Bill Lewis (1926 – 2014)

” Written by Bill Lewis – biography and photos supplied by Andrew & Paula Lewis, Emerald.”

“My entire life was spent in the pastoral industry and revolved around being a stock and station agent for more than 30 years and a further 30 odd years owning my own properties in Central and South Western Queensland.”

My Grandfather, William Lewis had taken up 5 selections northeast of Dalby towards the Bunya Mountains in 1877, he named them “Moola” after Moola Creek.  He resided there for 51 years and raised a large family, many of his descendants still live on the Downs.  My father Arthur had the block known as “Rangemore” and we resided there farming and dairying until the whole aggregation was dispersed in 1929.  At that time, all members of the Lewis family went their separate ways.

In 1929 my family comprising Father, Mother and eight children moved to a 630-acre block at Jimbour close to the proposed school, where we rode out the depression by dairying and wheat growing.  In 1937 we sold out at Jimbour and moved to a better farm at Jandowae again close to school facilities.

My Father died in 1939 when I was 12 years old, this coincided with the commencement of World War II.  During this time, I was attending schooling at Jandowae and my family was experiencing a rough patch on the farm with my Mother raising a large family on her own in the years following my father’s death.

About this time all able-bodied men had either volunteered or been drafted into the services.  The workforce was depleted.  A fulltime position became available for a Junior with the local agency Farmer & Clarke, Jandowae.  I applied for the job and was successful.  At 15 any further schooling was put on hold as I went from being their part-timer after school of 2 years, to a fulltime employee. My agency career had begun.

It transpires that in those days Farmer & Clarke was the largest livestock agent on the Darling Downs and Jandowae hosted the largest store cattle sales in the State.

“A young Bill Lewis commencing his agency career fulltime at age 15 at Farmer & Clarke, Jandowae”

My job of course was dogsbody, my terms of employment required me to learn typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping, this was no trouble because that was all I seemed to do when not involved with the cattle sales.  I loved it.

Farmer & Clarke also operated a branch in Kingaroy which was managed by Reg Mant and Henry Bloomfield, both of whom were called up along with other members of the staff.  This resulted in Stewart Farmer his family and myself moving to Kingaroy in early 1942.

Kingaroy and the South Burnett was teeming with air force and army personnel plus hundreds of Italian prisoners of war in orange-coloured overalls drafted to the peanut industry.

It was a full-on life, and the business was expanding.  My boss was a prolific letter writer and I had to do most of his typing, particularly valuations.  Many times, we had auctions 5 days a week.  Property sales were big business. I sold my first property, right next to the Kingaroy Airforce Training base, when I was just 18. The buyer was a Russian who could hardly speak English.  I have often thought about this. I thought he might have been a spy, but I never mentioned it to anyone.

At 18 I received my call up and trained at Cowra, Bathhurst and Singleton.  When we arrived in Cowra all the talk was about the mass escape attempt.  234 Japanese were killed and 108 wounded.  4 guards were killed. It took 9 days to round them up.

“1945 Bill Lewis in the forces at Cowra”

With training completed, we could not embark for a war zone until we turned 19 years.  However, the Pacific conflict ended in August 1945.  I applied for release and returned to my job in Kingaroy rather than go over with the occupation forces to Japan.  I had spent 12 months in the army.

Life soon returned to normal in the agency business.  In 1947 at age 21, I acquired my auctioneers license and did my Valuers exams in 1949. My old firm was expanding, branch offices were opened in Biloela, Goomeri, and Murgon and saleyards built-in Goomeri and Kumbia.  Business was booming.

However, times were changing.  Larger pastoral houses were looking to expand, private agencies were acquired, and smaller brokers amalgamated.  In 1950 Primaries acquired Farmer & Clarke Jandowae.  Later Kingaroy and Biloela were acquired by Dalgety and Goomeri by Estates. Geoff Bassingthwaite, the Manager of Primaries Jandowae offered me a job @ 10 pounds per week as Stock Salesman / Auctioneer at Cunnamulla, or Cannon Hill.  I accepted Cunnamulla Branch and went out to have a look around.  I stayed 15 years.  I had joined the firm of Queensland Primary Producers Co-op Association, headed by its founder, Alan W Campbell, referred to as the “Chief”. He was a wonderful man and we got on very well.  Primaries were by far the largest wool broker in the State.

“Cunnamulla Ram Sale 1963, Bill Lewis Auctioneer”

“Charlie Keane & Bill Lewis with the Ashby Bros, Ashrose Merino Stud, S.A.”

