BRUCE DUNCAN DIES
By NERIDA BLOK
LISMORE has lost one of 'nature's true gentlemen', with the passing of former MP, Bruce Duncan, at the weekend.
Mr Duncan died on Saturday morning at Greenwich Private Hospital in Sydney, aged 76, after a long battle with cancer.
He will be remembered for his unstinting commitment to his community, demonstrated through his 23-year service as the MP for Lismore, as a member of the Country Party and later as an independent.
He also showed his dedication through efforts for groups such as the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter and the region's dairy industry.
General manager for the helicopter service and a close friend for 40 years, Perry Wells, said Mr Duncan was extremely well liked and would be missed by many in the region.
"Those that were aware of Bruce have lost one of nature's true gentlemen," he said.
"He was respected in every sphere, wherever he went. More to the point, people stood in awe of his oratory capabilities."
He said Mr Duncan was a strong supporter of the helicopter service 'from day one'.
"He was more like a father figure of it," he said. "He worked magnificently behind the scenes to open doors and ensure the success of it, particularly in his role as chairman of the board."
Former Norco dairy co-operative operations manager Alan Hoskins said Mr Duncan, himself a former dairy farmer, fought hard for the dairy industry on the North Coast.
"He fought to get access into the Sydney market. And even though he didn't win this fight while he was in power he certainly fought very hard for the farmers, not just in his own constituency, but for the whole North Coast."
Mr Hoskins said Mr Duncan was a man he always looked up to.
"He was a guy whose word you trusted," he said. "He showed great amount of loyalty to this area."
Current Lismore MP Thomas George described Mr Duncan as a legend, respected and admired in every way.
"His recognition and appreciation is paramount wherever I go throughout the State," he said.
Born in Lismore in 1929 Mr Duncan attended Lismore High School and left to take over the running of his parents' dairy farm at Koonorigan.
His political career took off in 1965 when he won the seat of Lismore for the Country Party, defeating sitting member Keith Compton, then Labor Minister for Lands.
During his time with the Country Party, Mr Duncan was shadow minister for education, and later for public works and ports. He also served as a member of a wide range of par- liamentary committees.
In the lead-up to the 1984 election Mr Duncan controversially quit the Country Party when it changed its name to the National Party, concerned it was moving away from its rural base.
He stood as an independent and won comfortably.
Following his retirement from politics in 1988 his seat was split-up, with Don Page becoming his successor in the new seat of Ballina and Bill Rixon, and later Thomas George, in Lismore.
Mr Page said Mr Duncan was a popular MP.
"He was well respected and a very good orator," he said. "He left very big shoes to fill."
Mr George said although Mr Duncan retired from politics 17 years ago 'even to this day in Parliament, the respect for Bruce Duncan is still very strong and appreciated'.
Bruce Duncan is survived by his wife, Marlene, son Peter and wife Jobyna, their sons Tim and Sam, and another son Ian, and his wife Frances.
Mr George said the prayers and thoughts of the Lismore and district community were with his family. A funeral ser- vice has yet to be finalised.