FLASHBACK: Reg McCallum just after he retired as Nanango Shire Mayor in 2008 … he was also a keen ambassador for the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail

January 26, 2024

by Anne Miller

Australia Day attendees were shocked to hear on Friday that former Nanango mayor, Reginald Beach McCallum OAM, died suddenly this week.

He was aged 97.

Reg had been a familiar sight – and volunteer – at Nanango’s Australia Day events for years.

Prior to his death on Wednesday, Reg was still active in the community, including at the forefront of the town’s 175th celebrations last year and as patron of the Nanango Race Club.

I was lucky enough to interview Reg in 2008, just after he had retired after 40 continuous years of service on Nanango Shire Council, 32 of them as Mayor (or Shire Chairman).

Reg’s retirement only came about due to the forced amalgamation of Nanango Shire with Kingaroy, Wondai and Murgon to form the South Burnett Regional Council, something that he believed was one of the worst things that could happen to Nanango.

The interview took place in the lead up to a testimonial dinner held for Reg in Nanango:

Trying to get him to talk about his accomplishments during his record term was difficult as he continually downplayed his role in local achievements.

His words were: “I’m just Old Reg, the bushie”.

However, his accomplishments had already been recognised nationally. He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in the 1989 Australia Day Awards for his services to Local Government.

Reg and his hat, allegedly lined with tinfoil so he could always give his horse or dogs a drink, was a local legend.

Rest in peace.

* * *

In His Own Words

When were you born?

I was born in Nanango on October 29, 1926, in the maternity hospital in Chester Street.

And your father and mother?

My father was Beach McCallum and my mother was born Ethel Scott. They were married on February 22, 1922. My father was born in Nanango and my mother was born in Bundaberg and came here with her parents when she was about nine or 10 years old.

What made you decide to run for Nanango Council?

I was approached to stand at the 1967 election but I wasn’t really interested. Then in 1968 a vacancy came on the Council with the resignation of one of the councillors in Division 2. It was suggested that I apply for that vacancy and I was successful. I just thought that I may be able to contribute something to the shire.

When did you become mayor?

At the elections in March 1976

What has been the worst thing that has happened to the Shire while you were with Council?

Droughts have knocked the stuffing out of primary industry and that in turn has affected the business houses. There have been periodic droughts during the time I’ve been in Council but since 1992 we have never really recovered with a normal wet season. The water tables have dropped and that has become a big problem now for towns and rural industry.

But probably the worst thing that has happened to small viable country shires like Nanango was amalgamation.

What has been the best thing that has happened while you were with Council?

Getting the power station! Although it’s probably controversial to say that these days and there’s possibly some people who wish it had never been built.

Rural sub-divisions have bought a larger population to the shire and we are also fortunate because the business houses have kept up with the demand from the increased population.

It is difficult to pinpoint any one thing for certain.

What has been the biggest controversy during your time in Council?

Where the power station was going to be erected. Other towns wanted it, like Millmerran.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?

Being pelted off a horse. A touchy horse dropped his head and threw me and I ended up in hospital with two fractured ribs and a punctured lung.

What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in Nanango over the past 40 years?

At Council we went from the old-hand operated machines that you had to fill with ink to run off the agendas to computers. The receipts and accounts were done manually with pencils and there was no air conditioning.

The graders and loaders had open cabins and the trucks had particularly hard seats!

In its heyday, Nanango Council had an outside staff of 60. Just prior to amalgamation there was an outside staff of 40 and inside staff of 15.

Of course, there has also been a huge increase in both rural and urban housing and there’s a lot more shops.

What has been the biggest success of your career?

I am proud of the support Nanango Shire Council gave so many community events over the years.

What has been the biggest disappointment?

When council built that weir at Blackbutt thinking it would be in use all year round. That happened about 20 years ago but now the seasons have been so bad there is no water in it.

* * *

NaTDA secretary Mary Green with special guest, former Nanango Shire mayor Reg McCallum, at Nanango’s 175th celebrations last June
Reg McCallum, second from right, with former Nanango Shire councillors Bruce Webb, Ted Tucker, Rod Morgan and Barry Green, and former CEO Kerry Mercer, second from left, at the opening of the refurbished Nanango Council Centre in 2020
It’s the end of an era … former Mayors Alec McIntosh OAM (Kilkivan), Percy Iszlaub AM (Wondai), Reg McCallum OAM (Nanango) and Bill Roberts OBE (Murgon) were special guests at a South Burnett Regional Council meeting held in 2016
… all are now sadly deceased

Ros Heit for South Burnett Division 6
Vote 1 Kathy Duff for South Burnett Mayor

 

Vote 1 Jane Erkens for Division 1
Vote 1 Scott Hernschen for Division 6

13 Responses to "Obituary: Reg McCallum 1926-2024"

  1. RIP Reg. You have been such a role model and inspiration to all who have met you. The gift of your time and support of the community has been totally awesome.

  2. Any organisation that I was in, if we had visitors to the town and invited Reg down he was so great and welcoming them to town. He was always well respected whenever we attended events out of our town. I think we owe a lot to him.

  3. I worked for SBRC when the 2016 photo of former Mayors was taken in the Kingaroy Town Hall.

    Thank you Wayne Kratzmann (then Mayor) for your respectfulness of these gents and to southburnett.com.au for taking this wonderful photo.

    Reg was a true Aussie – rest in peace, your good works are done and will long be remembered. Oh, and thank you !!

  4. I will always remember and be grateful for his genuine interest and support for everyone, in and out of Nanango Shire.

    When we first moved to the South Burnett in 1999 and set up a program to financially support young people achieve their dreams, one of my forever memories is that Reg turned up to every celebration event to encourage young people pursue their talents. It was always an honour to have him speak into the lives and dreams of young people, and most importantly, speak into mine.

    Thank you Reg for being a genuine role model and leader we can all follow.

  5. When Reg and his predecessors were at the helm, most jobs got done, then the big ‘A’ came along. Since then “things ain’t like they used to be”. Reg will be fondly remembered as one of Nanango’s legends.

  6. Rest easy Reg, you were always what I perceived to be a country gentleman, always pleasant and made time to stop and say a quick hello even at your busiest. Condolences to Libby and the family.

  7. Reg always supported community events and was a great ambassador for Nanango. He showed us the old stage coach route in a 4WD and always stopped for a chat. He was a great contributor to the Nanango Blue Light and with council secured a loan to build a skating rink which benefited the local youth of the area. RIP

  8. Reg was the greatest of “can do” councillors or mayors. Nothing stood in his way to do a project that he believed in. He believed in many. His speeches were brief and to the point and his meetings were condensed to the necessary. A committed man of action. A true local leader and treasure. Reg, those who knew you will miss you.

  9. A genuine old school gentleman, who treated everyone with respect, and in return was respected by everyone. We won’t see too many men who have achieved as much as Reg has for his beloved Nanango. R.i.p great man.

  10. Always a gentleman with a love of Nanango. Rest in Peace Reg. Deepest Sympathies to Libby & the family

  11. Vale Reg McCallum. A force of nature in Nanango for so long. We had the privilige of knowing Reg, Edna and Libby for almost 40 years (if we had stayed in the Nanango Pharmacy for 6 more months it would have been 40). In all that time his devotion to Nanango could not be faulted. Our condolences to Libby and family. Frank and June Hocart

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