A brief profile of Duncan Gibson

Most of us know Duncan from his service as Club Meeting Co-ordinator or Leader of our Bike Group.

Educated at Echuca in Northern Victoria where the focus was on farming, sport and robust outdoor activities – none of which interested him greatly (apart from fishing and messing around in boats)

Duncan relocated with the family to Melbourne in 1960 where he found employment as a trainee Property Surveyor on behalf of the insurance business, mainly local companies specialising in heavy industry (and later, Lloyds of London and other foreign underwriters). “Insurance Surveyors are the eyes and ears of desk-bound insurance workers,” he says, “who may never actually get to see the assets they have been asked to cover. Many rely on an independent professional assessment of the case for insurance cover before they commit to do business.” Australia in the 1960s was home to many more categories of manufacturing industry than is the case today, he notes, and he was attracted to the outdoor nature of the work, the technical variety and interaction with clients. “This work took me to most parts of Australia and the Asia-Pacific region; to mines, mills and large and small commercial properties of all types,” Duncan says.

He continued (with several employers) until retirement at age 67, his last position with the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority, a State agency arranging insurance and risk services to public assets such as hospitals, schools, sporting venues and rail and road infrastructure.  All a long way from messing around on boats.

While his disinterest in agriculture must have disappointed his sheep farming father, Dad understood his son more than he was probably given credit for at the time. “One day he brought home an old outboard motor, something that as a teenager I never ever dreamt of having,” Duncan recalls. With a small plywood boat, he already had, he journeyed many miles up and down local rivers. “From that time onward, I rarely spent time complaining about boredom,” he says. “That outboard motor required constant tinkering and schoolboy pocket money did not go far; so, I had to fix the thing myself, during which I made many mistakes and also learned much.  One mistake proved fatal for the motor when parts came adrift and, as far as I know, still rest at the bottom of the Campaspe River.” 

Duncan has maintained a lifelong interest in outboard motors, collected locally and more recently, on trips to the United States acquired several early historic models including a Johnson manufactured in 1926. “Runs perfectly,” he says, “a tribute to pride in workmanship from the time before plastics cheapened nearly everything.” Other motors in Duncan’s collection date from 1917, “and they all still work! The main challenge in the hobby is to get a dismantled motor safely home through Customs in a suitcase.”

Duncan’s other passions include recreational cycling (currently a coordinator of the Club’s Cycling Interest Group), and his classic Jaguar hobby car (“a ridiculous indulgence but justified by the beauty of the thing”).

Wife, Janette, is a Williamstown girl – where they lived before moving to Beaumaris in 1971. These days, Janette and Duncan like to garden and enjoy their adult children, three grandsons, the grandsons’ girlfriends, a grand-daughter; and caravan touring. Probus provides a valued opportunity to make new contacts, he says, while the social program helps him keep fit and in touch with old-established friends.