Chapter 25 Past and Present - A review

I think the young people of Australia have a wonderful future. Of course, they will have their problems - everyone does, for that is Nature. The animals in the wilderness that are not vigilant do not survive, and people and nations are the same. Adversity and hard work are good - and necessary - for individuals and nations; otherwise, like the animals of the wilderness, they will not survive, or even compete, in tomorrow's world.

However, as mentioned, luck often follows hard work and generally speaking, the harder a person works the luckier that person seems to become!

During 1988 I was included in the publication 'Farming the Australian Way,' a souvenir bicentenary edition, which was the personal account of how 200 top farmers around Australia excel in their chosen pursuits. Also I was given the 'Award for an outstanding contribution to Tasmanian agriculture,' previously called 'Tasmanian Farmer of the Year Award.'

However, none of these things or the fantastic progress we have made on our farms could have been attainable without the support, help and loyal dedication of my staff. They are the vital cog which enables us to succeed as we have done.

In reviewing 54 years of business and community activity from when I began farming at an early age with £25 ($50) saved up from rabbit trapping to the present time, at the age of 71 years, I take pride in the fact that during my lifetime I borrowed only £5 ($10), apart from bank finance. No person guaranteed my activities, nor was I given or left any money from any source. I have remained with the one trading bank during my lifetime, (apart from developmental loans from the Agricultural Bank), although it has now changed its name to Westpac. My gross assets have increased in excess of $1,000,000 for every £1 ($2) I started off with at the age of 17 years. Gross values of assets can be misleading. It is always the nett worth of a company or an individual that counts.

However, success has to be a journey, not a destination, or you cease to learn and be interesting.

It has been claimed that the only major difference between civilised man and others is that civilised man has been able to harness and use electricity and running water. I well remember, before we had electric power, using wood Stoves, candles and lamps. Now electric power is common place; if you go to a really expensive restaurant, to be different they turn off the electric power and use candles! We have come a complete circle, but the candles are really only now used as a decoration.

In our childhood days we also used to carry water to our home in buckets, when our tanks ran dry, which was most of the time during the summer. We then put in a ram, driven by water, as we had no electric power, nor could we use generating power for pumping water.

This lasted all of my young life, indeed until I left home to be married. It was a simple, yet effective little scheme which went 'pop-pop' as it pushed the water a considerable distance up the hill. We used it for our dairy, although we only milked ten to eighteen cows by hand at that period. We also used it for our big vegetable garden and Mum's lovely flower garden.

We did not use it for a flushing system for a septic tank, as at that time they were not in use in Tasmania.

Flush toilets and septic tanks are the ordinary toilet facilities commonly in use today if sewerage is not available. But, as mentioned, this has not always been the position. I remember the Scottsdale School had some of the first septic tanks installed in the district. I well remember when Mr. Carl Morris had the whole school lined up, explaining how the bacteria etc. purified the raw sewage. This was a tremendous advance and I really think the greatest domestic progress, from my viewpoint, achieved during my life time.

Before that, the 'Night Cart' used to operate in the day time collecting the cans of raw sewage from the school and the town, and transporting it outside the town area to be disposed of.

I was married some years before we had a septic tank. Firstly, we had to have a water supply, so we installed an electric pump on a spring of water at West Scottsdale, built a large concrete tank some two 280kilometres away and piped the water to the tank. We then distributed it around water troughs on the property for stock water, but most importantly, it gave us the water to operate a septic tank!

It was a further twenty years before Scottsdale had sewerage. But the septic tank is a wonderful on-going necessity in country areas.

I would have given anything (within my finances) to get some- one to empty the cans of sewage, as I hated the job. But I could not ask anyone to do a job I would not do myself.

Before we had a septic tank, I really dreaded hOw much food our visitors ate! When we had our septic tank installed I was very pleased to see the visitors enjoying their food.

