NAPIER, Norman

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Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2012.

1937 - 2006

There are few places in Australia that conjure up images of isolation and dry dusty inland deserts as Meekatharra in Western Australia. In fact, the name Meekatharra means “place of little water” in the local Aboriginal language. Located 764 kilometres north of Perth the tyranny of distance and reliability on transport was essential to life itself. Norman Murray Napier grew up on Balfour Downs cattle station another 600 kilometres north east of Meekatharra. It was in this harsh and unforgiving landscape, in 1952, that 14 year old Norman began driving trucks for his father.

It was a job Norman took to and at the age of 16 he got what he called his “big break”. While working as an offsider for Ron Bell and driving a truck load of cattle to Meekatharra, Ron Bell took sick at the wheel. Norman had no choice but to take control and drive the truck through to the main street of Meekatharra to raise the alarm for help. The local police sergeant said,

“Come with me young fellow,"

He took the apprehensive Norman down to the police station and gave him his driving licence.

After several years of odd jobs and driving trucks for other people Norman purchased a petrol powered Thames Trader to cart livestock for Treasure Transport. This was an era when mining in the north of Western Australia was taking off in a big way and new opportunities, particularly for carriers, were plentiful. Norman decided that he would change his operation to hauling general freight and then sub-contracted to McShane Transport. The conditions were better but it was still tough going battling the bulldust or being stranded in floods for weeks at a time. Norman’s work included Perth to Wyndam for the meat works and occasionally a trip through the Tanami Desert. In 1973 Norman changed to driving interstate for companies such as Jayde Transport in Perth, Starlee Transport, and for Perth Freightlines out of their Brisbane and Melbourne depots.

Being self-sufficient was essential to survival in Norman’s early days of driving on those long and lonely trips. The isolation meant that the mateship and support of fellow truckies on the road was vital if you broke down. Many of Norman’s early trucking friendships lasted the rest of his life. He had a safe driving record and was always the first to help someone in trouble.

Norman was a proud Scania Man and owned a total of 13 of them during his working life. Despite all the challenges that truck driving threw at him, Norman had no regrets. He passed away a happy man in 2006 and well deserves his place here on the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame.