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Reflections on an industry stalwart: Barry Wood

Throughout his lengthy career in the Australian pipeline industry, Barry Wood has made an indelible impact on the industry, most notably through what is now known as The Australian Pipeliner. Barry made many great friendships within the industry, and now some of those friends have shared their reflections of working with Barry, marking the occasion of his recent retirement.

Barry was a coating inspector for Gas & Fuel Corporation when he first launched Pipeline News of Australia in 1972 – the forerunner to Pipeline, Plant & Offshore (PPO). It was in his role with Gas & Fuel where he met many of the names that would loom large in the industry over the next four decades.

Chronicling APIA and the industry

Former APIA President Jim McDonald says that he first met Barry when he became involved with APIA in 1988 or 1989.

“At that time we had a part-time secretariat of one (George Tredinnick), were pretty well broke, produced the Pipeliner in monochrome and a couple of millimetres thick, and were pretty much flying by the seat of our pants with a membership of around 80 dedicated pipeliners.”

Jim reflects that within a year or so, APIA took the first tentative steps toward re-inventing itself. One of the questions asked was “Why do we not set the Pipeliner free to see whether it can be part of a viable printing business, and how do we do it?”

Jim recalls “I believe that idea established a new and real partnership between APIA and Barry, and set him on a revised, if even riskier, career path, that became the catalyst that helped put Great Southern Press on the road to a printing industry success story, with the Pipeliner as a core publication.

“Barry has always had an understanding of the concept of “˜industry family’ and his interviews and articles are paradoxically rich in detail of the relationships that exist in the pipeline industry, as well as the individual strength of the characters he chooses to interview.”

Jim says “Barry is basically an old-fashioned reporter who has personalised industry publications in his own inimitable style. I have always looked forward to the Barry Wood interviews in the Pipeliner and those interviews tell the story of our industry in a unique way.

“I remember reading Barry’s interview with Fred Verna, a welder who had worked in pipelines since emigrating from his native Italy in 1960, and marvelling at Barry’s ability to get a real flavour of the history of pipelining in Australia through the prism of Fred’s 40-year career.

“Barry and I bump into each other at various pipeline events from time to time, and he always has a story to tell, but it is the mark of the man that he rarely talks about himself or his achievements. Through his interviews he has nominated many others aslegends of our industry: he himself is a legend. Barry Wood can look back on his life’s work with immense pride. He is a man of great integrity who has made an enormous contribution to our industry. I am privileged to be able to call him my friend as well and I wish him a great retirement.”

APIA Chief Executive Cheryl Cartwright says that the reason the pipeline industry and APIA have been so successful is because in the early years there were people like Barry Wood.

“Barry is one of those industry stalwarts with a forensic knowledge and understanding of the industry and its issues, and with a commitment to the industry and the Association that saw him take the chance with his own funds to set up The Australian Pipeliner. What a success story that has been.

“As APIA has grown, so has The Australian Pipeliner into the high-quality publication that we receive quarterly and that we are proud to call “˜our’ industry’s magazine.

“The Australian Pipeliner, under Barry’s guidance, has developed from a little newsletter into a fully-fledged glossy magazine that is the pride of the industry, with enthusiastic and talented staff expanding the business to other sectors” says Cheryl.

“This excellent magazine is Barry’s legacy to the industry and the industry is rightly proud of him.”

A publishing success

Scott Pearce, former Editor of The Australian Pipeliner, says “Barry’s love of the industry meant that he was a passionate and tireless advocate for it, and those within it trusted him with information that they wouldn’t trust with others.

“He has now immortalised much of the industry’s history through The Australian Pipeliner and in his legends and history of pipelines articles over recent years,” says Scott.

“While Barry’s act could have been considered a hard one to follow, he made it easier by always being generous with his time with GSP staff to explain how the industry worked, pass on an anecdote about a character in the industry or generally give a pep talk to members of the team.”

Chris Bland, Publisher of Great Southern Press and former Editor of the Pipeliner, says “Barry founded a business 40 years ago that is still going strong today, and I expect will be for a very long time.

“While the publishing industry continues to change around us, Barry’s business has continued to evolve and adapt while very much remaining true to the principles and vision that he started it with in 1972. Barry understood that to be in trade publishing, you have to be part of the industry that you’re covering, and that’s still as relevant today as it was then.”

Connection with the industry

Fellow pipeline legend Keith Fitzgerald says that Barry knew nearly all of the influential and notable people at all levels of the industry, and that this is part of “the magic that is Barry”, and a big part of the reason for the success of his highly valued publications.

The picture was taken approximately three years ago when Carter Johnson briefly visited Melbourne while considering whether to leave America and resettle in Australia.

“In my opinion, Carter was the most prominent of the pipeline people, and I’m sure Barry would have held a decent-sized file on this fellow. Carter is an American with a chequered history in both the United States and Australian construction industries, and a foundation member and early President of the APIA,” says Keith.

