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News & Media

  • Queen's Birthday Honours for Eden's 'salty seadog' Nev Cowgill
  • June 10, 2015

EDEN volunteer Nev Cowgill has been announced a recipient of one of Australia’s most prestigious awards - the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

And no-one was more surprised than Mr Cowgill himself.

“Really?” he said, when first called by Fairfax Regional Media.

“I had no idea!”

The approved awards were announced in The Queen’s Birthday 2015 Honours List, by the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove.

Mr Cowgill was one of 519 recipients of the Order of Australia (general division) this year, recognising “contribution and service to fellow citizens in Australia and internationally”.

Mr Cowgill was nominated for the OAM by a local individual or community group, which remains anonymous.

“I’ve no idea who dobbed me in,” Mr Cowgill said with a laugh.

“I just got a letter in the post a couple of months ago, with a list of my services that I had to check and sign, and I hadn’t heard anything further.”

Mr Cowgill’s “list of services” is larger than the average encyclopaedia, with an employment history of 20 men, not one.

“He’s good at everything he turns his hand to, and gifted in so many things,” Mr Cowgill’s wife of 52 years, Helen, said proudly.

“He’s a very giving person, and thrives on hard work.

“Our children think he takes on too much.

“But if you asked him to drop one or two activities he’d find it impossible.

“He loves it all.”

Formerly an aircraft carrier engineer for the Navy, Mr Cowgill moved to Eden from Queensland in 1969, and got life rolling here - literally - by purchasing a school bus, running a petrol station, and pioneering the coach industry.

“Artie Edwards, the only other guy in the game, said ‘fill your boots Cowgill, you’ll be broke before you know it’,” Mr Cowgill recalled.

“Within 12 months there were four coaches operating on the coast, and we were working flat-out.”

Described by Mrs Cowgill as a ‘salty seadog’, Mr Cowgill then switched focus to the big blue, undertaking his Master 5, and working in Eden harbour in various water-based jobs including driving tugs, towing barges and servicing oil rigs.

As well as full-time employment, Mr Cowgill always found time for community work, including ambulance driving, helping establish the Twofold Bay Yacht Club, volunteering for Eden Marine Rescue and coastal patrol, acting as president for P&C committees, and travelling the world representing Scouts Australia and the Eden Sea Scouts, which he has been dedicated to for 46 years.

“He retired when he was 65...or so he reckoned,” Mrs Cowgill said.

“That lasted less than a week!”

“Yes, I’m still involved with a few things,” Mr Cowgill agreed.

“Let’s see...that would be the SES...South Coast amateur radio...Eden Service & Social Club Inc...the RSL...the yacht club...and the Foreshore Committee.

That’s it...I think.”

Not surprisingly, Mr Cowgill has been awarded his OAM “for service to the community of Eden, and to youth”, but is very humble about his contribution.

“I just enjoy helping people. I don’t expect any reward.” Mr Cowgill said.

“I simply believe that small towns run best through the efforts of volunteers.

“We can’t wait for governments to make our towns better.

“It’s up to each of us, lending a hand, and enjoying the results.”

A nation-wide information embargo - directed by the Queen’s office - was placed on any public announcement of the awards list until last Monday, June 8.

Coincidentally, June 8 was also Mr Cowgill’s 77th birthday, so there was a double celebration when Mr Cowgill was finally able to call his four children and share the news.

From the Queen down to the youngest scout in the Eden community, the Governor-General’s words speak for everyone as the nation applauds our normally shy local hero.

“Today’s recipients now join the company of more than 40,000 women and men whose actions have enriched our community and whose values we hold dear – professionalism, compassion, dedication, generosity, tolerance, and energetic ambition,” the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, said in an official statement.

“To all recipients, I offer my warmest congratulations and express my sincere gratitude for your contribution to our nation.”

Source:  Bega District News

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