Local legend Barry Rothery has been recognised by his peers for more than 45 years of service to the bus industry.
Barry, who founded Rothery’s Coaches alongside wife Ros in 1977, was honoured with the Outstanding Contribution Award at the Queensland Bus Industry Council’s 2023 Industry Awards in Cairns on Saturday, 15 April.
These days, Barry and Ros have stepped back to focus on their love of travel, but Barry still drives a bus when required.
The Rotheries have many fond memories of their time with the business, which started with just two 43-seat Bedford buses in 1977
“They were very basic, with no seatbelts and no air-conditioning, but back in 1977 they were probably pretty flash,” Barry said.
These days, Rotheries has 16 buses, including 14 large 53 to 73-seat coaches and two 24-seat mini-buses.
Barry said he was “blown away” to receive the Outstanding Contribution Award following a career of “some highs and some lows”.
In the early days, Rothery’s was well known for its accommodated tours, which included trips to the theatre and cricket in Brisbane, Murray River cruises, school holiday tours to Darwin, Kakadu, Alice Springs and Uluru and even a 1991 trip around Australia.
“I used to enjoy the camping trips, as I’m not not a motel person,” Barry said.
Rothery’s first air-conditioned bus, which Barry kept to show his grandchildren, is being converted into a ‘Dignity Coach’ by the Shelter Collective to help people in needed.
“Back in the day the air-conditioner worked very well from July to August but didn’t work the rest of the year,” Barry recalled.
“The Old Girl was in service for 30 years and was still in very good condition, but had to be taken off the road because of its age as you can’t run buses more than 30 years old.”
Barry and Ros both get approached by people who travelled on Rothery’s coaches as children, including doctors, lawyers and even cricketer Jessica Jonassen.
“We’re up to the grandchildren now of the original kids that we carried,” Barry said.
The Rotheries have also supported the travel needs of people and students with disabilities across Rockhampton, working with Endeavour and the local Special Schools to transport students to various activities.
“Those special needs kids are now adults and they still claim you,” Barry said.
“People often claim me when I’m shopping and ask how the ‘Old Boy’ is doing,” Ros added.
While he and Ros plan to spend six months every year travelling, Barry said it was the children that kept him getting back behind the wheel of a Rothery’s bus.
“It’s only a very small percentage of kids that get under your skin, the bulk of them are really nice kids, particularly on the country runs, where we carried their parents and grandparents,” he said.
Ros said she would like to thank their family for their support – including daughter Karly, son Kirt and daughter-in-law Nicky. The Rotheries also want to thank the stalwarts of the bus industry for their guidance over the years,
Rothery’s became part of CDC Queensland in March last year, but Kirt and Nicky still work at the business, with Kirt running the workshop and Nicky running the office.
“CDC has no plans to change our fleet, our colours or our name. I think that’s a very big tribute to our families and our management that they are prepared to do that,” Barry said.