I know many things have gone a complete circle, such as the electric light and candles. Mr. Smith studies very hard to become Dr. Smith and then studies further to again become Mr. Smith! In the U.S.A. in 1956, kids had open necked shirts. They then became executives with collar and ties, then became the big boss with an open-necked shirt!

However, I don't think we will ever go back to the sewerage can to be emptied by hand!

I consider one of the most useful things I have achieved, was being instrumental in 1955 in getting public toilet facilities installed in service stations. We cannot imagine that thirty-five years ago these public facilities were not available. It was an extremely difficult time for travellers, especially ladies as they cannot as easily go behind a tree as a man! I therefore wrote to the Premier with an excellent result.

Premier's letter

Premier's letter

Looking back over the years many interesting changes have occurred. I have seen the Australian population treble with many communication and transport changes.

The wireless was not available when I was a child, but I remember after leaving school, when Arch Grenda, from the famous bike riding family, said to Dad. Bob, I have just bought a wireless and it is wonderful. You must try to get one.

Then the silent movie picture came to Scottsdale and as a great treat we used to view them later still, black and white talkies and eventually coloured pictures arrived.

Television did not come to Australia until the 1950's. There was a rush to get the black and white programme established before the 1956 Olympic Games. Then later we had coloured television and satellite coverage.

I remember when Bert Hinkler brought the first aeroplane to Tasmania and landed on the Scottsdale football ground. The cows and calves went silly, smashing fences and gates when he flew over our place. Panic is an amazing, contagious state of mind. Now the mothers don't get a fright seeing the giant bird (plane) in the air, so the calves remain calm as well. The same applies to people, physically, economically and politically. They will panic with a new concept. After a few years they just accept it, as the cow and calf with the aeroplane; they do not even stop feeding.

When I was a youngster, if anything was impossible it would be highlighted by saying that there would be as much chance of that happening as a man going to the moon. Now it is over twenty years since the first man landed on the moon. My daughter, Helen was on a world working trip and watched the first American landing on the moon on Russian television! It won't be long before there are holidays and trips to outer space and to some planets. It will be an exciting period, but I doubt if it will surpass the advances that have occurred during my life-time.

Fact is often stranger than fiction. On a winter's day in 1989 Herb Nicholls and! (both in old clothes) were leaning against a car in King Street Scottsdale discussing various matters when we had an interesting meeting with some tourists. Herb is a terrific chap and I was in shares with him when we stopped the salt tides on the Forester River so successfully. However, Herb has had some serious accidents. One left him with one leg four inches shorter than the other, and considering he is 80 years of age, this is a problem. However, he is very keen mentally and reasonably O.K. physically.

Apparently the car we were leaning on belonged to four visiting South Australians and they politely told us they required their car. They then remarked that we old-timers might be able to tell them something about the district. Although we did look disreputable in our old clothes, Herb was not impressed with their patronage.

Herb said that he was not a cripple; he had only had an accident and pointing to me he said, My mate just paid $10 million for a farm! The South Australians were too polite to laugh outright, but they really thought these old chaps have wonderful dreams!!

Don Briggs, a Devonport farmer - poet's account of this $10 million Rushy Lagoon auction sale.

Bert Farquhar - The Auction

They sold the farm - 'Rushy Lagoon'
In the Launceston Town Hall,
Put it up by auction
Sheep, cattle, roos and all -
Sixty thousand acres
In Tasmania's far North East:
Tractors, trucks, machinery,
A yard long list at least!

The owners - Cascade Brewery
(Or their owners - I.E.L.)
Thought the money would be handy,
Thought they would like to sell
And turn the money over
In the wondrous world of shares
And double it, or lose the lot
But that is their affair.

All the heads of staff turned out
From Roberts - auctioneers
They'd come to see the action
Their biggest sale in years
Roly Gibbons - Roberts Real Estate
Watched, listened for each sound.

He'd taken buyers out to 'Rushy'
And shown them all around
There were reporters with their notebooks
Crammed with reporter's tales
And buyers from Victoria
Queensland and New South Wales.

