For many modern day locals, the name Norman McKellar is more easily associated with a place rather than a face. The stage in Bicentennial Park is named in the mayor’s honour. But it was his decade-long tenure as leading Tamworth City Council which laid the platform for the town to become recognised as the “Capital of the North”.
The 1970s were a difficult time for Tamworth.
The city was struggling with “post-war problems”, a devastating drought had struck in the ‘60s, but the city withstood the effects, and saw a bit of a boom, according to local historians.
Norman Lang McKellar, a war veteran and former cane-cutter from Brisbane, moved to town in 1949 and took up position as CEO of Tamworth Base Hospital.
In his tenure which lasted until 1981, he oversaw the opening of the Bruderlin Wing in 1973 which was declared one of the best facilities outside of the metropolitan areas by the health minister of the day.
While leading the hospital, Mr McKellar was also voted on to Tamworth City Council in 1962 and eventually elected as mayor in 1969.
During his council service, Tamworth saw the addition of Peel and Oxley high schools and Taminda filled-up with 180 firms trading in the industrial area.
In 1975, work commenced on Chaffey Dam, which was eventually opened four years later.
The seventies also saw the region add the country music festival, the golden guitar awards and AgQuip added to the local repertoire.
“He came to Tamworth when the city was struggling with post-war problems,” The Mayors of Tamworth 1876-2010 author Del Brooke wrote.
”With great vision he led it into becoming recognised as the Capital of the North.
“Norman Lang McKellar will long be remembered as a outstanding citizen of Tamworth, as an outstanding mayor.”