“A cute little anecdote is my recollection of the time I initially acquired a computer. Like most mature-age beginners in this art, I needed software but didn’t know just what I needed. Barry gifted me some of his software, and to this day I still use some of that software, which must be about 25-30 years old,” says Keith.

Robert (Bob) Gration believes that one of the great things that Barry did for the industry was contributing to the exhibition aspect of the APIA Conventions.

Bob remembers that at the 1993 APIA Convention at the Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast, Barry put together a collection of images and reflections of the Australian pipeline industry to celebrate the Convention’s 25th anniversary.

The collection contained images of people, pipeline construction sites and various other aspects of the industry. According to Bob, the display generated a great deal of interest from attendees of the Convention, and Bob believes that it was this, combined with the push of the then-APIA Secretary Jodie Bond, that the exhibition aspect of the APIA Convention was launched in 1996 in Darwin.

“To me, it was one of the great things that has happened for the industry, and Barry played an integral role in that,” says Bob.

Early days

A close friend of Barry’s and long-time industry colleague John Lott says that he first met Barry on a Gas & Fuel 30 inch pipeline project in Dandenong, Victoria, in the early 1970s, where he was the client inspector.

John says “While working on the Yarra Glen pipeline, I think it was Barry or his mate Tony who named a fellow inspector’s vehicle “˜the yellow submarine’ after it went underwater on a river crossing that had been removed the night before without notice.

“In the early days, Barry’s activities for his budding magazine always kept us amused as we fed him information that sometimes was not that accurate.”

Former APIA President Bruce Andrews says that when he returned to Australia in 1974, Barry was a coating inspector on the WAG Pipeline construction. Pipeline Technologists (acquired in 1990 by WorleyParsons) was the project manager. Bruce believes that it was about this time that Barry commenced an industry newsletter for any of his colleagues that might be interested, and this became the forerunner to PPO.

Bruce says “In 1998, following my election as President of APIA, we achieved a major milestone in our selection of Barry as the first recipient of the association’s premier award for “˜Outstanding Contribution’.

“[Barry] was recognised as our media and industry information guru rather than that of a technical specialist or a board or committee worker, as most of our other recipients have been.”

Peter Norman reflects that “Barry was Chief Inspector on a particular project and we used to have a BBQ every Friday. The route traversed Old Geelong Road and the Tullamarine Freeway and therefore the contractor had to excavate a tunnel under both roads. Barry had to inspect the tunnel construction, pipelaying and the special
grout backfilling.

“On Fridays, we used to call out to Barry, who was below ground, asking him what he wanted for lunch. He would write his choice on the pipe coating, e.g. “˜steak mr/mushies/toms’ aka steak medium rare, mushrooms and tomatoes.”

Peter remembers that when Barry started producing the Pipeliner, it included a foolscap size newsletter entitled Around the Spreads.

“Everyone wanted to see their names published. Barry used to have the whole family working on the publication and to make ends he used to sell Redwings pipeline boots that were very fashionable
in those days. In fact, I remember saving up enough money to finally purchase a pair. They were my pride and joy and proved I was a “˜pipeliner’,” says Peter.

Roger Woodman’s earliest recollection of Barry is when he was an inspector for Gas & Fuel, and Roger was working for McConnell Dowell on the Rosedale to Tyers Looping in 1978.

“I seem to recall we had a warm (rather than heated!) exchange about the advisability of using male fittings with BSP threads in conjunction with NPT threaded sockets.

“I used to see him a fair bit at APIA functions after he started his Australian Ike Stemmer Pipeline Gazette, and watched his progress with interest as he built The Australian Pipeliner up to its present impressive format.

“[Barry] has done a great job in charting the progress of our industry, and it is interesting to consider what would have been recorded had he not developed the magazine, and also started PPO.

Jeff Shepherd first met Barry in the 1970s when he was working for Gas & Fuel. At the time Jeff was a project manager for McConnell Dowell.

“Barry was a pipeline inspector. In those days it was a very adversarial situation; most inspectors thought it was their job to rule the roost and hinder the work. Barry was the opposite – he knew his stuff and inspected the work diligently and sensibly.

“Barry was a good inspector, he performed his job well and was affable, polite and well-liked by all.”

Tony Tschappeller worked with Barry when he was at Gas & Fuel in the early 1980s, including on the Sunbury to Deer Park Pipeline. At the time, Barry was working with Peter Rees hydro-testing on the pipeline. Another pipeline that Tony and Barry worked on together was the Bendigo to Mt Franklin Pipeline.

Tony also employed Barry’s son Andy as a Technical Assistant while working up at Moomba on the Moomba to Sydney Pipeline.

Ted Metcalfe says “When I joined the industry, Barry was already editing the Pipeliner, which at that time was just a few pages of interesting news for pipeliners. The magazine sure has come a long way under his guidance.

“I have always found Barry to be friendly and professional in his work, and I have been pleased from time to time to pass on information to him about some project I happened to be working on,” he says.

“I have also had the pleasure of working with his son Andy in the industry, and that tells me that Barry has done a fine job as a father too.”

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