“Fortnightly Cattle Sales at Cunnamulla, Bill Lewis Auctioneer”

Cunnamulla was one of their large sheep and cattle centres servicing the south west corner. Wool had just reached a pound a pound. I had landed slap bang in the middle of the wool boom. Livestock trading was in a frenzy, we were holding fortnightly cattle sales. Stock routes from Longreach to Bourke were jammed with sheep and cattle, mostly owned by dealers travelling for grass or sale. Mobs were usually bought from the breeder with 4 weeks to lift and were sold several times before they reached their destination or trucked. Roads were primitive, droving plants walked most stock to rail. Road transport was in its infancy.

The post war era of land balloting had begun in earnest as large pastoral leases expired. They were resumed and offered for ballot in areas sufficient to run 6000 sheep, at that time considered to be a living area. Land balloting was big business and was my responsibility, preparing and lodging thousands of applications throughout the state. To assist with the flow of paper I became a Justice of the Peace.

Upon leaving Kingaroy I had some unfinished business. I had befriended a brunette, Lynette Thun who was employed by Radio Station 4SB Kingaroy. Earlier in 1942 with the war was hotting up, Lynette and her brother John had been evacuated from Brisbane to her Uncle Phillip Swain’s property “Kemsdale” at Durong. Their parents subsequently followed also buying a mixed farm and settling in at South Durong which is how her family came, luckily for me, to the Burnett. Since arriving in Cunnamulla, I had been courting Lynette by correspondence for 2 years and decided to put an end to that.  We were married in Kingaroy and set up home in Cunnamulla. It was a cultural shock for a no-nonsense girl. However, she coped well and settled down to the busy life of being an agent’s wife and raising the first 4 of our 5 children. Glenda, Phillip, Mark and Andrew were all born in Cunnamulla with William born later in Emerald.

“Bill & Lynette Lewis married in 1952”

“Bill & Lynette enjoying married life in the 1960’s”

Times marches on: I became manager of Cunnamulla branch in 1957 (with a staff of 7). I continued in that position for another 7 years till 1964, at which stage I was appointed manager Clermont branch in Central Qld (with a staff of 14). Getting to know a new area is always a bonus in the agency business. Most of Queensland was in drought in 64/65, but Clermont had been blessed with good rains.  Most of the fats in the area found their way through the auction system.  Business was brisk.  Incidentally, that was the year it snowed around Clermont, and mostly on the Drummond Range. One particular cattle sale I recall was on 5th July, 1966.  We were in the middle of selling a large yarding, when word came through that I had won a land ballot, 13000-acre “Glendariwell” block, 30 miles SW Emerald. Another signpost.  Another change of direction.

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Golden Handshake

“Here is a measure of the respect Primaries had for Bill Lewis and a golden handshake from the Clermont Branch Managers position when he departed to his first Ballot block “Moola”. One years salary plus!

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Moola Land Ballot

“Land Ballot report for the block that would become the Lewis’s “Moola”

It was an undeveloped grazing block, two paddocks and two dams which I called “Moola”, after the old family selection north east of Dalby.  We set up camp 3 miles south of Anakie township, rail siding and school.  We became financed client of Primaries.  We developed 1200 acres if cultivation, pulled scrub, sunk 3 bores and reticulated them. Emerald was still what you might call a cattle town but a decision to build the Fairbairn Dam changed all that. About that time, we purchased another couple of adjoining blocks “Hillview” and “17 mile” totalling another 8500 acres and took son Phillip and his wife Donna into the partnership. We well remember the cattle slump of 1974 which lasted 4 years and the emergence of The Cattleman’s Union. The floor price in wool industry looked attractive at that time, fortunately for us we enjoyed good seasons and crops during this cattle slump and rode it out ok financially.

“Bill & Lynette Lewis proudly standing in front of the “Moola” house that Bill built”

“Ballot block first inspection “Moola” in 1966, L – R Andrew, Mark , Phil & Bill Lewis”

” Young Lewis kids at the “Moola” camp area 3 mile south of Anakie, waiting for lunch to come off the BBQ.”

Fourteen years from date of ballot we sold our ballot block in 1980.  I then managed Primac Barcaldine for 2 years before moving to Emerald Branch as Central Highland Property Specialist before taking over as Manager for 2 years. I had been on the lookout for a sheep block, and In 1984 we sold up our other interests at Emerald and bought “Spring Creek” at Wyandra (a former Griffith property) 100 miles NW of Cunnamulla on the Paroo River, being  100,000 acre Freehold sheep and cattle breeding country.

