Memories of Bruce Albert Edward Skeggs OAM KSJ
11 October 1932 - 21 March 2013
Died peacefully on March 21, 2013, aged 80.
Loved father of Philip, Julie, Robbie (dec) and Margaret, father-in-law to June.
Grandfather of Twyla, Ben, Rose, Thomas and Angus.
A Life of Public Service
Bruce Albert Edward Skeggs was a longstanding Victorian Parliamentarian but equally famous for his career as a race-caller. He was a Liberal member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly from 1973 to 1982, representing Ivanhoe. He was the Liberal member of the Legislative Council from 1988 to 1996, representing Templestowe Province.
He was born in Cremorne, Sydney, New South Wales. As a schoolboy, he started singing professionally. While a student at Katoomba (NSW), Skeggs learned voice production and microphone technique and enjoyed singing with bands conducted by his mother, Ethel. At age 11, he won a talent contest called Australia’s Amateur Hour and the local paper ran a story likening him to Nelson Eddy. Bruce got singing engagements, mainly entertaining sick and wounded soldiers, during World War II. Following his mother’s untimely death, Skeggs was raised by his mother’s relatives in Sydney for at least two years, and then by his father’s relatives in Adelaide. He attended Nailsworth Technical School in South Australia where he was educated to intermediate level. Through his uncle, Bob Skeggs, who trained pacers and trotters, Skeggs developed a lifelong interest in harness racing. He often assisted his uncle in training the horses on the beach. As a teenager he appeared on the Quiz Kids program, conducted by John Dees on the Adelaide radio station 5DN. At age 16 he won a cartooning contest run by the Adelaide News afternoon tabloid. He moved to Melbourne seeking work as a cartoonist with Smith’s Weekly. In Melbourne, he met World War I veteran, Albert “Vic” Smith, editor of The Guide, a weekly racing and trotting form guide. Vic, a nephew of the Smith’s Weekly publisher Sir Joynton Smith, hired Bruce to work on the form guides, becoming like a second son. Skeggs’ next big break came in the same year when he was covering a trotting meeting at Boort. The course commentator failed to arrive for work. There was a call for a volunteer and Skeggs – being no stranger to microphones – offered his services.
As a trotting commentator from 1948–1982 and the official Trotting Control Board Victoria commentator 1955-1982, Skeggs called 20 inter-dominion championships and set a world record 34 000 trotting calls. The Interdominion Hall of Fame website refers to him as the "“Voice of Victorian Trotting” for more than 30 years."
He was well loved and sought after as a commentator. He was the winner of the Australian Harness Racing Awards Joseph Coulter Media Award. Skeggs was also the President of the Cranbourne Harness Racing Club.
Skeggs worked as a journalist at the Argus and Farm and Home from 1950 to 1956 and was the founding editor of TV Week from 1956 to 1960. He established Cabon Publishing Company Pty Ltd in 1960 and was the chairman and managing director; editor and publisher Year Book of Australian Trotting 1960-1961 and was the editor for the Australian Trotting Register from 1960 to 2005.
Very active in anti-communist movements, he was President of the Freedom Coalition from 1984 to 1994.
In local government Skeggs was a long term City of Heidelberg councillor, including a year as Mayor in 1990-91. In addition to these formal duties, Skeggs lent his weight to countless community projects, not the least being the establishment and management of the community radio station 96.5 Inner FM.
He has served Freemasonry as Past Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria, and with the vestry of St George’s Anglican Church, Ivanhoe where he compiled the history of the church.
The ultimate recognition of Skeggs’ contribution to the Australian community came in October 2000 when he was invested with the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for “service to harness racing, to the Victorian Parliament and local government, and to the community.”
Bruce was also witness to one of the biggest stories of the century: the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre. He was in New York for a World Freedom and Democracy League conference at the United Nations and watched the whole thing unfold from his hotel window about 3 kilometres away.
Married to Evelyn (née Gronn) since 1958, a marriage that produced four children – Philip, Julie, Robbie and Margaret – Skeggs, though confined to a Melbourne nursing home, he retained to the end a love of racing and radio.
- from Wikipedia