Alwyn Torenbeek and David Gilchrist
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Alwyn Torenbeek – I was born in 1937 and moved with my family to Queensland’s Brigalow Belt town of Kokotunga.
By 14, I left school to take on a life as a professional rodeo roughrider. Following my life as a rodeo champion, I took on droving and raising a family with my wife Marion. Seven years later I had local, national and international rodeo crowns to my name.
In the 1970s I established a stockmans school to teach underprivileged teens to become Jackeroos and Jilleroos. I was renowned for positively changing the lives of many troubled teens.
As a mark of my innate ability as a horseman, this Outback identity is a rare triple hall of fame inductee with listings in the Stockman’s, Rodeo and Equestrian Halls of Fame. I still compete in 160 km Endurance rides and I’am still the only national and international champion rodeo roughrider with several Quilty (Endurance Riding National Championship) Buckles to his name.
David Gilchrist – I was born in Brisbane, studied to become a pathology technician at what is now the University of Southern Queensland. On graduation, I worked in a quality control laboratory at a central Queensland Coal mine then took up work in cardiology at Royal Brisbane Hospital.
While studying for a Bachelor of Arts to become a journalist at the University of Southern Queensland, I helped establish a number of new cardiology services at RBH including a pacemaker clinic, a cardiac catheter laboratory and an electrophysiology theatre – all designed for cardiac investigations. I had hoped to establish a remote on-line or tele-medicine service for recording ambulatory heart ECG that’d reduce the need for some heart patients to travel to Brisbane, but that was not to be.
For sometime I blended my cardiology work with journalism establishing an early list of impressive publications for which I was writing. I eventually put aside theatre greens for work as a freelance journalist providing features to a wide range of Australian and international publications. That work led me to Alwyn Torenbeek’s door writing a story about him for RM William’s Outback Magazine. That meeting led to this book.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
David Gilchrist – When I was twelve years old I dreamed of meeting interesting people and visiting exotic places. By eighteen, I was starting to think about life in science. Turning thirty brought ideas of writing a novel and winning the Australian Vogel Literary Award. I turned to journalism instead.
Alwyn Torenbeek – At twelve I dreamed of riding wild horses in rodeos and being amongst my heroes – the champion riders of the day. At eighteen I was well and truly amongst the best of the rough riders and on my way to fulfilling my dreams. I had been riding in rodeos as a full-time roughrider since I was 14 and had won the NSW state championship at 18.
By thirty – I had achieved my lifetime goals when I was 21. I had become a champion rider and married the love of my life Marion Sainsbury. We were involved in droving, managing cattle properties and raising a family, although I was still popping out to compete in a few rodeos to keep the spirit going, as it were. This was my dream life.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
David Gilchrist – I now have a more humanist outlook than I had as a child. I had certainly put aside my formal religious beliefs by around 20-years-old.
Alwyn Torenbeek – I have religious beliefs by way of believing in someone ‘up there’, it’s the ‘ground crew’ that I don’t have much faith in. In terms of self-belief, I know that if I had the body to keep up I’d still be doing what I was doing at 18.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
David Gilchrist – Meeting my wife Tracey and the birth of my sons has enriched my life in every way. Then, professionally, through journalism, the opportunity to meet some of the most fascinating people. Most remarkable amongst them have been former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, David and Richard Attenborough and Nobel Laureate Betty Williams of Ireland together with a remarkable assortment of ‘ordinary’ individuals whose willingness to share their remarkable stories provided me with the chance to consider the best and worst of humanity.
Alwyn Torenbeek – The first was my in-built love and want to ride tough horses. I just loved horses that were wild, I loved cattle and I loved catching bulls. Those sort of things are just so exciting.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?
David Gilchrist – Books are far from obsolete. The idea that books are obsolete is ridiculous. Books are as modern as today given that they can be read across multiple platforms or in a traditional paper format. They will never be obsolete while ever people thirst to have stories that feed and inspire their imaginations.
Alwyn Torenbeek – My friend Lyn Eather used to say we have got to write a book and David Gilchrist came along and did the Outback magazine story then said, hey, we should write a book. I wanted to record the history of the rodeo and droving era in which I’d been involved and to provide a record of my life for my family. A book seemed the natural way of presenting it.
David Gilchrist and Alwyn Torenbeek – Life in the Saddle is the amazing life story of bush legend Alwyn Torenbeek: rodeo champion, stockman and endurance rider. A non-stop adventure and an amazing insight into a bygone era, this is one man’s view of life, from the back of a horse. Now in his mid-70s, Alwyn is a triple hall of fame winner as an inductee in the Stockman’s, Equine and Rodeo halls of fame. He is one of the oldest competitors of gruelling endurance equestrian rides in the country.
Alywn’s boyhood in outback Queensland in the 1940s was spent chasing wild horses, catching death adders and dreaming of becoming a rodeo champion. At the age of 14, I left Kokotunga, taking with him a bushman’s spirit, an uncanny natural riding ability and a determination to succeed. By 21 I was an international rodeo champion.
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
David Gilchrist – This book could encourage people to reflect on ideas of mateship and on many so called, ‘old fashioned values.’
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
David Gilchrist – I admire my sons for the tenacity and strength of character they’ve shown throughout their lives and in some difficult circumstances.
Alwyn Torenbeek – I have great admiration for bush legend R.M Williams and Aussie Clark who is the breeder of grey brahmans and for former rodeo identity the late Bill Beasley. I have them up on a pedestal. Bill for droving and horsemanship, R.M for his courage and the fact he built so much around him, and Aussie Clark for cattle breeding. All of these guys found success through their own ability.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Alwyn Torenbeek – My dream goals were all answered by the time I was 22. Right now I want to achieve two more Quilty Gold Cup belt buckles and to ride in the inter-dominion endurance ride in the USA.
David Gilchrist – To be known as an inspirational, entertaining and informative story-teller, a good father and a loving husband. To leave this world having helped raise two young men who embrace life. To write another book – there’s always another book to write.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
David Gilchrist and Alwyn Torenbeek – Live life, work hard, love someone, enjoy what you do and don’t give up.
David and Alwyn, thank you for playing.
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.