Ron McCutcheon is one of the last of the great spudpickers in Koroit. A HOME-GROWN hero will take centre stage at the 20th KoroitIrishFestival.
While the festival has had high profile national figures, Moira Kelly, Damien Leith and Mike Brady as ambassadors in the past, in 2016 they have gone for a Koroit legend.
Koroit was built on the back of the potato industry andRonMcCutcheon is one of the last of the great spudpickers.
At 79, McCutcheon is still active, heading out to help out where he can on the spud harvesting machines around Koroit.
It has been a long journey for McCutcheon who began life as a spudpicker when he was 13, back in the day when he had to dig the spuds out of the ground with a fork and then pick them.
“I remember the first job I had was working for Jack Russell in Southern Cross,” Mr McCutcheon said.
“I was 13 and a half and my brother Tommy was 15 and we were living in Kirkstall and we would ride our bikes to Russells to pick spuds.
“This was the day before spud diggers so we had to use a fork to dig our own spuds out and pick them into the big bags.
“We got two or three bob a bag. It was hard work but we had to go out and get a job.”
Mr McCutcheon was one of 11 children belonging to Annie and Bill McCutcheon.
Bill’s ancestors came from Scotland while Annie was a Moloney, direct from Ireland.
Like all families of the time, the McCutcheon’s were driven by hard work with every one expected to do their bit.
For young Ron, it was call to arms he was happy to answer, hard work something he not only didn’t shy away from but something he thrived on.
Ron and Tom worked in paddocks around the district and followed the spud season around, traveling to South Australia, Gippsland and Ballarat to pick.
There was just one detour along the way, a career change that didn’t last too long.
“There was a quiet time with the spuds and me and Tommy went in and got a job at Nestles,” Mr McCutcheon said.
“Tommy stayed there for two weeks and I last a bit longer, three months, before we left and went back out picking spuds and shearing.”
Having been part of a working class family for his own upbringing, Mr McCutcheon and his wife Anne followed the proven formula and set the same course for their own family of four boys and one girl.
Spud paddocks and shearing sheds became a second home for Mr McCutcheon, putting food on the table for his family and making life-long friends along the way.
But there were hurdles along the way, none more so than an accident in a Koroit paddock 27 years ago.
Mr McCutcheon was working with a rotary hoe, ploughing the ground in preparation for another crop of spuds.
Mr McCuctheon’s leg got tangled up in the rotary hoe, before it could be stopped it had chewed through the bottom half of the leg.
The result was Mr McCutcheon having his leg amputated from the knee down.
“The rotary hoe wasn’t going very fast but by hell it didsome damage,” he said.
“I was alright for the first few minutes after it, I remember it was a cold morning. My son went and got help and I wanted to get up and moving but Jim Beck was there and he sat on my chest and told me I had to stay put.”
The recovery was a long one but for a man this tough, this was a small setback and he was soon back in action.
“I got going again, you have to keep going,” Mr McCutcheon.
“I do like working, I suppose it’s what you’re brought up doing.
“It was hard work but we had some good times in the paddock over the years, those days when you’d have 20 to30 people picking in the same paddock.
“Then we’d load them big trucks, bag after bag, it was tough going.”
Mr McCutcheon said his best day in the paddock volume wise was picking 100 plus 50kg bags.
He worked with some of the finest spudpickers this country has seen.
He rated some Koroit and district pickers as the best he has seen.
“Tommy was pretty good and so was Leo Carey,” he said.
“The best would probably Bill Dwyer, gee he could pick.”
With potatoes playing such an important part in Koroit’s history, Mr McCutcheon is an inspired choice as as KoroitIrishFestival Ambassador.
He is looking forward to carrying out the role.
“It should be a good weekend,” McCutcheon said.
“It’s great living in Koroit and it will be good to catch up with a lot of people.”
The KoroitIrishFestival is on the weekend of April 29, 30, May 1.
Go to老域名koroitirishfestival老域名备案老域名for more information and to purchase tickets.
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