Outback legend and shire identity Bert Bolton dies aged 95

Bert Bolton

Bert Bolton

Sutherland Shire-based outback expert and explorer, Bert Bolton died on June 24 at the age of 95.

Famous for his “Bert Bolton’s Outback Tours”, he introduced many St George and Sutherland Shire residents to the remote regions of Australia.

Bert Bolton, opened up the Outback to thousands of people especially residents of St George and Sutherland Shire.

Bert Bolton, opened up the Outback to thousands of people especially residents of St George and Sutherland Shire.

He was born Richard Albert Bolton on March 1, 1923 in the south-west of Western Australia, not far from Bunbury.

Bert’s father had bought a small farm and during the depression years and had barely existed.

“It is quoted that at the age of five, Bert wished he was a horse, for he would be able to wear shoes,” Alec Leach, a family friend said.

After selling the farm , the family moved to Wiluna, a remote town approximately 1000km north-east from Perth and eight hundred kilometres east from Geraldton.

“It's there Bert began to acquire bush skills that he built on for the rest of his life. It was at the age of sixteen, he left home to join a friend to trap dingoes and rabbits,” Mr Leach said.

“Throughout his years of trapping, he met many household names such as the Reverend John Flynn.

“In later years, he related tales of these people, around camp fires and in one of his three books he wrote.”

In 1937, Bert moved to Kalgoorlie to rejoin the family. Here in 1938, he became Western Australian Road Racing Push Bike Champion. After the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Bert enlisted for the Army, with a request to be transferred to the Navy.

After being discharged from the Navy at the end of World War 11, Bert joined the Commonwealth Railways as a cleaner and worked his way up to be a train driver, driving trains across the Nullarbor and the Newman to Port Hedland ore trains for BHP.

After seven years with the railways Bert resigned to move his family to Adelaide.

“It wasn't until 1967,when Bert bought his first coach, that's when his big adventures began,” Mr Leach said.

Bert Bolton

Bert Bolton

"Bert Bolton's Outback Track Tours" were underway. Firstly operating from Alice Springs. Over the years his Tourist Coach business prospered, taking passengers into remote parts of Australia, from the Kimberley's, Cape York and Tasmania.

“His Tours at times catered for folk with singular interests, such as bird watchers, fossickers, trying to locate Lasseter's lost gold reef and to try and locate lost Explorers remnants from the Giles expedition.

“One of his memorable excursions was to organise twelve coaches from major capital cities for a Lightning Ridge Opal Safari. It was there that he met Rona and eventual marriage.”

Bert also brought Arnhem Land Aboriginal dancers and Didgeridoo player Blanasi to perform many times in Sydney including at the Opera House.

They also performed throughout the eastern states and Tasmania and New Zealand.

“His largest production was to organise the group to perform at Randwick Race Course for the Astra World Travel Congress, the audience of five thousand was made up of travel agents from around the world,” Mr Leach said.

Bert Bolton in the outback in 1980.

Bert Bolton in the outback in 1980.

“A passionate project Bert undertook, was a plan to divert water from the northern Monsoonal waste water flowing into the sea and diverting it along man made canals and existing rivers flowing south to Lake Eyre.

“Here the water could be piped to various destinations. It was modelled on a plan devised by Doctor Jack Bradfield. Bert made a large model to demonstrate his theory and had a video made to show anyone he thought would have the same passion as he. Alas nobody did.

“Dick Smith, nominated Bert and he was accepted into the Adventurers Club a couple of years ago. This is an elite Club made of persons of the calibre of Dick Smith.

“Since Bert's retirement in 1994, he has written three books, Stories of the Outback , On the Outback Tracks and Walk Through Life in the Outback.  The latest book was only published months before his death.

“Bert Bolton, opened up the Outback to thousands of people especially St George and Sutherland Shire folk. For those who travelled with him along his road in life, one couldn't help but say, he was a good bloke, a Remarkable Man.”

Bert is survived by his wife Rona, and three children from a previous marriage, Jennifer, Barry and Randall.