Local Legend Jim Henman

in General News by

Local Legend Jim Henman passed away recently. The following is his Local Legend story from 2014 which was published in the Twin Town Times and also in the Legends Book.


Caption: Jim when he was in the Air Force. Jim and Una on their wedding day. Jim and his mates on a Spitfire during WWll.

Jim Henman’s life reveals him to be a man of many talents. A prime example of this was the time Jim’s Valiant car was returned to him by one of his sons, with Jim shortly afterwards discovering that the only gear he could engage in the Valiant was reverse. So, to get the gear situation remedied, Jim drove the car all the way from his property “Sunshine” (the Jugiong side of the 4 Mile Bridge) to McKinnon’s Garage (then situated next to the Old Murrumburrah Court House, in reverse. Two farm workers, who didn’t mind a drop of liquor, observed Jim reversing the Valiant along the Jugiong Road – it wasn’t until sometime later that they mustered up their courage to ask Jim if they’d seen what they thought they’d seen. Jim and his wife of 64 years, Una, had 6 children, Janice, Gay, Norris, Sue, Warrick and James, 20 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Una passed away only last year. (2013)

Jim was born in Temora, in 1926, the 3rd eldest of 10 children (7 boys and 3 girls). Jim started school when he was 5 years old, riding a horse each day for transport. Unfortunately, when both Jim and the horse turned 10, the horse died. Due to the fact that Jim’s siblings had grown in number, the family had to get a sulky; the horse pulling it would eat their lunches if they were stored underneath the sulky’s seat. For his Secondary education, Jim attended Yanco High school as a boarder, and attained his Intermediate Certificate (Year 9 equivalent, today).

At Yanco Jim joined the School’s Army Cadets. One of Jim’s farming duties at Yanco was to prepare cattle for the Show. After clipping the coats of the cattle, Jim arranged for a 2nd Year (Year 8) boy to catch a 1st Year boy so that Jim could give the younger lad a haircut. Jim said that the lad whose hair he cut didn’t like it too much – the other boys not only thought it funny, but good cutting on Jim’s part. Consequently, Jim was contracted to cut the hair of a further 6 boys – voluntarily on their part. Jim managed to buy his own set of clippers and started doing haircuts in the early mornings and in the evenings, charging 1 shilling and sixpence (15 cents) per haircut, with the price rising to 3 shillings (30 cents) if the client worked in nearby Leeton.

Jim also got in touch with a Small Goods shop in Narrandera and started a hot dog stand at Yanco. When Jim finished school he relocated to Sydney and worked for a wool firm. At 18 years of age, Jim joined the Air Force and was stationed at Cootamundra for Basic Training with firearms and hand grenades – he and his fellow trainees were allowed 1 pint (about 2 cups) of water per day for drinking and washing. Jim’s next station was at Adelaide where he trained for certification as an Air Mechanic – by putting in 12-14 hour days, Jim and his fellow trainees completed a 5 year course in 5 months.

As a mechanic, Jim was next stationed in Parkes where he worked on Spitfires (defined as short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft). While at Parkes Jim’s accommodation, along with his fellow servicemen, was in a silo – they completed a training course in parachuting, by way of using a flying fox construction. As Jim put it, “The whole system was based on teaching you to land, because that’s where most parachutists get killed. Jumping out of the plane is no trouble. There’s generally 2 big fellows there to push you out.” In the 1940s, you weren’t allowed to drink in the bar of a hotel until you were 21 years of age. Jim did, however, manage to have a drink or two in a wine shop run by an old lady. She indeed seconded Jim to act as the establishment’s bouncer for any problem drinkers, nicknaming him “Baby”, ‘“Hey Baby, put that man outside would you please,” so Baby’d have to get him and put him out the bloody door. And then she’d give me another wine.” At the end of World War II Jim volunteered to go to Japan, but was discharged before this came about. Jim returned to Barmedman and helped his brother, Arthur, planting crops.

Jim bought an ex-Army truck and started carting super (fertiliser). He put in an application for a Soldier Settlement Block and blocks on “Bouyeo” came up for ballot – Jim had never seen the country, but decided he would give it a go. Jim filled out his application and just managed to lodge it prior to the deadline – when the ballot was drawn, Jim came out first with the largest block and the most water. A Soldier Settler’s Block was initially granted on a rental basis, but if you didn’t make enough money to pay the rent then you lost the farm.

It was possible to buy your farm, but you could sell it only to another ex-serviceman. Jim said he made a “fair living” on his property, “Sunshine”, which he named after the brand of his harvester, but to buy machinery and make it pay he needed to do contracting work. Jim was certainly foremost in his purchases of new technology. As one of a series of firsts, Jim owned the first self-propelled header in the Harden district – he took delivery of the machine in Albury and spent 2 days driving it to Harden at the rate of 10 miles per hour (16 kms/hour).

Jim bought the first Ferguson tractor in the Harden district, when petrol (on which it ran) was still being rationed after the end of WWII; if you owned a Ferguson, however, you could get all the petrol you wanted. Contract rabbitors used to hire Jim’s Fergie to rip up burrows in their efforts to eradicate rabbits which were in plague proportions. Jim said, “We used to muster them, run a big heap into the corner of a paddock, and get 3 or 4 hundred of them.” Jim bought the first television set in the district – Janice was in Year 5 – although Una wasn’t too impressed with his purchase.

ANZAC is a special day for Jim, although most of his mates from the years of WWII have passed on as Jim was one of the youngest in his group of servicemen. Three people Jim would enjoy having as dinner guest would be Bob Molloy, Leo Kirk and Jim’s brother, Tiger. Jim says he values great friends who speak well of you. Jim, thank you for your contribution to Local Legends and for your demonstrated preparedness to take on new challenges – we can all learn valuable lessons from your approach to life. Condolences to the family.