Maleny Tennis

Player Profiles

PLAYER PROFILE # 1:  Terry Harker by Phil Crowe


In the 1936 movie Follow the Fleet, Fred Astaire laments the sailor’s lot –

We joined the Navy to see the world
And what did we see?

We saw the sea.

We saw the Pacific and the Atlantic
But the Atlantic isn’t romantic
And the Pacific isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Terry served in the British Navy for eight years, but in his case seems to have spent almost as much time on land as he did at sea.

But let me go back to the beginning.

Terry tells me he was born some time if the first half of the 20th century at Sheffield, an industrial city in Yorkshire famous for its steel.  At the age of seventeen he joined the Royal Navy.  His initial posting was to the Royal Naval Air Station HMS Daedalus located near the small seaside town of Lee-on-Solent in the far south of England. From there he went north to Warwickshire for 18 months of training to be an airframe fitter.

And yes, Terry did see the sea.  He spent time on the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious which had the unusual distinction of having operated in both the British and U.S. navies.  As the Victorious she was involved in a number of famous actions in 1941 and 1942, including the battle of the Bismarck.  In 1943 the U.S. Navy had lost all but one of their aircraft carriers in the Pacific and they requested the loan of the Victorious.  In her new guise she was given the code name (but was not re-named) the USS Robin.  Lend Lease in reverse we might say.

After the war, the Victorious returned to the Royal Navy and underwent substantial re-building and modification – including the addition of an angled flight deck, a feature invented by Royal Navy Captain (later Rear Admiral) Dennis Cambell.  It was after these refurbishments that Terry joined the Victorious.  Things did not go well on the shake down cruise, but let’s not blame Terry for that. The plan was to sail to America to show off this modern fighting unit, but they didn’t get very far.  Firstly, a fixed wing aircraft missed the arrestor wire on landing and went into the sea.  Neither plane nor pilot was seen again despite extensive searching.  Then they lost not one but three Westland Whirlwind helicopters, and the decision was made to return to port.  To discover why the motors had failed, they hovered the aircraft a couple of meters above the ground continuously, except for refuelling, until, in Terry’s words, “they fell out of the sky”.  It turned out that the problem was with the fuel injection system of the American Sikorsky engine.

And what of Terry’s land based service?  In 1953 he was one of thousands of servicemen lining the ceremonial route for the Queen’s coronation.  He was not impressed with the accommodation in London.  They slept on the floor of tunnels dug in World War 2, which they shared with the resident rodents.  Later in his career he served for 18 months at HMS Fulmar at Lossiemouth in the far north of Scotland – so far north, the Northern Lights could be seen on winter nights.  It was very cold there, Terry said, though perhaps he used a different adjective. He also spent 6 months in Londonderry in Northern Ireland, where it rained so much Sylvia returned to her mother in England.  I did get the impression that there were occasional visits back to Northern Ireland to check that the home fires were still burning.

After leaving the Service in 1959, Terry entered the world of business.  Among his projects was to start up a new operation for Cadburys at Southampton. Soon after, Terry and Sylvia decided to emigrant to Australia – for a better climate, and for better opportunities for them and, in the years ahead, for young Karyn and Sarah.

And it proved to be a good move. Terry’s brother and sister-in-law were able to provide them with a house at Coopers Plains so they had somewhere immediately to settle. With his Cadbury’s connection from England, Terry quickly landed a job here with the firm in Brisbane. Later they established a pool supplies and maintenance business which went from strength to strength, and continues to operate today under the management of their younger daughter Sarah and her husband.

Some of the naval land bases where Terry was stationed in the UK had tennis courts and that’s where Terry began playing.
But he became much more serious about the game when they were settled in Australia.  They had a tennis court at their home so there was plenty of opportunity to practise.  This shows in his game at Maleny where he can get the ball past us, especially down the side line, before we know what’s happened.

After retirement and relocating to the Hinterland, Terry and Sylvia lived on acreage next door to daughter Karyn and her husband (and our Treasurer) Peter Cook.  Terry enjoyed the country life and looking after his Lowline cattle.  Now they live on a smaller allotment closer to town and Terry has more time for other interests including learning to play the piano. And he doesn’t have as far to drive to enjoy his tennis.