“Life in the Agency Game” – a biography by Ian Bruce Lovegrove
A product of suburban Brisbane!
Born Coorparoo in Brisbane in October, 1937.
Moved to the suburb of Chelmer at age four.
Primary school at Graceville state school.
Secondary school at Brisbane Boys College to year ten. My father passed away whilst I was in year ten so it was out into the workforce, with no regrets.
A school mate from Graceville and BBC, Hugh Gresham, and I went into Dalgetys , asked for a job,
First job at 16, with Dalgetys!
The Queensland Manager at the time was, I think , Mr Dick Hudson, or maybe Mr Morrison. We were immediately employed and inducted into the mail department. Soon to be elevated to the merchandise department.
In 1956, National Service saw me drafted into the Royal Australian Navy for six months and it was mandatory for employers to re-employ staff at the completion of National Service.
So it was back to work with Dalgety in late December.
Bound for the Queensland bush
In March of 1957, I was transferred to Charleville, my first stint in the country, under the management of Jim McMurchy. It was during this time that wool was selling at a pound for a pound and wool producers were flush with money, one even bought a light aircraft, an Auster, he could not fly but bought the plane anyway. Another had a Rolls Royce and drove around the paddock picking up dead sheep to take back to the shed for shearing. It was also the time of the shearers strike. Agents used to smuggle new rate shearers out to the shearing sheds under cover of darkness, usually in the small hours of the morning and not only were the new rates considered as “ scabs “ but so were agents.
After a year in Charleville and in early 1958, I was transferred to Cunnamulla relieving while Brian Hickey was away. It was then on to Texas that same year where I worked in both stock and merchandise under the management of Brian Kirby.
In early 1959, my next transfer was to Goondiwindi, where Keith Alexander Kelso Duncan was manager. One of his favourite clients was Winks McMicking who later came to fame as part owner of the Goondiwindi Grey, “ Gunsynd”.
After a year in Goondiwindi, it was off to Talwood, about 100 klm west of Gundy. A one man branch under the umbrella of Goondiwindi. Talwood was a small town with a population of about 200, located on the Weir River, and was mostly sheep and cattle country with small patches of farming. It is now a major farming district with huge amounts of cotton being irrigated. Of all the towns I have lived in, Talwood will remain my favourite.
Then in 1963 it was off to Longreach under the management of Don Rutledge, one of nature’s true gentlemen. Dalgetys in Longreach, along with Queensland Primary Producers, had a very large clientele of sheep graziers. After the wool sales in Brisbane, the prices would come through, and in the evening, we would advise the telephone exchange, which was manually operated, as were all exchanges in those days, of the clients we wished to contact with their prices. As we finished one call, the girls on the exchange would have the next client waiting, the graziers were all connected on “Party “ lines, and it was a well known fact that there was plenty of eavesdropping with other parties listening in. In my time with Dalgetys, all the rural towns had manual exchanges.
Marriage in 1965, and back to Central Queensland
In 1964 I was transferred to Emerald where I worked with Keith Esmond. Keith drove a Nash sedan, very upmarket. I resigned in Emerald after one year to take up a position with a Veterinary chemical and pharmaceutical company, Merck, Sharp and Dohme, based in Rockhampton and Moree, NSW, selling Thibenzole and other vet products.
It was during my time in Longreach, whilst collecting some tick fever inoculant from a TAA aircraft at the Longreach airport, to treat some of Sir James Walkers Santa bulls going into clean country, that I met my future wife, Janet Noble, an air hostess. Janet was of Scottish decent but was born in the West Indies. After a two year courtship and after I had finished in Emerald, that we were married in 1965 in Brisbane.
Charter boat, what charter boat?
In 1969, in partnership with Ken Mills from Emerald, we purchased a 54 foot charter boat based in cairns and I moved to Cairns to Manage the operation.
Around Christmas in 1971, Cyclone Althea swept through Cairns and down to Townsville and that put paid to our venture into the tourist industry.
