THE BIG TIP: Noel Johnston is retiring as the official rain recorder at Clunes after 20 years.
THE BIG TIP: Noel Johnston is retiring as the official rain recorder at Clunes after 20 years. Cathy Adams

Replacement rainman needed to collect data

NOEL Johnston, Clunes' official Bureau of Meteorology rain recorder, unofficial town mayor, and absolute 'legend' (as every person in my family refers to him) is putting down the rain gauge after 20 years.

Mr Johnston and his wife Marie, aka my grandparents, are well-known among residents (they're involved in practically everything), and the people to talk to if you want to find out anything about the little town. At 85, Pa is finally giving up the rain gig, so I sat down with him to ask about his 20 years as a rainfall recorder.

What does it take to be a rainfall recorder?

"It doesn't take much - five minutes, that's all it takes," my Pa says. "They'll have to be pretty quick though - if BOM haven't found anyone in a fortnight they'll close down the station."

Why did you start this job?

I started doing this on January 10, 1994. I took it over from another Clunes resident - to keep out of trouble (he says with one of his classically cheeky winks).

What does the job involve?

You just measure the water. BOM come and set it all up with their own rain gauge. I check it every day at around 7.30am - usually ("If he remembers," my Nan quips).

Why are you giving it up?

Well, at 85, I just thought it was time. (Now I can) let someone else have a go. (Pa retired from bus driving 20 years ago, and began rain recording almost straight after.) It's time to wind down. (At this point my Nan nods and agrees profusely.)

Have there been any notable entries over the years?

A few.

In October, 1994, there was no rain recorded at all, and in July, 2007, there was just 1mm of rain. The lowest annual rainfall was in 2000 where just 921mm was recorded, while the highest annual rainfall was seen in 1999, when there was 2532mm of rain.

Have you seen any changes to the rainfall over the years?

No change. The only change is that some months are wet, some months are dry. There's no pattern, though. Dry months are shocking for the town. Red soil wants rain.

You're pretty involved in the town of Clunes. What else are you committed to?

The Clunes Hall Committee, the Progress Association, church and the Fire Brigade. I was the caretaker of the local park for 18 years, and we used to run the Carols in the Park at Christmas.

(And then there's my Pa's other two loves - playing bowls, and working on his vintage cars)

What have you learnt about rain and water in the 20 years you've been in the job?

All I know is you can drink it, and you can measure it.


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