The story of Uncle John Ridgeway

Uncle John Ridgeway getting ready to perform a Welcome To Country. Photo by Marian Sampson.

 

MEETING Worimi elder John Ridgeway and having the opportunity to hear his story is a rare privilege.

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Uncle John Ridgeway is now in his eighties.

He grew up on the mission in Karuah, and has been recognised for his contribution to the community.

In 2006 Worimi Elder, Uncle John Ridgeway was awarded Port Stephens ‘Volunteer of the Year’ and received the Prime Minister and Premiers award for his community work.

In 2007 John Ridgeway was also awarded Port Stephens Citizen of the Year.

Not long after this he was awarded an OAM for his services to the community.

It is not the awards that make the man, it is his unique story.

From attending school in Karuah on the mission to leaving school at age 14 to start working on the oyster leases at Oyster Cove and cutting timber at the Myall Lakes with his brother, for the Masonite factory in Raymond Terrace.

Uncle John had a very physical career.

Uncle John Ridgeway told News Of The Area, “I wasn’t allowed to go to a non-Aboriginal school, there was no electricity, and I lived with my mum and dad and I had 7 siblings, there were 3 boys and 5 girls, I have the opposite 5 boys and 3 girls.

“When I was 14, I told the teacher I had a job, can I leave school? and she said yes you can,” he said.

It was then that he started work on the oyster farm where he worked for 19 years.

Unfortunately uncle John suffered a bout of bowel cancer which led him on another path, one where he brings joy to many through his music.

Uncle John Ridgeway has been entertaining residents at over 30 nursing homes from Hawks Nest, Wallsend, and Tanilba Bay, to Laurieton, Maitland and beyond for over 27 years.

When he visits nursing homes he sings the old songs so the residents can sing along with them.

He and his wife have also been foster carers, opening their home to children in need.

As an elder John Ridgeway is a passionate custodian of the Worimi language and the conservation of the Stockton sand dunes.

He is also a crack boot thrower, having taken out several wins in the sport at the Indigenous Elder Games.

In many ways Uncle John Ridgeway is one of the treasures of Port Stephens, you may have seen him perform a welcome to country over the years, now you know a little more of the story of his life.

 

By Marian SAMPSON

7 thoughts on “The story of Uncle John Ridgeway

  1. My father in law is a remarkable man he is kind, loving, the best father in law could have I feel very lucky to have been in this wonderful family I have always known my father-in-law for doing so much for the community and his great personality with people weather he’s singing, doing things for the land council or general public he is well respected in the community and people love him everywhere I love him

  2. I would like to know more my name is Sarah Mary Ridgeway and I am Lynette Clare Ridgeway daughter I would love to hear the songs and history I was born in Newcastle 30th of May 1971 and I was adopted by Canadian people

  3. Uncle John is an amazing man & Elder who has taught & shared with the community so much about our local Aboriginal culture and entertained many of the years. An exquisite role model.

  4. Thankyou john for helping me teaching me mentoring me in the oyster industry I owe part of my success to you I still remember you throwing stone on my roof to get me out of bed when I was late for work you truly are a champion mate ,I take my hat off to all you have accomplished in your life time keep up the great work you are doing God bless you love you mate
    Kim Manton

  5. This man regardless of his colour, creed or religion has always treated people as equal, his jokes, his very demeanour sets him head and shoulders above many men. Even when he is ill he finds time to make everyone around him feel better in themselves. Even in his eighties he is still strong in his strength of body and conviction. He is a Mens Man with all our faults but a man to look up to a positive role model for any young Man Love ya Unka OOmie!

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