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Third memorial ride held

If the late Peter Coote had been looking down over his small hometown on the weekend of May 28 and 29, he would have felt a pang of gratification as 15 motorbike riders from Newcastle and Tareethrough to Brisbane and Gympie participated in the third annual Peter Coote Memorial Ride around Manilla.

Brisbane’s Darryl (Daggy) Spindler organised the ride five years ago, but Covid played havoc with two of the scheduled rides. Darryl met Peter and his late wife Marcia when the couple and their family spent some years living in Brisbane before moving back home to a more suitable Tamworth climate after Marcia had developed Multiple sclerosis (MS).

“Pete started a bike riding group on Facebook (Aussie Backroad Riders)in 2015,then when he passed away, his family asked if we could keep it going. Now on his anniversary every year, whoever can make it, meets up at the Royal – Pete always drank there. Also instrumental in the organisation of the ride every year is Babs Cook and her partner Paul Kay. They were very close friends of Pete and Marcia’s and play a big part in celebrating their lives each year,” Darryl said.

Saturday’s program included a trek along dirt roads and through scrub around Manilla, meals and accommodation at Tom and Vickii Cocking’s Royal Hotel and plenty of sitting around reminiscing over stories of Pete. Then on Sunday, the group converges on Manilla Cemetery to pay their respects to Peter and Marcia by way of “Scotch and cake”.

“Pete loved good Scotch and cake. We have a pastry cook in the group so each year we have a Scotch and cake toast to him and Marcia. We get a lot of stories out of the rides – everyone has a story on Pete. He was accepting of everybody, he could speak to the Prime Minister or the homeless person in the street – he gave them both the same respect.

“It was great to catch up with everyone on the weekend. Some of them we don’t see for a couple of years, those who can make it just turn up. They’re a great bunch, we get a laugh, tell a story or two – everyone has a Pete story. And you don’t have to be a group member to participate in the rides. They’re open to everyone – that’s the spirit of Pete’s group.”

Another longtime mate of Pete and Marcia is Tamworth’s Geoff O’Neill (former Northern Daily Leader photographer) who looks forward to the ride every year.

“Pete was a cricketing umpire, and I was on the field taking photos for The Leader one day. Pete came strutting across and I thought, look out, I’m in trouble here. But he came up and shook my hand, introduced himself and asked if I’d take a photo of him and the other umpire and send it to him. I did, we got talking motorbikes, and the rest is history,” Geoff said.

“I remember at his funeral, because of the reserve area in front of my house (in Tamworth), I suggested to those travelling that we meet there and all go out to Manilla together. I expected half a dozen riders – 40 turned up.

“We’re just a mob of old grey-haired bikers, all with the same interests. We have great catch-ups each year – a good ride, plenty of reminiscing, a visit to the graveside and a toast of Scotch and cake with Pete and Marcia, then disperse and go our separate ways. Next year we’ll do it all again.”

Geoff described Peter Coote as a “top bloke who would do anything for anyone”. He said that an indication of his popularity was the distance people travelled to participate – “even one rider was coming from Victoria but had to pull out at the last minute”.

By Vinnie Todd