dedicated patron and member of various community organisations in the area.
His name lives on in many facets of Tamworth life, in the form of Noel Park House – the government block facing the train station; the Noel Park Award – which is bestowed at the annual business awards on an organisation or person who has made a significant contribution to the community; and Farrer’s Noel Park Memorial Prize for the most outstanding Year 12 primary industries student.
Mr Park was born in Manilla on December 5, 1920. Educated at Knox Grammar School, Wahroonga, he later served in the 2nd Australian Imperial Forces, 2/2 Battalion, for the duration of World War II.
The Tamworth RSL Sub-Branch records note Mr Park had a “brilliant military career and distinguished service to this country”.
He served in North Africa, Greece, Crete and New Guinea and was awarded a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and was mentioned in despatches.
From The Sydney Morning Herald, July 26, 1945:
Lieut. Park's keen intelligence and outstanding leadership were responsible for the capture of the feature "Jap Knoll". Three previous company attacks had failed. The only known approach was a narrow razor-back ridge, under enemy observation. Park infiltrated the enemy position, climbing an almost vertical cliff, and approaching to within 10 yards of the enemy. He worked his way through the enemy foxholes, and returned to the company with a plan of the defences. Next day he led a successful attack on the position.
In 1946, Mr Park joined what was then called the Country Party (later called the National Party).
In April the next year, he married Tamworth-born June Rygate, and they had six children – all girls.
Meanwhile, Mr Park was in the Citizen Military Forces for almost 20 years after joining in 1948.
He was in the 12/16 Hunter River Lancers (1948-1963); Command and Staff link from 1963 to 1967.
He was awarded the Efficiency Decoration (ED) and became a qualified Lieutenant-Colonel in 1959.
Mr Park began his local government career as a Manilla shire councillor in 1964. After only about a year, he became deputy shire president, a role he would fulfill for seven years.
He started his 18-and-a-half years’ service as Member for Tamworth in November 1973, holding that position until May 1991.
As the Tamworth RSL Sub-branch puts it, Mr Park was also “not surprisingly, a dedicated member of Tamworth Legacy and the Tamworth Returned and Services League sub-branch”.
Mr Park died in Tamworth on September 16, 1994, three months short of his 73rd birthday.