” Bill & Lynette Lewis 1984″

“Bill Lewis and sons at “Spring Creek” Wyandra, L – R Mark, Phil, Bill, Andrew & William”

“1986 Marshalling for a big days mustering, L – R William, Mark Andrew, Phil & Bill Lewis.”

“Bill Lewis “Spring Creek” Wyandra”

Distance and mustering soon proved difficult with available labour, so like others in that country we purchased a Cessna aeroplane and with motorbikes and two-way radios solved that problem. This proved to be a godsend for many years to come. We then embarked on a development program and over the years pulled and seeded 12000 acres of gidgee scrub with much success.

In 1989 education needs prompted us to buy another 25000-acre block “Macks Creek” on the Warrego River adjoining the Wyandra Common.  This worked well until we experienced the full force of the 1990 Charleville flood causing us huge damage. We then experienced the withdrawal of the floor price support scheme for wool and finally interest rates escalated to 22%. We put “Macks Creek” on the market and sold it in a difficult market and retreated back to the Paroo.

In 1991 we bought “Doobibla”, a fairly rough GHPL of 82000 acres on the Paroo adjoining “Spring Creek”.  This gave us plenty of room and mulga. It also provided insurance against drought, and increased our river frontage to a stretch of 23 miles. We had a good run with seasons and retained “Spring Creek” and “Doobibla” until late 2000 when we disposed of both blocks to Sinclair Hill fully stocked, walk-in walk-out and decided to retire to Toowoomba to enjoy a better climate, as well as better access to medical facilities.

” 2002 The Lewis Family Front L – R Bill, Lynette & Glenda, Back L – R William, Andrew, Phil & Mark”

“2005 Bill, Andrew & Phil Lewis at the “Moola” turnoff Anakie.”

“2005 Bill still the agent assisting son Andrew Lewis
from Andrew Lewis Livestock & Property PTY LTD,
Emerald with the sale of the “Kensington aggregation.”

Moving to a large regional town like Toowoomba is surely a cultural shock from the isolation of the Paroo and I admit that I am still dazzled by the bright lights. Lynette & I have however settled in very comfortably at Jutsum Street Middle Ridge with great neighbours and still keep busy and active while enjoying life.

In closing, I would like to say that I have always tried to pull my weight on producer bodies and have held many positions at branch and regional level for Cattleman’s Union, UGA, Agforce, Probus, Rural Fire, and Landcare bodies. The positive side is that I made many great friends along the way and gained a good insight into the pros and cons of the pastoral industry.


William (Bill) Morgan Lewis

1926 – 2014

“Written & delivered by son’s Andrew, Mark & Phil Lewis”

Andrew Lewis

Thanks Father Bill.  I’ll try not to make a mess of this, I think I’ll leave that to Mark.

William Morgan Lewis known as Bill was born in 1926 at Rangemore via MacLagen and spent his childhood growing up on the family farm Glen Eden with his Mother and Father, 6 sisters and 2 brothers.  Bill was the last remaining of 9 children.  His brothers and sisters were Joyce Loutit, Margaret Hoare, Arthur (Boysie) Lewis, Dulcie Nobbs, Olive Jurgs, Denny Lewis, then Dad, followed by Valmai Nobbs and Pam Hodge.  Dad was very fond of his sisters and brothers and later in life he made a point to speak with his sisters every Sunday.

“Lewis Siblings Left to right Arthur “Boysie” Lewis, Olive (Jurgs), Joyce (Loutit), Valmai (Nobbs),
Pam (Hodge), Dulcie (Nobbs), Margaret (Hoare) Behind – Bill Lewis
omitted Brother Denny deceased.”

As it was in those days the Family had to work very hard to make a go on the land.  Dad often told us how he had to milk the many cows by hand at the dairy along with his brothers and sisters.  Every day started early and it was his job to light the fire and make a cup of tea, this habit continued throughout his life. I remember he was always up first and rose at least an hour before daylight and cooked breakfast and then derived great pleasure in waking up his Boys, this daily pleasure could only be topped when he knew we had been out all night partying. Not only could we expect an extra early start but we would steel ourselves for a very long, hard and arduous day.

