There are some people who, once introduced, cannot be forgotten. Flaxton resident Hamish Borthwick is one such person. With a blend of eloquence, honesty, grit and tenderness, Hamish shared his recent adventures involving the ‘Woodies’, hips and happy outcomes with HT’s Victoria McGuin.
By Victoria McGuin
I first met Hamish Borthwick in 2016 when I went to visit the Blackall Range Woodcrafters Guild affectionately known as the ‘Woodies’.
A long-time resident of our Hinterland, Hamish originally owned a gerbera farm in Palmwoods before moving up to Flaxton where the front of his property is adorned with homegrown fruit, flowers and vegetables for sale. However, it seems carpentry is his true calling.
Hamish showed me around the workshops in Montville where men and women hone their carpentry skills making everything from tables to children’s toys to pepper mills.
I was particularly impressed with the generous nature of those involved who often make beautiful and functional objects for community groups and charities. A particular group, ‘The ToyBoys’, craft over 1000 planes, pull-along animals and various toys each year which they donate to the Salvation Army.
A few weeks ago, Hamish was back in touch. A new project involving occupational therapy, Selangor Hospital and Hamish’s hip had come to fruition. It was time to share the story so off to Selangor I went.
After a warm welcome from this charismatic man and introductions to other Woodies and Selangor staff, I was shown an impressive display covered with jigsaws, puzzles, hand ladders, nuts and bolts and various other curious works in native wood, such as wattle, fiddlewood and quandong.
“We made these for the Occupational Therapy unit,” explains Hamish. “They are mainly for stroke victims who are learning basic cognitive functions again.”
I am shown a large vertical slab of wood with locks, light switches and taps attached, called ‘fiddle block’. “There are simple tasks that we take for granted but people recovering from strokes need to practice them. Such as turning on a switch or using a chain lock; so, I made this,” Hamish says.
The reason this important project came about was due to Hamish himself. “I was in here for five months from December to April with a bung hip that went septic. It was a long haul to recovery but I am so grateful to the staff at Selangor for helping me.”
Two other members of the Woodies had also spent time in hospital so the three of them decided to repay the hospital system for all they had done.
“The joy of doing this for them was immense for us,” Hamish states, with eyes watering.
“I also want to thank the Club for allowing me to do it, and the Council for giving us $1500 for materials.”
Hamish stands with a long, bent stick as support and acknowledges it with a smile. “This is ‘Mr Woody’,” he says. “I had it for my first hip. I went in to Kawana in an ambulance and Dawn Porter was the paramedic – she was delightful, with a love of all things wooden.
“Dawn runs a farm in Tanawha which is a hub for displaced animals, and children with challenges are often visiting. She told me she would love a wooden tractor for the kids.
“When we arrived at the hospital, she walked in declaring ‘Look what I’ve got, a real hard woody!’ which made everyone look around in surprise; and there was I with my stick. He’s been called Mr Woody since then,” Hamish laughs.
Hamish asked Dawn to send him an email with her request. He also contacted Wishlist in Kawana to ask if there was anything the Woodies could do for them.
“They said ‘yes, kids’ tables and toys would be great’. We made them 10-12 tables with four chairs each and some wooden building blocks.
“And the joy of it all is that Dawn will have her tractor by Christmas. It’s a club project now. Two metres long by one metre wide and a metre high, so the kids can climb all over it and have fun.”
I speak with Sandy Moore the CEO of Selangor and she adds, “When I met Hamish in here, we would chat about his ideas. He was always enquiring what he could do. He has a ‘can do’ attitude and his presence and character are very heartening.
“The Occupational Therapy unit here was a small part of the ward and we have been able to create some good spaces now. We can help recondition people to be the best they can, to re-join the community,” Sandy smiles, “We might even ask the Woodies for some outdoor garden beds on wheels next…”
Hamish is keen to point out that this was a team effort as he shows me the work on display.
“Max is a wizard on a scroll saw. He did the ‘Occupational Therapy’ letters and the animals. Ray did the word puzzles, Philippa painted some of the puzzles and I did some of the larger puzzles.”
There are brain teasers, “to get the brain moving” and at the front sits a sign with a message.
“While I was doing my occupational therapy in the gym, I noticed a lot of patients sit and watch so I came up with a ‘thank you’ sign to hopefully help them.”
I take a closer look.
You are the only one that can help me. I am the only one that can help you.
Thank you for listening to me.
You did not come here to sit and watch, but to do your exercises.
We love dearly what we do, and you create the enjoyment we need by getting better.
Please take heed of what we say by putting it into practice.’
An Observation by an Impatient Patient.
Hamish Borthwick went through period of pain, struggle and rehabilitation and, true to his formidable character, re-emerged with a smile, gratitude, generosity and a big dose of humour.