THE WEST AUSTRALIAN
Sunday, 02 December 2012 13:02
Colin Brierly is an ironman of the Pilbara. After half a century spent on some of the harshest terrain this unforgiving country has to offer, Mr Brierly is still standing.
Mr Brierly - who yesterday celebrated 50 years at Indee Station, 65km south of Port Hedland - has seen off category 5 cyclones, drought, debt collectors, double-digit interest rates, low wool prices and live export bans.
The 73-year-old has reinvented himself time and again, diversifying his skills from raising sheep to cattle, trapping dogs to spraying weeds and putting in four days a week at the nearby Wodgina tantalum mine.
Tragedy has never been a stranger to Indee or Mr Brierley.
He lost his first wife in a motor vehicle accident in 1992 when she was tossed from a moving vehicle on the station.
Then there was the air crash for which Indee became famous.
Mr Brierly still remembers the smells as if it were yesterday. His gruff voice catches when he talks about the crash of MacRobertson Miller Airlines flight 1750 at Indee on New Year's Eve in 1968 - one of the nation's worst civil aviation accidents.
He speaks of the horror of finding the bodies of the 26 passengers and crew strewn across the ignited spinifex.
"We tore down there in case there was someone alive," he said when The Weekend West visited.
"There were 26 people but they needed 50-something body bags … it was pretty horrendous."
As Mr Brierly this week sifted through remnants of the Vickers Viscount, the hum of a gold drill could be heard in the distance.
Indeed, it is the Pilbara's mining boom that has proved Indee's renaissance. BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Group have rail lines that pass through the station's eastern edge and Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill project could soon add another.
Mr Brierly, who admits his patience was tested in the mid-90s as wool prices plunged and debt crippled the station, now smiles to himself - still undefeated.
"We got through. It has been a hard slog but we're here," he said.
Since marrying his second wife Betty in 2005, life has been slightly more peaceful at Indee.
Sitting in the homestead, the 5300 bricks for which Mr Brierly made by hand after a cyclone destroyed the previous property, Betty marvels at her husband's resolve.
"I'd write a book on it but no one would believe it," she said.
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