(11 December 1933 – 8 August 2022)
Geoffrey ‘Geoff’ Abel was born in Herberton, North Queensland, and not long after his birth his parents moved to Townsville where his father became the Railway Station Master at Oonoonba. Geoff left school as soon as he could and tried his hand at many occupations. In 1950 he began a five year Wagon Builder apprenticeship with the Queensland Railways and his training was interrupted in 1951 when he was called upon to undertake National Service at Wacol near Brisbane. Geoff later worked in construction and proved adept at building all matter of things, including two family homes in Townsville. In 1963 he joined the Townsville Harbour Board as the Head of Works and in 1973 he and his wife, Beverley, established a pallet manufacturing business selling it in 1986 – the company continues to exist in Townsville today.
Geoff Abel was a perfectionist who always displayed a strong work ethic. He instilled in all who worked with him to take pride in their work and advocated that ‘if it was worth doing, it was worth doing properly’.
His passions included family, fishing, camping and shooting.
Geoff Abel, a quiet and reserved 22 year old left hand member of the Townsville Railway Rifle Club, won the 1956 NQRA Queens Prize with a score of 336 points beating Wally Simpson, a fellow club member, by one point.
The newspaper photograph below shows Geoff being congratulated by three times NQRA Queen’s Prize winner (1920, 1933 & 1936) Phil Matthews of Charters Towers.
Geoff also won the NQRA medal in 1955 and 1969. In 1955 he won NQRA 600 yards medal.
He was selected in the QRA team to shoot in the Commonwealth Teams Matches at Belmont in 1956. Geoff’s NQRA Queen’s win led to his selection in the 1956 Australian Rifle Team to Bisley, UK. He and his team mates sailed from Sydney on board the SS Orontes which was the oldest of the Orient Line’s fleet of five on the England-Australia run at the time.
Geoff Abel was the youngest member of that Australian Team which included renowned Australian representatives Ken Lee (New South Wales), Vic Stein (South Australia) and Percy Pavey (Victoria) who was one of the team coaches. Geoff was selected in the match day teams that contested the Empire Match (now Australia Match) and the Kolapore and the Mackinnon Teams Matches.
It is thought that Geoff Abel was the first Townsville resident to be selected in an Australian Rifle Team. Bernie Davis (member of the Townsville Marksmen Rifle Club), a junior Wagon Builder apprentice at the time, recalls Geoff’s selection had an overwhelmingly positive impact on his fellow apprentices in the Townsville Railways workshop.
On 16 August 1963, Geoff Abel (Townsville) and Perc Gartner (Allora) tied for the QRA Queen’s Prize and Geoff lost the shoot-off. Geoff redeemed himself at the same meeting defeating Jim Rush (Ipswich) in a shoot-off for the Duncan Aggregate of 600, 800 and 900 yards.
Geoff Abel grew up in Townsville and started his working life as a Queensland Railways apprentice wagon builder. He lived in the city his entire life except for the period of National Service. Despite his past experience and achievements as an accomplished target rifle shooter, winning about 20 Queens badges, Geoff retired early from the sport. His last recorded shoot was the final shoot on Townsville’s Withnall Rifle Range at Cluden on 12 December 1971. He did however find time to bring one of his grandsons to the Townsville range in the late 1990s.
Grandson, Joel Walker, recalled his grandfather loved shooting his .303 rifle so it is likely that Geoff Abel ceased long range competitive rifle shooting when the .308 calibre was introduced to the sport at the beginning of 1972.
The Townsville Marksmen Rifle Club remembers Geoff Abel, a gentleman shooter of a past era.