Vale: Barry Gates

Born 2nd January 1940. Died 29th June 2017

I first met Barry in early 1977 at the General Motors-Holden plant in Dandenong after recently graduating and being promoted from a trainee chemist at ICI Fibremakers to a Technical Officer in the MetalChem Division of ICI Dulux.

Within a short period of time I was allocated technical responsibility for the plant and would audit the Granodine Zinc Phosphate process daily. On one of my first audits a siren sounded and the plant operator walked away as it was his smoko break. Not exactly sure where to go, I heard someone shout my name. It was Barry and he shouted “Coffee Time” to me and we ajourned to the Paint Shop Office. I started to talk about my audit and he quickly said it’s “Coffee Time” not work time. I saw a photo of his Norton on his desk and mentioned that I also rode a Norton. Not a classic 1948 single but a slightly more modern 600SS Dominator of 1961 vintage. Never-the-less we had a common interest and spent many “coffee times” over the next 30 years discussing many aspects of motorcycling.

I always found Barry a person who was only too happy to share his vast knowledge of the plant processes and was a capable co-ordinator as his ability to engage with others made meetings very productive.

After GM-H shut down manufacturing, the plant was taken over by Toyota to manufacture Corollas and Holden Nova’s. We both spent many hours with Japanese engineers convincing them that the aging plant could produce a quality product which would meet Toyota’s exacting standards. The fact that we achieved this, was due in no small way to Barry’s engaging and knowledgeable discussion and willingness to share his knowledge of the plant.

After Toyota had moved to their new plant in Altona, Barry retired to the family home in Upper Beaconsfield and to continue to work repairing a wide range of light engines including mowers, chainsaws, whipper snippers and motorcycles. No problem couldn’t be solved in the garage due to Barry’s ability and logic as many of us will attest to. For me, all it took was a quick phone call to ask a question and the response was nearly always “bring it over and we’ll check it out”. Barry wouldn’t just fix the fault but would show you how to do it. Be it rebuilding a Norton gearbox, fitting a new big end to a Cammy Norton, truing up the flywheels or solving an electrical problem, it was always done effortlessly and then followed by coffee time and a chat.

We will all miss Barry’s zest for life, knowledge and friendship that so many of have enjoyed for many more years than we care to remember.

Our condolences are extended to his family at this sad time.

     Rest in Peace Barry. You will be missed by so many of us.

– Ian Richtsteig