Coachman spurs on history of Cobb & Co
LEGENDARY horseman Don Ross is of a dying breed - there aren't many people around Australia who can drive a coach and team of horse so skilfully, and even fewer have been doing it for over 60 years.
The last Cobb and Co coach made its run from Surat to Yuleba a decade before he was born, but the 85-year-old was always fascinated by horses and got his start driving coaches at a young age.
"As a kid, I started driving a four-in-hand when I was about 15 or 16, just mucking around as I was growing up,” Mr Ross said.
"I was introduced to the coaches by Billy King, an old bloke at the RNA in Brisbane; we used to borrow his coach to do different things in the early days and it grew from there.”
Having made a career out of driving coaches, Mr Ross has been one of a few dedicated people keeping history alive.
He said his proudest time was the 1963 Cobb and Co charity trip, where a team of drivers took the coach on a 4300km journey to raise money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
"I was asked to go away as a driver with the Cobb and Co trip from Port Douglas to Melbourne,” Mr Ross said.
"There were five drivers and we each had two teams.
"I remember it was myself, Clyde Briggs, a rough-riding fella from Taroom, as well as Tommy Lawton, Doug Green Sr, and Doug Green Jr.
"We went 3000 miles by horse, and it was the longest coach run in the world.”
His experience in driving the Cobb and Co coaches have served him well, and Mr Ross currently owns three refurbished models.
"I don't take them out as much as I used to, but I'm far from retired,” Mr Ross said.
"I'll be out there driving from Surat to Yuleba for the Cobb and Co Festival.”
The festival holds a special place in the horseman's heart.
"This is all a great part of history, and it's not going to ever let Cobb and Co die if we keep doing this sort of thing,” Mr Ross said.
"But without the people who are doing it now, it would surely die out, because there is a lot of history, and there are only a few with different coaches in different areas.”
The festival runs from August 17-25.