Dad’s Father died when he was just 12 years old which coincided with the commencement of World War II.  This brought great hardship for the family, so Dad left school at the young age of 15 and applied for a junior position at a local Stock and Station Agency called Farmer and Clarke Jandowae. This is where his 30 year career in the Stock and Station Agency started.  As a 15 year old his job of course was the dogs body, Gopher and this is also where he learnt to type, shorthand and book keeping. Bill stayed with Farmer and Clark for the next 3 years.  

This was a busy time with five livestock auctions in and around the South Burnett  each week, with him selling his first property at 18.  This was  the first of many of what became a lifelong passion as he became somewhat of an encyclopaedia on what, who, when, and how much for rural property sales throughout Queensland all meticulously recorded in a notebook and highlighted on his Terence Alex Pastoral Maps.

In 1944 at the age of 18 he was called up for active service and sent to Cowra near Bathurst.  Dad reckons this has to be the coldest place in Australia. He could not embark for the war zone until he turned 19, and the war ended before this, he had the option of Japanese occupation force or discharge, he chose the later and returned to his job in Kingaroy with Farmer and Clarke where he spent a further 5 years.  He had served 12 Months in the Army.  This is where I’m sure he learned those sayings he used to get us Boy’s out of bed each morning.  I know for sure he never learned them from his sisters.

In 1950 Primaries bought out Farmer and Clarke so Dad was offered and accepted a Stock Salemen’s job in Cunnamulla.  Dad being an Auctioneer and with Wool a Pound a Pound, and Livestock trading at a frenzy. I think was one of the best times in Dad’s Life. Just before he left Kingaroy to move to Cunnamulla, a very pretty woman had caught his attention. After a couple of years writing he proposed to Lynette Thun of Durong South who was working in Kingaroy Radio Station 4SB. They were married at Kingaroy in 1952 and started their life together in Cunnamulla. Lynette being a country girl soon made life long friends and was involved in the community. Soon the first 4 of 5 children arrived, Glenda, Phillip Mark and most importantly myself.  This was busy times juggling work commitments and raising a family. Dad was heavily involved in the Pony Club in Cunnamulla,this is where we all learned to ride horses which would stand us all in good stead.  I had a particularly hard time as Dad bought me a led donkey to learn on, I always used to say to him ‘this donkeys got a hard mouth’.

Mark Lewis

Time marches on – he became Cunnamulla Branch Manager in 1957 a good year my birth year, and in 1964 he was transferred to Clermont Branch as Manager.  Business was brisk and at one particular cattle sale on 5th July 1966.   He got word that he had won a land Ballot, 13000 acres Glendarriwell block 30 miles west of Emerald. I guess for him, this was another signpost, another change of direction.  The start of the next 30 odd years in the rural production side of the industry.  There was never any doubt what the new block was to be called.  It was named “Moola” after the original selection taken up by his Grandfather in 1878, 43 miles northwest of Toowoomba.

This undeveloped block was Dad’s next passion, to improve water pastures, build a home, cultivate 1200 acres and raise a family. Fortunately, Anakie primary school was only four miles from Moola, so we all could ride to school.  Again poor Andrew would get the hand me down bikes when the older kids outgrew theirs and got new bikes.  Andrew always said ‘this bike has got a bent wheel’.

Speaking of school, I’m not sure why Dad put us all through boarding school as none of us really wanted to be there and he could of saved himself a lot of money and Mum a lot of heartache.  This was evidenced by Glenda running away from St. Margaret’s, Phil getting expelled from Rocky Grammar, I was suspended a couple of times, Andrew was asked not to come back and when it was time for William to go to Rockhampton Grammar they looked up our family records and wouldn’t accept him … so he had to go to Southport.

It would be remiss of us not mentioned Bill’s Nephew John Lewis who joined him at the start, knocking “Moola” into shape. Bill had great respect and admiration for John.  The whole family worked hard beside Dad during this time at Moola.   And there’s many a story here ….over a beer. But while we boys always worked hard, Bill had this incredible knack of interfering in our life … pulling a muster or starting a new fence or some such just as we had organised a big weekend like a B & S or Rodeo or the like…and to his dying days he still seemed to manage this.  As blow me down he died the week before the Kalgoorlie Race Round, the biggest social event of the year for me …of course I was all booked up to do the Boulder Cup last Sunday, the welcome-to-race Round Cocktail Party Tuesday evening just gone, Hannans Cup (and Ladies Day) yesterday, the big Sportsman lunch tomorrow and the Grand Finale the Kalgoorlie Cup on Saturday…but with perfect timing he pulled the final stunt and running true to form put a halt to that…Bless Him!!!