And a sixty seven year old battler
Who owned the farm next door
He started off the bidding
In millions - six point four.
Bert Farquhar's Scottish thinking
Thought this battle's not for kids

My mind is really boggling
At quarter million bids.
But the auctioneer kept yelling
And the bids kept coming in
Till around ten million dollars
They were getting pretty thin.

Ten million and one hundred thousand.
'The bidding's stopped, I fear
And Bert might stop if we whack one in,'
Said Roberts' auctioneer
As he conferred with Cascade Brewery
(Or their owners I.E.L.)
Got the instruction that he wanted
Got the word to sell!

But he did a bit more yelling
Till the 'last and final call,'
Banged his hammer on the rostrum
A silence in the hail
And then the crowd erupted
In a cheering clapping roar
When he told them that Bert Farquhar
Had bought the farm next door!!

(Though it seems a lot of money,
He really got it cheap
There were ten thousand cattle
And thirty thousand sheep).

Don Briggs 1988

A vivid accurate knowledge of some of my early life by Don Briggs.

Bert Farquhar - Rabbit skins and potatoes.

This same Bert Farquhar
When he was just a kid
Trapped rabbits by the thousand -
Had to make a quid.

Walked the trapline in the morning
When the frost was crisp and white,
Walked it with a lantern
Skun rabbits half the night,
Bargained with skin buyers
For an hour or more to win
Maybe an extra farthing
For every rabbit skin.

By the end of young Bert's schooldays
He'd saved five and twenty pound.
Buy some seed potatoes!
Rent a patch of ground!
Two Farquhars in a partnership
His brother Ron and he
Rented land round Scottsdale
Grubbed out stone and tree.

They would plough the land with swing ploughs
With horses matched for speed
And plant in each third furrow
Phosphate and potato seed.
They used to hire two ploughmen
And they would cut and set and sow
Which is no job for slackers
You have to really go!

They'd be cutting seed potatoes
With the very sharpest knives,
Pick up the bag of super
And sow, sow, for their lives
To catch the plough and horses
As they finished out the row
Grab the set bag of potatoes
Get out in front and go!

The ploughman tried to catch them
They ran a sort of race
To plant an acre every day
You had to keep the pace!

At the end of planting season
They'd be like a match stick or a spear
Slimmed them down, these brothers planted
A hundred acres every year.

Don Briggs 1988

I do not think financial success alone is very important. It is the contribution you make to your district and State that counts.

When I began farming with my brother it was extremely hard to get started, and it is today, but now it is a lot easier to start off in business with the deregulated finances system. However, the first few thousand dollars are the hardest to save.

No time is the right time to start business, according to most authorities. It is always and should be five or ten years ago, and this has always been the case - and will be for the next hundred years. You have to make the time right for yourself and make the conditions suit your enterprise.

If bank interest is high and prices low no-one wishes to start anything, but if interest is low and prices high everyone is expanding and overdoing the production. My advice is to go against public opinion, because mostly public opinion is wrong about opportunities.

If you have financial success and yet leave your properties and businesses better than before you started, and no-one has been disadvantaged by your success, this is satisfactory. And if your staff at the time and even 50 years afterwards say it was great working together, then you can consider everything well worth while.

I would think that 90 per cent of people who have worked with me have enjoyed themselves and most of them have said they learned. a lot. And, of course, I have learned a lot from them and enjoyed their association, because everyone has his or her own unique expertise and knowledge to pass on.

There are always many difficult periods in any business. We have had our share of these problems, some of them, at the time seemed insurmountable; especially if you are a bit exhausted with the pressure of work. However, with hard work, perseverance and the help of your family and staff they can be overcome. Marg, my secretary for 26 years, not only has a pleasant disposition, but can stand up to terrific pressure. She is liked by all and is a loyal, efficient secretary helping me through good and difficult times. The staff, past and present have also always stood up to pressure and long hours very well; some of them have been with me many years. They are a terrific lot of people.

