Vale Larry Price: one of Moree’s true characters passes away, aged 73

Larry Price was the sort of bloke that would never call a spade a shovel.

For Larry, most times a shovel simply wasn’t enough – he’d use a bloody D-9 if it meant getting his point across.

Larry could start a blue in an empty house, and he wouldn’t mind me saying that about him, either.

Simply because, I first heard Larry use that line 35 years ago – and he was talking about me when he said it.

Sadly, Larry passed away on Wednesday, just two days after his birthday – and Moree lost a true character that was rich in local knowledge, anecdotes and good humour.

He was 73.

Larry was a good mate, a good bloke and a good man – and he’s going to be missed by everyone who knew him.

And there were plenty.

The people Larry didn’t know weren’t worth knowing, and the people he did rub shoulders with – at times the wrong way – were from all walks of life and backgrounds.

Larry could one day debate State and Federal issues with a high-ranking politician – God help the pollie if he or she was of LNP persuasion – and the next day be perched at the bar at the Victoria Hotel in Moree with mates of all political persuasions trying to work out the winner of the next at Randwick.

Larry Price was one of the best race-callers on the bush circuit for many, many years. Sadly, he passed away on Wednesday, February 3, just two days after his 73rd birthday (Image Supplied).

Larry loved a beer. His loyalty was divided between the Victoria Hotel and Moree Hotel – or McElhone’s, for those old enough to remember.

Both hotels were in east Moree, and that’s what mattered most to Larry – he was loyal to the bone to that side of town.

And it was a neighbourhood loyalty that stuck hard and true.

One afternoon I strolled into the Royal Hotel on the other side of town and spotted Larry holding court in the public bar.

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“What in the hell are you doing here,” I asked.

“I’m on holidays,” he replied.

Larry could make up hilarious yarns out of simple observations; his sense of humour spilled over time and time again and his wit was sharper than Schillaci over five furlongs.

He was a train driver most of his working life, a rusted-on Labor man and staunch supporter of the little bloke.

Larry could start a crusade out of anything – and when he did, it was best advised to either join the cause or get the hell out of the way.

That’s the sort of bloke Larry was, and everyone loved him for it.

He was always there to fight the good fight and stick his neck out for the battler.

Larry was one of the best race-callers to ever cast a pair of binoculars across a racing or greyhound track.

He was a fixture at registered and picnic race meetings across the Hunter and north-west as well as meetings over the border in southern Queensland.

It was a given that Larry would find his calling – pun intended – in the racing industry.

He went to school with blokes like Bob McKechnie and Arnold Smith, so he had a walk-up start.

Years later McKechnie would strap champion two-year-old Snippets for Newcastle trainer Max Lees and Smith would train scores of winners after a successful career in the saddle.

Larry was nine years of age when ace hoop Noel Colvin lobbed into Moree in 1957 and he was immediately appointed the jockey’s race-day valet.

“As a kid I’d go to the races with Noel and look after his gear and undo his saddles while he was having a shower,” Larry once recalled.

“Win, lose or draw there was always a 10-bob note, and if he rode a winner or two there was always more.”

Bob McKechnie, whose parents Bill and Kit raced many top-class horses down through the years, recalled his early school years with Larry.

“Larry, myself and Arnold Smith all started school at East Moree Convent together . . . 1953, I think it was. We knocked about together and, if you were looking for one of us, you’d usually find all three,” Bob smiled.

“We kept pretty close right through school, and Larry started coming to the races with me and Arnold right from the start.

“He began practicing his race-calls in about 4th class behind the school sheds. Every time I went away to the races with mum and dad to places like Sydney or Newcastle, Larry would get me to bring him back a race-book.

“Larry was in primary school when he started calling races from the race-books and probably in his very early 20s when he began calling professionally,” Bob said.

From those early beginnings, Larry found his way to the broadcasting box and it’s not all that long ago that his velvet-rich voice was still being heard at tracks across the north and north-west.

Larry was still calling greyhound races at Moree coursing track last year, and was made a life member of the Moree Greyhound Racing Club in 2015.

He fought tooth and nail to help the club retain its status as a coursing club and was at the frontline when the club twice took on the bureaucrats when faced with extinction.

The club won both battles, and Larry played strategic roles both times.

Moree Greyhound Racing Club secretary Helen Ayre extended her deepest condolences to Larry‘s family and friends.

“We are deeply saddened by his passing; he was a great man,” Helen said.

In recent years, Larry travelled many miles to greyhound meetings across the district with Helen and her partner, Neil Dallison.

“Personally, I will miss our drives. Larry’s wealth of knowledge was so diverse and he was very passionate in his beliefs,” Helen said.

“The people he knew and the knowledge he had was incredible.

“Larry was Larry, and he loved everything he did,” she said.

Mayor Katrina Humphries said Moree has once again found itself mourning a true character.

“The passing of Larry makes us all sad. Larry was a source of rich sayings; he was friendly and always up for a chat.

“We were poles apart when it came to politics. Whether we agreed or not was irrelevant – we’d always walk away mates,” Cr Humphries smiled.

“Larry will be missed and so will his knowledge of local issues. His memory of people and times long gone was amazing and you could guarantee that when you walked away from a conversation with Larry, you had learned something,” she said.

Larry is survived by his daughter Renae and grandchildren, Christopher and Elouise.

His funeral details will be announced as soon as they are finalised.

Rest in peace, old friend.

Words: Bill Poulos

Image: Supplied