In 1972 a start with Mactaggarts
So in January 1972, in urgent need of work, I arranged a meeting with Jim Heading, Assistant Manager with Mactaggarts Primary Producers Co-op. After a brief interview with Gentleman Jim, I was ushered into the office of Doug Mactaggart, where, by the end of the day, I was not only on the payroll but was appointed Manager at Rockhampton, where I assumed duties the following week. A staff of thirteen.
During my time at Mactaggarts we saw the beef slump which raged from 1974 to 1978, forcing much angst in the cattle industry, the formation of the Cattleman’s Union, later to be absorbed into Agforce, and the amalgamation of Mactaggarts with Queensland Primary Producers Co-op to become Primac.
Tom Scanlan remained as Manager of the new company and I was transferred to Meandarra. After consultation with my wife, ( we had three young boys ),we decided not to accept the transfer and I resigned. That was in 1975.
Seed Purchasing Manager to Property Salesman
I secured a position with Yates Pasture Seeds as purchasing Manager based in Rockhampton but requiring travel to as far north as the Atherton Tablelands.
About 1978/1979, Yates closed their Rockhampton office and shed and by a chance conversation with Billy Backhouse from Savage Barker and Backhouse, in Rockhampton. I was employed as Rural Property Salesman on a retainer and commission from sales. This worked well and I had a very enjoyable time with SBB.
Back to Primac as Stud Stock Manager for Central Queensland
It was during my time with SBB, that I was approached by Chris Todd who was at that time, Manager of Primac Elders in Rockhampton, with the offer of the position of Stud Stock Manager, for central and northern Queensland .This position I accepted and I travelled widely throughout the state with Tony Speer and Gary Greer. I was based in Rockhampton. Of all the positions I have held whilst being an agent, I think this is the one I enjoyed the most.
It was after the time that Elders dropped the Primac part of the name and reduced staff, that I was appointed Pastoral Inspector with Woorabinda Pastoral Company, an aboriginal owned company with six properties in Central Queensland, totaling 105,000 acres, and Monte Christo Properties, an American owned organisation, with two properties in CQ, one of 87,000 acres on Curtis Island, and the other of 975 acres in Gracemere, and it is where I live to this day. These duties I had previously performed on a contract basis and in parallel with my duties whilst with SBB and Primac Elders, which had worked well.
A new century, presented new opportunities!
As I moved on into the 21st century , I was offered the opportunity to take up a position with Acton Land and Cattle Company where I sat on the Committee of the Paradise Lagoons for seven years, and I was also the Events Coordinator until Graeme Acton’s untimely death. He was one of the greatest men I have ever met.
In 2005,while drafting cattle in the laneway at Gracemere saleyard with Dick Graham, a private agent, I crossed paths with a beast with attitude, resulting with a broken hip, and I am sure there a many agents who would have found themselves in a similar situation.
Thanks to my experience in the agency game, I was offered a job with the Saleyards Association of Queensland as Secretary/ Treasurer and Field Officer, with the support of some twenty two member saleyards . In 2009 SAO amalgamated with Saleyard Operators of NSW to form the new organisation of The Australian Livestock Markets Association (ALMA). Alma was quickly joined by the other states and the organisation now has some eighty two members throughout the country.
I hold the position of National Field Manager and have been with the combined states for 23 years and report to a Board of nine and an Executive Officer. I still hold this position and have no plans to retire any time soon.
A recent photo of Ian Lovegrove, Australian Livestock Marketing Association, pictured with Jan and George Vinson, Primac and Primac Elders Manager at Longreach from 1977 to 2007.
“Would I do it again? You bet!“
I could write a book if I had to relate all my experiences in my life as an agent. The characters I have met in my travels. This story is just a snapshot of my life in the agency game.
I wonder where I would be now if Hugh Gresham and I had not walked into Dalgetys in 1954.
Ian Lovegrove (June 2022)