THE year 1967 was a terrible one for much of southern Tasmania ravaged by devastating bushfires – but out of the ashes of the tragedy grew a remarkable group of women.
Barbara Barker, her husband Jack and four young children were living at Fern Tree on the slopes of Mount Wellington when their home burned to the ground.
Homeless, like so many others, they moved over the river to Geilston Bay.
As it happened, there was a badminton court near their new home and Barbara’s friend and nursing colleague Audrey Madden suggested that along with another friend, Jan Brundle, they start a badminton group – and the “Badminton Girls” were born.
Fifty years later the “girls” are still going strong and today have 14 members.
Barbara and Audrey are now in their 80s and Jan in her 70s, but every Wednesday morning sees them back at the court for a game... or three.
“We’re not A, B, C or even Z grade, says Barbara, who at 86 is the oldest member.
“But we are the hit and giggle brigade, and that’s how we like it.
“Don’t get me wrong, some mighty battles go on within our group, aiming to be the winner, giving it our all... but we never have tantrums or throw our racquets!”
It would definitely be a mistake to think these ladies play the game sedately – their speed, flying leaps, cross-court slices, drop shots, slashes and drive shots belie their age.
Even they admit they amaze themselves at times.
“Over the years we’ve remained quick thinkers,” Barbara said. “All in all, it’s been good for the bones and the brains and we still enjoy it.
“Apart from the physical aspect, we like the company and the camaraderie of our Wednesday mornings.
“We still knock off for an elevenses coffee break, and our trusty treasurer, Halina, sees to it that a cake arrives whenever someone has a birthday.”
In the early days the women would bring a gaggle of youngsters to their games.
“Those children now have their own children and we, of course, are their grandmothers,” Barbara said.
“There are a few of us who have reached the lofty heights of being great-grandmothers.
“I’m not one of them yet, but am living in hope!”
Barbara is looking forward to the Badminton Girls being in the news for still playing in their 90s, 100s or even 110s!
“We do have good clean air here!”