Beachgoers at Bilgola on Sydney’s Northern Beaches on Sunday were fortunate enough to be part of history as Australia’s oldest active lifesaver bade farewell to his patrol for the final time.
Bruce Robertson was just 12 years old when he pulled on the famous red and yellow cap for the first time at Mona Vale, and 76 years later he takes it off after a lifetime devoted to the service of not only his local community but of Sydney as a whole.
The Sydney beaches that Robertson began patrolling in the pre-war years were very different to today.
For a start, in 1942, there was a genuine fear that Australia would be invaded.
To protect against the enemy, barbed wire and concrete bollards were a constant site on beaches across Sydney, and as Robertson recounted to the Daily Telegraph earlier this year, he spent a fair amount of time dealing with injuries from that than any incident that happened in the surf.
Due to a shortage of men in the area, a young Robertson was pressed into service much earlier than otherwise would have been the case was a willing participant in the scheme to achieve their bronze before they were legally allowed to do so.
That friend would go onto a brilliant career on the silver screen becoming familiar to audiences around the world as the actor Rod Taylor.
Later in life, Bruce would become the chairman of Taronga Zoo, and had a fulfilling career outside Surf Life Saving.
On his final day as a patrolling lifesaver, Bilgola SLSC members came together to recognise him in a special way by launching an inflatable rescue boat (IRB) named in his honour. SLSA President, Graham Ford also presented him with a pin in recognition of his service to International Lifesaving as well as his 70 year SLSA service pin.
“Celebrating Bruce’s nearly 76 years in surf lifesaving was a wonderful way to reflect on the impact he has had both at our club, Bilgola SLSC but also the wider SLS community. His experience and knowledge has been shared with generations of lifesavers. He also has a wonderful style and calming nature which is so important on patrols and during challenging rescues,” said President of Bilgola SLSC Romilly Madew, who also presented him with the 2016/17 Presidents Awards for service to the club.
“Seeing his smile when we launched the IRB named after him, then watching him out in the IRB and coming into shore was a joy. He was so thrilled and overwhelmed.”
Surf Life Saving NSW congratulates Mr Bruce Robertson OAM and we thank him for his years of dedicated service.
Tuesday 10 April 2018