Gumbaynggirr elder Uncle Tom Kelly is turning 87.
Gumbaynggirr elder Uncle Tom Kelly is turning 87. Bruce Thomas

Uncle Tom is celebrating 87

THOUGHT to be the oldest indigenous man on this part of the coast, Uncle Tom Kelly is turning 87, an occasion which Bellingen Shire residents are celebrating today.

The well-known elder, who was born at Corindi into a family of 16 (he was born in the middle), grew up on land at Urunga’s South Arm and says he can remember when Urunga was only five houses with yoked bullocks in the main street.

He also recalls, as a child, having an insatiable appetite for raw eggs, which one day led him to suck 18 eggs in the lead up to Christmas – it earned him a hiding he has never forgotten.

“They used to call me Sambo Suck Eggs,” Uncle Tom chuckled.

“I used to watch the hens and grab the eggs when they were laid – now the look of a raw egg makes me sick.”

Well and truly bucking the trends of indigenous male mortality (usually hovering between 57 and 65) Uncle Tom puts his longevity down to the fact he’s never smoked and he had a healthy diet of bush tucker as a kid.

“We lived on kangaroo, crabs and a lot of fish. I love fishing and often used to do it all night. I haven’t been able to fish for the past three years.”

Today Uncle Tom will be honoured with a bush-tucker barbecue in Maam Gaduying Meeting Place Park in the centre of Bellingen, from 10.30am.



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