John Skinner working hard at the helm of the Warwick RSL Sub Branch.
John Skinner working hard at the helm of the Warwick RSL Sub Branch. Jonno Colfs

Bucking bulls and bullet holes: a Warwick story


WHEN John Skinner and wife Marion moved to Warwick 35 years ago, the plan was to work for a few years then retire to the north coast of New South Wales.

Mr Skinner said they didn't expect to fall in love with the place.

"We're not going anywhere, we absolutely love it here," he said.

"All our kids are nearby and Warwick has everything we need."

Mr Skinner and his family moved to Warwick in 1982, so he could take up the position running the Australian Rough Riders Association, now known as the Australian Professional Rodeo Association but the story begins a little further down the highway.

"I grew up in the New England region," Mr Skinner said.

"My family got me interested in rodeo and I started competing at 12 years old, right through my teenage years.

"Rodeo has been a major part of my life."

In 1967, after a relationship breakdown Mr Skinner joined the army.

"I wanted a new adventure," he said.

"Then in February 1969 I was sent to Vietnam as an infantry soldier in the 5th Royal Australia Regiment or 5RAR.

"I carried a big pack, I was shot at and I shot back."

In June 1969, Mr Skinner was wounded in action and too sick to transport home to Australia, spent four weeks in a military hospital.

"I was 22 years old, fit and healthy," Mr Skinner said.

"I recovered quickly and they sent me back out on patrols.

"I was pretty nervous going back out, that was the worst part for me.

"You never know what you're walking into.

"And I didn't know it, but I had the beginnings of post traumatic stress disorder."

After a stint in the jungle, Mr Skinner became a company driver and then a pay rep.

In March 1970 he sailed home on HMAS Sydney and on arrival was sent on a clerical course and became the 5RAR company clerk.

He also married sweetheart Marion later that same year.

In 1972 Mr Skinner was posted to Tasmania and in 1976 left the army and joined the Tasmanian Police Force.

"Some friends invited me out to a rodeo down there and that reignited my passion," Mr Skinner said.

"Soon after I was posted to help out with traffic control at the Huonville Rodeo and within 12 months I was secretary/treasurer of the Huonville Rodeo Association.

"About the same time I started writing for the local paper and the national Rodeo News.

"At school I aced English and history and failed everything else, I didn't know it at the time but I had some writing skills"

In 1982 Mr Skinner said he received a phone call from R.M Williams inviting him to apply for the Australian Rough Riders Association job.

"So we came to Warwick," he said.

Mr Skinner, who is the serving president of the Warwick RSL Sub Branch, also had a long stint writing for the Warwick Daily News, and still contributes regularly.

As for Warwick, Mr Skinner said attracting more business to town would be good.

"I wouldn't want to see the place expand to the size of Toowoomba however," he said.

"We've got it pretty good here, great education, aged care is good and getting better with the new development.

"My one desire for Warwick would have to be a ten pin bowling alley."

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