Waldo Bayley has played deck hockey with Prince Charles and lived a life he compares to that of a film script.
The author of more than 400 bush poems, three books, five albums and veteran of a few movie cameos, Mr Bayley has travelled the world but called Humpty Doo home for the past 40 years.
Now, the seventy-something is leaving the Northern Territory and heading south.
“We have decided on a sea change to good ol’ Tassie land.
“I wouldn’t say [my wife] Sue and I are lonely, but I have lost a lot of my old service mates and buried them here. It’s time for a cooler change.”
The Bayleys will be celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary in their new Tasmanian home. (ABC News: Gabrielle Lyons)
Buried behind a bushy grey beard, Mr Bayley is a man bursting with character and charm, never without a poem on the tip of his tongue.
And while many know Humpty Doo for its legendary pub, Mr Bayley leaving is like the beer lines going dry.
“All I can do is give accolades to this beautiful place called the Northern Territory,” he said with tears in his eyes.
“I have seen a lot of people come and go from Humpty Doo, it’s seriously been like a movie working there, it’s been a very special place in my life.”
The life of a bush poet
Slim Dusty and RM Williams are just some of the personalities who appear in Mr Bayley’s bush poems, but it was a redheaded politician who brought his passion for swinging rhymes to life.
“I started writing poetry on March 3, 1999,” he said.
“I had never written a poem before and failed English and geography, joined the Army when I was told to … but my first poem was about Pauline Hanson.”
Long-time barfly and bush poet Waldo Bayley is packing up for a sea change. (ABC News: Gabrielle Lyons)
Poetry kept his brain ticking, he said.
“Sue tells me sometimes she’ll send me to the workshop to grab a spanner and I’ll forget … but I can always remember my poems.”
Even on the cusp of retirement, Mr Bayley isn’t prepared to put down his pen. In a time of texting and instant messaging, he said creativity was all the more important.
“Bush poetry is a fading art in our country.
“When I was young there was no such thing as a selfie, you told your story through words, and for me it’s poetry.
“I have worked with schools here in the bush and I will do the same when I get to Tassie, because I want to entice more kids to write their stories, even if all they’ve experienced is falling off their skateboard.”
Rubbing shoulders with royalty
Mr Bayley served in the Navy, and in 1970 it provided him with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“A circular went out asking for eight naval personnel to crew the Royal Yacht Britannia for the world tour of the Antipodes — a couple thousand people applied,” he said.
“I got a call from the captain and I said, ‘Ah, go to buggery’, and threw the phone down. He called me to his office, he stood there with a very stern look on his face as he told me, ‘You, Waldo, have been selected as one of the men to crew the Royal Yacht Britannia.
“When you aren’t on royal duty, you can have a play of shuffle board and have joke, but as soon as that flag goes up and the Queen is on board, everything goes quiet.”
But this wasn’t his only brush with royalty; in fact, Mr Bayley now considers Prince Charles as a friend.
When the Prince of Wales visited Darwin in 2017, he noticed Mr Bayley’s face in the crowd.
“He came over and saw me and my wife Sue, shook our hands, and had a quick catch up on the sidewalk.
“I told him I was writing poetry, and he told me I should publish — he was pretty shocked to learn I had three books and I gave him one right there and then.
“Six weeks later we drove up to the post office; there it was with a Buckingham Palace stamp on it from Charles and his wife thanking us for a wonderful time in Darwin.”
Heading to colder pastures
With two shipping containers filled to the brim, four poodles in tow and plenty of memories being left behind, the Bayleys will depart their Humpty Doo homestead 40 years to the day since their arrival.
“The day we got the keys to walk on this property, all we had was five acres of hay, four kids, six surfboards, a kombi van and a dream,” he said.
Breeding bulls, catching barramundi and writing poems … the Humpty Doo homestead holds many memories. (ABC News: Gabrielle Lyons)
Mrs Bayley, who has knitted trauma bears for Flight Care and contributed to the arts and crafts community in Humpty Doo, said it was time for them to slow down.
“The garden is getting out of hand, [I’ve] been crafty for the past 35 years and I think it’s time for us to retire,” she said.
“People keep asking us why we are leaving, saying we can’t go … they say we are part of the Territory.”
Mr Bayley finished off our conversation with a sliver of his latest poem:
“We are both in our 70s and have decided to retire, to a cottage down in George Town with a nice warm country fire.
“Read a book, write a poem or stroll on the sand down by the sea, we will reminisce together with our dogs, Sue and me.”
Forty years of memories are being packed into a container and shipped south. (ABC News: Gabrielle Lyons)