Bourke’s Country Music legend May Watkins in the studios of 2WEB. Sadly May passed away after a short illness on New Year’s Day 2020 Photo TWH
The passing of Bourke legend, 2WEB’s May Watkins, is like the sun deciding not to rise.
How can it be that Aunty May is not sitting behind the reception desk at 2WEB as she has for the past several decades? How can it be that callers to the station don’t hear that plain-speaking voice at the end of the line: “2WEB and The Western Herald, this is May, how can I help you?” or her Saturday afternoon cheerios from the 2WEB studios as she presents the latest of her program “Country Beat”?
Outback Radio 2WEB will continue without May, but it will never be the same.
Known as ‘Aunty May’ or ‘Mother May’ to everyone who passed through the doors, May was a fixture at the local radio station when it began broadcasting out of the cleaner’s storage room at Bourke High School more than 40 years ago.
When the station moved to its current premises in Oxley Street, so did May.
Effie Eileen Mavis Watkins was born at Rockhampton in 1935, the eldest of nine children. Her siblings say that May had a tough life growing up, but that the trials of those days stood May in good stead for a life living in the Australian outback.
May teamed up with railway fettler Cliff Watkins and after several jobs around northern New South Wales, the family moved to Byrock in 1962.
May never complained about the struggles she faced, but she had more than her fair share. She was certainly one tough lady, living at to Byrock from 1962 to 1966, when the family moved to Bourke.
These were the days when railway fettlers lived in siding shacks or tents, and when the roads were all unsealed, air-conditioning non-existent and the luxuries of daily life were few and far between.
The Watkins family immediately family moved into 18 Harris Street, Bourke – part of a new Housing Commission area on the northeast side of Bourke up against the town levee bank.
2WEB Manager Wayne Harrison said that May lived a very rich life in the Bourke community.
“She embraced people, was a faithful friend and remained in contact with as many as she could,” Wayne said.
“May adopted many children including Jenny Buster, Diane Tyson, Lyiata Ballangarry, Wayne & Jan Harrison, and the list goes on.
“She loved her community and the community responded in kind!
“May had a genuine faith and love of the Lord Jesus Christ, she became part of the Bourke Christian Church building wonderful lifelong friendships with Jack and Harriett Buster, Owen and Esther Boone, Laurie and Elvira McIntosh and Paul and Robyn Roe, and Granny Mac.
“Cornerstone Community became part of the fabric the Bourke community for many decades, and May embraced the young students who came from throughout Australia and overseas.
“She was Mum or Aunty May to all who knew her and she offered hospitality to all. This is reflected in the myriad of emails, Facebook posts, phone calls and letters expressing regret at May’s passing,” Wayne said.
Read more in the printed edition of the Western Herald.