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New South Wales

In memoriam: Southern District loses two greats

July 27, 2023

Former South Western District Secretary Barry Swan OAM pays tribute to Bill Lynch and Roy Gershbach, two unique characters lost recently to the Southern District mining fraternity. As Barry writes, Bill and Roy’s contribution to community life and mining history demonstrate the great value of retired Miners Federation members to our society.

Both Bill Lynch and Roy Gershbach were activists in the many campaigns waged by the Miners Federation over the decades to win and to maintain improved conditions for the Australian coal

Bill Lynch

Bill Lynch began working in the coal industry at a time when the industry was transitioning from hand hewing off the coal face and using pit ponies, to becoming fully mechanised.

It soon became evident that Bill Lynch had a natural talent for operating the new technology and progressed into becoming one of the industry’s most competent and in demand miner drivers in the Southern district.

Forced from the industry due to kidney cancer, after major surgery, Bill became a very committed volunteer in organisations such as The Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre and Cancer Carer’s. He applied the same level of commitment to those organisations as a working miner, and he always followed and supported the Miners Federation policy.

Bill could be found each morning at the Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre preparing breakfasts for local school children, who without the Centre would begin every school day hungry.

Mural on the side of the wall of the Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre that features three dolphins jumping out of the sea and 2 seagulls
The Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre where Bill Lynch prepared breakfast for the local school children

With a membership number of 117 Bill Lynch was not only a founding member of the Russelvale Golf and Social Club he was also a dedicated volunteer at that club Bill also organised the annual Cancer Care Day events at Russelvale golf course.

His absence will be felt by many.

Roy Gershbach

We were incredibly saddened to hear that Roy Gershback recently suffered a serious medical incident and passed away.

At the time, Roy was walking with former Miners Federation General Vice president, Bob Graham and former Central Councillor of the Miners Federation, Kevin Wiseman around the site of a proposed mining museum close to Nebo Colliery and the Mining Heritage Track.

Right to the end, his commitment to the best interests of coal miners and our industry was clear.

Roy was a man of his word in every way. He was fearless when pursuing justice for his members. It is true to say Roy Gershbach epitomised the Miners Federation’s democracy, and philosophy. Roy knew every federation member had the keys to the door of the National Office in their crib bag!

Having among his mentors Fred Moore, Roy was to develop a unique blending of calm logic and militance. Roy Gershbach was always the man to go to for strategic thinking whenever BHP/AIS Central Collieries Office were on the attack.

An example of this being during the 1982 Kemira Stay-In Action. Roy could be found each day at Kemira pit top promoting the cause of the 31 striking men while also providing a tower of strength to their families.

An ardent advocate and worker for the preservation of coal mining history it is perhaps fitting that Roy Gershbach was doing exactly this to the very end.

Vale Bill Lynch and Roy Gershbach. Our thoughts and condolences are with the Lynch and Gershbach families for their loss.

Roy Gersbach stands in between two people behind a sign for Nebo Colliery
Roy Gersbach stands in between two people behind a sign for Nebo Colliery

Tribute from Barry Swan OAM

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