MILESAGO - Profiles

"The Fridge Man of Glebe" (1927-2001)

by Andrew Stephenson

Ernie Ridding, a man who devoted himself to collecting unwanted goods, repairing them and giving them to the poor and needy, has died. He was 74.

Known as the Fridge Man, Ridding lived in Glebe in a condemned building which overflowed with the fridges, computers and electrical goods on which he and a team of volunteers worked.

Ridding refused to make a cent out of anything he repaired and denounced charities which sold goods for money. "If you want to talk money, piss off," announced the hand-painted sign that hung above the rickety stairs leading to his home.

Rather than make a profit, he gave away his recycled items to anyone who asked him for one, especially to students and the needy, said Glen Harrington, a St Vincent de Paul outreach worker.

Ridding taught himself to carry out mechanical repairs. First he dabbled in radios and TVs. Fridges came later, until he almost blew his arm off re-gassing one, and he switched to computers.

"Ernie felt that waste was a terrible thing and he wanted to change the world, or at least do his little bit," said Harrington.

Ridding received a disability support pension, most of which went to help those less fortunate than himself. A health fanatic, he apparently lived on rice and apples. He was skinny and wiry, never drank or smoked, and boasted that he was the oldest virgin in Sydney. "He said the problems he'd had as a young man he didn't want to perpetuate on another generation," said Harrington.

In fact, his childhood and much of his adult life were extremely painful. An orphan, Ridding lived for many years in a series of psychiatric institutions, suffering from a form of schizophrenia. "In one of these places, in the space of three years, three psychiatrists committed suicide.

"He felt it was unsafe to be treated by people who were dying like that so he left," said Harrington.

Ridding was very religious without attending church, choosing instead to work seven days a week. He read widely and wrote his memoirs on one of the repaired computers.

"He had friends, people who would drop in on him all the time who would help him out in his quest," said Harrington.

"But he certainly marched to a different drum and I don't know any charitable worker who would put in the time that he did for nothing.

"He liked the idea of old prophets who walked without pockets and gave but never took."


By Christine Kearney

PASSERS-BY once marvelled at the assortment of refrigerators, televisions, washing machines and computers stacked outside Glebe eccentric Ernie Ridding’s home.

But the sight of the saintly man, who for the past 30 years renovated and fixed electronic goods and donated them to the needy, has gone.

Ernest Ridding, known to locals as ‘the Fridge Man’, died this month after a battle with cancer. He was 74 years old.

The founder of Ernie’s Charity Recycling in Westmoreland St, Glebe, was buried at Rookward Cemetery by Brother Dan Stafford and a small group of loved ones.

He spent his life giving to the needy. He stood by his philosophy of not smoking, drinking or making love.

Brother Dan described him as a "wonderful eccentric" and "a generous man who touched many".

Matthew Talbot Hostel outreach worker Glen Harrington said many charities would be at a loss without Ernie’s.

"We don’t know what we’ll do without him and have no idea where to send people now for their fridges and computers," said Mr Harrington. "He really wanted to do something for the community and he will certainly be missed by the poor and needy."

Ernie was a straight-talker with "a cheeky sense of humour," he said.

"He liked nothing better than to tell government departments how to run better. He moved to a different beat to most people."

Volunteer and friend John Fischer said: "He was really concerned about injustice. He saw what he did as a chance to contribute to the community."

Ernie was made an official member of the Eccentric Society and was honoured by Premier Bob Carr at Parliament house.

A long-lost sister and brother are believed to survive Ernie, who was adopted out as a child.



Corrections? More information about Ernie Ridding?
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Christine Kearney
Village Voice Leichhardt Glebe Annandale Edition
July 2001

Andrew Stephenson
Sydney Morning Herald obituary
13 August 2001


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