Halifax man narrowly misses out on Australian of the Year award

Edward Donnelly, who has been nominated for Australian of the year.
Edward Donnelly, who has been nominated for Australian of the year.

A Halifax born man who was shortlisted for the Australian of the Year is back in Calderdale.

Edward Donnelly, now known as Ted but better known during his days in Halifax as ‘Buster’, was born and raised in Halifax but has spent almost 60 years living down under.

Ted, 78, went to St Joseph’s Junior School before moving on to the Modern School at Clare Hall and then Heath Grammar School, where he attended sixth form.

After completing national service, he moved to New South Wales in Australia, where several family members lived, and began working as a polymer chemist.

After retiring, Ted, who is currently back in the UK visiting friends and family with his wife Inneen, became involved with the Men’s Shed organisation which involves groups of retired men getting together to build and repair wooden items of furniture.

“The Shed is an iconic idea - that men will go to their garden shed to spend time on their own and have their own space,” said Ted.

“But we wanted to make it more of a social thing, where groups of men can get together socially to work on projects.

“Being in that team environment gives men a chance to talk about issues they would otherwise keep bottled up, particularly health issues.”

The tag line - shoulder-to-shoulder, is what makes the Shed such a success.

“Research shows women communicate better with each other face-to-face and discuss problems they might be having, but men are bad at that. They communicate better when working on a project, at a bench or a desk, shoulder-to-shoulder.”

In 2007, Ted set up his own shed in the garage of a nearby care home. He then began looking for other groups who had done the same thing.

“I was amazed to find there were so many other Shed’s all across Australia,” he said. “It was just incredible.”

Now there are well over 700 Sheds in the association, of which Ted is chairman.

The scheme has proved so successful that the Australian government ploughed $3.3million into the association over a three year period, and Ted was nominated for Australian of the Year.

Although he didn’t win the award, he was delighted to have been nominated - and said he will never forget his Halifax roots.

“I owe a lot to Halifax, particularly the education system which served me so well,” he said. “It also taught me the value of libraries and I often think back to the Ackroyd Library in Boothtown which I used to visit when I was younger.

“We’ve got some fantastic buildings here too and it feels like the town has improved so much since I was last here six years ago. In some ways it is unrecognisable as the town I grew up in but I love coming back.”