IN ACTION: Gympie's champion wood chop legend Vic Summers.
IN ACTION: Gympie's champion wood chop legend Vic Summers.

How Gympie legend Vic Summers rose through the ranks

WOODCHOPPING: Arguably one of Gympie's greatest athletes, the late Vic Summers, features in expert storyteller and bestselling Australia author Graham Seal's new book Great Bush Stories.

The chapter 'The Blades that Felled the Bush' tells of Summers' life and how the woodchop began.

In the days before power tools, the bush was cleared by hand.

English axes were soon found to be ineffective against many Australian timbers, especially the hardwoods.

 

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Axes with longer and narrower blades were favoured and these began to appear in Australia around the middle of the 19th century, imported from America.

Local axes of similar design also began to appear around this time.

By the end of the 1800s, Tasmanian axemen armed with tools of this kind were renowned for making cuts as clean as any machine. As well as being experts with these single-bladed axes, they were also famed for their skills with the double-bladed broad axe.

In 2012, Summers stumped up to the Gympie Show woodchop event and lined up with the rest of the axemen. He was 93 years old.

He began cutting timber at the age of 14, ring-barking up to 1700 trees a day.

 

NO RETIREMENT: 93 year old Vic Summers is back woodchopping after retiring at least five times.
NO RETIREMENT: 93 year old Vic Summers is back woodchopping after retiring at least five times. Craig Warhurst

With his father and two brothers, Summers lived mainly on damper and corned beef and was paid one shilling a day for his labour.

His skills with an axe made him a champion from 1947-1961 at the Coffs Harbour Show and many other gatherings.

Summers once won a competition after dropping his standing board from the top of the tree. He climbed down, retrieved the board and continued cutting his way down the tree to victory.

Even after retiring from competitive chopping five times, Summer couldn't keep away from the sport. He came last in the scoring at Gympie in 2012, but that wasn't the point.

Summers died in 2015 at the age 96, but not before he'd taken up what he said was an easier wood sport, sawing.

The same Gympie Show also saw another veteran woodsman in competition. Ian McGinniss travelled from Tasmania and although, at 82, he was only a youngster compared with Summers, he came third in his event.