Scottsdale Council 1958

Scottsdale Council 1958
Back Row: Col. N. Boddington (Inspector), Clrs. C G. Hall, L. V Goss,
R.J.L Brough (Cl. Clerk), L.G. Hodgetts, VG. Smythe.
Front Row: CIrs. J.E. Hookway, WA. Rose (Warden), E. W Beattie, B.A. Farquhar.
Absent: Clr. EV Calder.

The development of the Takone properties, the building of three main roads - across the Arthur River, in North-Western Tasmania (called Farquhar's Road), through Barnbougle, and bridging the Forester River with Herbert Nicholls, plus the link road across the Boobyalla River to Gladstone and the East Coast, the development of Wyambi and Rushy Lagoon, with their gravitation water races, dams, bird sanctuary, shelter trees and berry bush plantings were all chal- lenging and rewarding projects for all concerned.

I have been pleased also to have played a leading role in Australia's development by writing to Henry Kaiser in the U.S.A. and inviting him to Australia; to have been selected by Sir John McEwen to plan the development of undeveloped areas in Tasmania; to have been given the opportunity todraw up vegetable contracts for Australia \during World War 2; to have been successful in commercial forestry plantations being established in Tasmania; to have played a part in the establishment of food processing (now Edgells Birds Eye) and the establishment of the Armed Forces Food Science Establishment (now known as Material Research Laboratory) at Scottsdale; to have figured in the development of Melaleuca Park by controlling salt tides, etcetera; the building and financing of the Scottsdale swimming pool in 1956 and the planning of the new Scottsdale Hospital. I am a charter member of the Scottsdale Rotary Club and the only membes left of the original investigating committee for the formation of this Club in 1963. I have been a Justice of the Peace for forty-three years. I served as a councilloron the Scottsdale Council from 1951 - 59. It has been my pleasure to have been associated with the Uniting Church and Bndport aerodrome. I still have my badge of the original Agricultural Bureau Organisation, and although still associated with the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, I do not take an active part as in the past. In June 19851 received the Medal of the Order of Australia for agriculture and community activities.

Sir James Plimsoll and Medal of the Order of Australia in 1985

The Governor, Sir James Plimsoll presenting me
with the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1985.

In conclusion I consider Australia will be better off financially by the turn of the century, because of industry modernisation carried out during the 1980's.

We have a good and varied climate over a large country, with nearly half of the world population living just north of us; ideally suited for trading purposes. Never before in history has this vast population been, on an average, so wealthy, and keen to trade with us and others. We are fortunate in having many of the natural resources required by our numerous northern neighbours.

Because of our Decade of Landcare 1990 - 2000, where for the first time we will be planting more trees than are harvested or destroyed, we have reached a turning point in Australian history.

It has been planned to plant one billion trees, 100,000,000 per year until the year 2000. The nationwide plan (Decade of Landcare) is to protect our land, air, rivers, lakes, ocean, birds, fish and animals. All political parties and the majority of public opinion favours this principle, so I am sure it will be successful.

To make a real impact on the Australian landscape during this Decade, we need men of ability and vision. We are fortunate that His Excellency, General Sir Phillip Bennett, A.C., K.B.E., D.S.O. is our State Patron. Sir Phillip is a down-to-earth, practical person who will expect results. Hopefully the Decade will ensure that we are not denuding our forests, polluting our waterways for short term capital gain. We will start to see immediately how this common sense approach is helping our country and ensuring its future.

In the meantime we can continue to enjoy the progress of our own properties during the 1990's. There is no doubt by the year 2000 these properties will be a picture and pleasure for everyone to view with pride. The trees that we have planted, the rivers and dams containing fish, the proliferation of pasture worms and dung beetles improving the soil are all things for present and future generations.

If the irrigation channels and dams are still operating in 100 years, which they should be, and the countryside is better for the work that I and my staff and family have done, we all have something to be proud of, for there will be left a living, on-going memorial to all of us.