But back to his story. In 1969 at the height of the biggest drought Dad had faced, a distraction, the joys of a new baby arriving.  William arrived 10 years after Andrew the last of five children.  It was also this time with only 13 head of cattle on “Moola”, that Bill went sapphire mining, to keep some income flowing and where later he took great pride in giving the best of his cut sapphires to his nieces, grand daughters and family friends for engagement rings and the likes. During his time at “Moola” two other blocks were purchased “Hillview” and “17 Mile.” But things were stirring in him as he could never forget the heady years of the wool industry’s days where wool was a pound for a pound!

Phil Lewis

On Friday night about 8.15 pm we got the news of Dad’s passing.  As I was sitting in my lounge chair thinking about Dad and out of the blue was a big clap of thunder.  And I thought well it didn’t take Dad long to get things moving.  But what followed was also unusual. Instead of getting a wild angry storm we got a nice gentle rain that fell all night. It was like the heavens kissing the dry soils.

In 1980 Bill sold “Moola” and then managed Primac Branches at Barcaldine and Emerald.  During this time he got a call from his good friend Garry Baker, that “Spring Creek” was on the market.  Bill, Lyn, Donna and myself inspected “Spring Creek” and decided to purchase it.  “Spring Creek” a 100,000 acre block on the Paroo was a bit neglected.  So again he took up the challenge. Bill had a new passion…motor bikes, aeroplane, sheep dogs, two way radios, dry gullies, rocky ridges and  broken channels all testing Bill’s endurance. I might add he tested my endurance quite a bit too!!  After a hard days work mustering and drafting sheep we would arrive home at dark just about to have a beer and Dad would wander over and announce that he had a sheep tied up about 40kms away. So of course that added another 2 hours to the day. This is where Bill developed his ‘Western Roll’ and “Spring Creek flop” technique he perfected as he was catapulted from his bike at least 3 times a day.  In his nearly 88 years he never broke a bone, however his dog didn’t know this and would always abandon the bike at every creek crossing. 

In 1989 Mark and Andrew and myself bought “Mack’s Creek” on the Warrego River. This helped with educating our children, Andrew and Paula then joined Bill and Lyn at “Spring Creek”. Unfortunately due to high interest rates and collapse of the wool floor price, the enterprise could not sustain this so Andrew and Paula returned to Emerald and resumed the agency business. Andrew often said working for Dad sent him broke!

“Macks Creek” was sold and around the same time “Doobibla” next to “Spring Creek” came on the market.  Mark and Andrew and myself bought this block and leased it to Spring Creek. It was a big rough block, but it did give Bill the scale to work with. Time marches on, Bill 74 years old and Lyn’s health deteriorating it was decided to sell up.  It sold quickly to Sinclair Hill and Bill and Lyn retired to Toowoomba.

Bill was heavily involved in Rural Producer Groups, at all branch and regional levels.  These groups being Cattlemans Union, U.G.A, Agforce and Landcare. Bill was also involved in School P&C’s. Race, and Rodeo Committees, Sports days, Bush Fire Brigades and in later years Probus.

Many good friendships were formed with his involvement in these committees and events.  Dad loved the bush but most of all he loved bush people. 

Dad’s final 4 years weren’t particularly good for him, however, he was well looked after by the staff at Salem Nursing Home and by the many friends who came to visit him.  Looking at Bill’s life you would have to say that he had a lot of skills in his tool belt that served him well. He was a cattleman, sheepman, farmer, horseman, agent, auctioneer, sapphire miner, builder, butcher and poet. 

Dad at the family reunion 4 years ago asked Mark, Andrew and myself to each learn one of his poems by heart and recite them at the reunion as Dad was losing his memory. It turned ugly for us boys as we all forgot our lines, making a complete mess of it!  Much to the delight of each brother as their sibling failed miserably in front of a large crowd. Dad stepped in and saved the day and gave a flawless rendition of a lengthy ‘How McDougall Topped the Score’.  I think he set us up! 

How McDougall Topped The Score

” Above Link – Bill showing his boys how its done!”

Bill died on the 12th September leaving behind his life long mate Lynette who was there through thick and thin, through Bills successes and failures and in sickness and in health.  We are here today to say goodbye, so Dad we leave you in God’s Care.

“Bill Lewis, Middle Ridge Toowoomba”

If you have more to add to Bill’s history please post it in the Primac Gurus Group.

final edit & published Richard Street 31/05/2021

Last Updated 04/06/2021 RSS

Posted in : Primac Gurus