Catherine and Ron Walsh at Ron's home in Bundaberg in 1994. It would be Catherine's last visit to Bundaberg.
Catherine and Ron Walsh at Ron's home in Bundaberg in 1994. It would be Catherine's last visit to Bundaberg.

REAR VIEW: How Holden first came to Bundy

HOLDEN'S disappearance at the end of this year will come as a gut-punch to many owners and enthusiasts.

The brand became an icon of Australian culture, created vehicles specific to our needs and at one point or another created a car that sat in the garage of nearly every family across the nation.

And the story behind Bundaberg's first Holden and its owner is as unique as the brand itself.

Following General Motor's announcement on Monday, a member of the Walsh family got in touch with the NewsMail to tell the tale Bundy's first Holden owner - Catherine Walsh.

 

A parade of the first few Holdens to come to Bundaberg. It is believed Catherine's is the second in line.
A parade of the first few Holdens to come to Bundaberg. It is believed Catherine's is the second in line.

 

Catherine's nephew, Ron Walsh, is still alive and well today living in Bundy.

As was stressed by his wife, Mary, this is very much his family's story, she just kept tabs on the family and helped share the story.

"The Walsh family are fifth generation," Mrs Walsh said.

"Old Pop Walsh was a returned serviceman. They had seven children.

"Their daughter, Catherine, was a nurse and she was nursing during the war."

Catherine had three brothers and three sisters, her youngest brother a local police sergeant.

NewsMail clippings from the time show that tragically back in 1947, a 30-year-old Catherine Walsh lost both legs, fractured both arms, suffered internal injuries, head injuries and facial burns in a Jeep crash at Ashgrove.

 

Newspaper clippings relating to Catherine's accident back in 1947.
Newspaper clippings relating to Catherine's accident back in 1947.

 

It would be an event that changed Catherine's life, but not one that slowed her done any.

She kept on moving on, and as Mary tells it, was definitely "no shirker", participating in local clubs and working as a clerk for 23 years after the fact, even visiting Ron and the rest of the family in Bundaberg in 1994.

It would be her last visit to Bundaberg however, passing away in 2001.

The Holden she drove was a Bundaberg first, bought on March 17, 1949, for 679 pounds, nine shillings and six pence and was converted to hand-controls using funds raised at a Police Gala Night charity event.

 

(Left) members of the Walsh/Bennett family and (right) Thelma and Catherine the day before her accident.
(Left) members of the Walsh/Bennett family and (right) Thelma and Catherine the day before her accident.

 

"She was so significantly injured … they got the car for her, raised money through Queensland Doctors and Nurses," Mrs Walsh said.

Those funds, along with that raised at the Gala, gave Catherine her independence.

The Holden came in a special metallic paint and featured in a parade of Holdens down the main street when the cars first came to town.

"That would have been part of their campaign to launch their first vehicle," Mrs Walsh said.

"It's paintwork was the first metallic Du Pont ever invented and only this Holden and five others were painted this colour.

"It was discontinued because of how expensive it was to paint in this colour. The prototype in Canberra has the same colour but was in a fire so Catherine's at the time was the only known surviving one with the original paint work.

"Personally, I thought the colour was 'ugh' … but then I'm no motor or paint buff

"It was a sort of bluey-dull grey colour - never repainted because it was supposedly so rare."

 

A copy of the original receipt. Catherine's Holden cost just shy of 700 pounds back in 1949.
A copy of the original receipt. Catherine's Holden cost just shy of 700 pounds back in 1949.

 

But it would end up being one of the things, like others in Catherine's life, that would be uniquely hers.

Another specially-made item was the house she lived in - it still stands today on the corner of Walla and Woongarra Sts.

The low-slung home was unusual for the era, but built specially for Catherine's needs.

It's one of those things Mrs Walsh said many people would drive past every day, but never give a second thought to.

"Both homes have a significant history which most people wouldn't know," she said.

 

Catherine sitting on a balustrade the evening before her accident.
Catherine sitting on a balustrade the evening before her accident.

 

The car would later be sold to somebody looking to restore it, and Mrs Walsh lost track of it after that.

"The name will go, but the first Holden in Bundaberg was a significant thing," Mrs Walsh said.

"Not just because of how it happened, but because it was a Holden."



UPDATE: Fire crews monitor fire near aged care facility

premium_icon UPDATE: Fire crews monitor fire near aged care facility

Multiple crews attended the fire which broke out earlier today.

Motorcyclist injured in crash with car

premium_icon Motorcyclist injured in crash with car

He was transported to hospital overnight.

One in hospital after car crash into parked vehicle

premium_icon One in hospital after car crash into parked vehicle

Paramedics were called to the scene earlier this morning.