The unsung heroes of mountain rescues

By Marlene Jennings

IT’S a book that’s literally a cliff hanger.

Beerwah author Neil Halpin has penned a new book detailing his 25 years as a Glasshouse Country State Emergency Service volunteer.

From his first rescue of a man with a broken leg teetering over a sheer rock face at Mt Coonowrin to the first helicopter rescue on Mt Tibrogargan in 1990.

That was when pre-training for safe landings were ‘thrown out the door’ and forced jumps successfully negotiated on precarious terrain.

The book, ‘Glass House Mountains Rescue 1965 – 2015 The Story’, is set to be launched on May 14.

Neil, 72, imparts an honest and emotional recount of the selfless acts of men and women who risked their lives for the local community.

Prompted by the Beerwah Writer’s Group, Neil began a five-month writing journey with a desire to record the very special rescues and the empathetic comradery the volunteers formed.

In one chapter, Neil reflected on his first rescue in 1989 at Mt Coonowrin, a challenging rescue of a young man in bad weather who had suffered a badly broken leg, just above the ankle and one bad move away from certain death.

In a test of skill and perseverance, team leader Graeme Cheal and Ray Brown paved the way for their fellow volunteers as they ascended Salmon’s Leap; the team’s dedication resulted in a life saved.

In a twist of fate 15 years later Neil’s wife, Glenda, was on a plane passing over the Glass House Mountains, as the man sitting beside her related his rescue from Mt Coonowrin – the one and the same.

After participating in around 30 rescues, the author said he valued above all the mateship, trust, and endurance of the members of the SES.

“Every rescue that I went on, I treated it like my first one because you couldn’t afford to be complacent,” Neil said, adding throughout this time the SES maintained an unblemished record of volunteer safety.

“You act on instinct when you are on the mountain, you’ve been trained, you trust the person beside you, it doesn’t matter if it’s night or wet, you just have to be careful as you are tying knots off that other people are going to hang off.”

Neil’s underlying message for those who read his book is the importance of volunteering, having the opportunity to volunteer in any capacity is “character building and confidence building”.

The Beerwah author who has spent his life volunteering, from an auxiliary fireman to SES mountain rescue, is the humble recipient of a National Group Bravery Award.

To listen to more fascinating stories of the Glass House Mountain rescues, Neil said he would be pleased to voluntarily speak at local community group meetings.

Neil’s book will be available in local outlets.