‘Just a lovely gentleman’: Tributes for last police tracker
IT WAS almost 20 years ago and police were fearing the worst.
A young Coen teenage boy had been missing for five days in the midst of a wet season.
The river was up and circling helicopters had failed to find him despite hours of searching.
Enter Barry Port.
The famed local tracker and two others jumped on horses and crossed the swollen river towards where police believed the boy may be, and following his tracks they found him and brought him home.
It is one of dozens of stories officers who have served at Coen station remember of Barry, 77, who tragically passed away on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack.
Taught the art of tracking by his own father, Barry knew every corner of the Coen area in Cape York after spending his younger years working for various graziers in the region.
His death has devastated the local community, along with the wider police community who worked alongside him and witnessed his uncanny ability.
Insp Steve Kersley, who is now based on the Cassowary Coast, did two stints in Coen - first as a young constable and later as the station's sergeant.
He spoke of Barry's wit, his kindness, his love of his family and his incredible work ethic.
Barry, a Lama Lama elder, father and grandfather, only retired from his tracking role in the police in 2014, when he was 71.
He continued to live with wife Yvonne in Coen.
"He taught me a lot as a young man, about indigenous culture," Insp Kersley recalled.
"He had amazing eyesight for things that just didn't belong.
"He was a very humble man. I've got a very soft spot in my heart for Barry.
"He will be sadly missed by the community up there and the police who have worked with him over the years, and there are a few of them."
Along with his ability to track people through the tough terrain, he also helped police locate drug crops and investigate serious crimes including murders.
Insp Kersley remembered Barry leading the way through a series of bush tracks to a cannabis crop of about 3500 plants, most more than 2m tall.
Along with his role with the police, Cook Shire mayor Peter Scott remembers fondly Barry's passion for a punt at the race tracks in Laura, Cooktown and Coen, when the town used to hold meets.
"He was also just a lovely gentleman," Cr Scott said.
"I'll miss having a beer with him. I had one with him last Wednesday.
"When he did tell you a story it was fascinating, but he always downplayed it.
"He never put himself up there as being extraordinary, even though we know he was."
Barry's nephew Aaron Port works as a Police Liaison Officer in Mossman.