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Margaret Barton

My previous bio was very short to say the least, so thought I could do better so here goes!”

Contributed by Margaret Barton June 2022

My early childhood days growing up in the South Burnett!

I grew up on a farm in a dairying community at Brigooda in the South Burnett, our nearest town was Proston a hub of activity in it’s hey day. I went to a one teacher, one room, primary school, great memories of that. Unfortunately the school burnt down some years ago.

Brisbane bound, an early start with Fitzsimmons

After completing high school at Murgon, an uncle who then worked for Dalgety, suggested I contact Mactaggarts in Brisbane to see if they had any vacancies. After an interview with Miss Power (Mr Mactaggart’s secretary) in early 1967, I started work as an office junior at Fitzsimmons & Co, which was a subsidiary company of Mactaggarts and located in the same building at 43 Creek Street.

Mr Bill Webb was my new boss. There were five or six auctioneers/stockmen at any given time – Vic Barwick, Greg Fitzsimmons, Doug Haigh, Staff Campbell, Ted Gibson, Dennis Ferguson, Graham McIntosh, to name a few, and seven female staff – Miss Lane, Mrs Boyd, Kaye, Ralda, Barbara, Lilla and myself. Cannon Hill was our main source of work, one sale a week when I started and later two sales/week. No one told me I was going to be so busy, don’t think my feet touched the ground for the first six months. All account sales and invoices were done manually, and each client (and we had hundreds) was written to personally after the sale, thank goodness for my high school shorthand and typing. Mr Richard Fitzsimmons (a director) lent a hand each week, both at the yards and office. Lovely man, beautiful hand writing, fantastic memory, such a gentleman but never let an opportunity go past to play a trick on Miss Lane.

The travel bug, bit! New Zealand & England bound, but could always return to the job I loved!

We were having a new building constructed so had to move out to the Campbells building just down the street, not exactly sure of the date but it was just before I resigned and went to New Zealand in 1970 for a working holiday. I worked in hotels in Wellington and Te Anau waiting tables, picking apples in Nelson and hitch hiked around most of the north & south islands. Back home in 1971 and luckily for me, a job back at Fitszimmons and just in time to help move from our temporary office to our new building back at 43 Creek Street. I loved that building, think everyone did. The sweeping staircase from the ground floor was so dramatic. Travel was calling again and this time I went to London in 1972. I loved my time in London and was able to travel to more places than I had originally thought, travel was cheap then, just as well as wages weren’t too flash. I arrived back in Australia with 20 Singapore cents at the end of 1973.

A new office after the merger!

Once again, lucky to get a job at Fitzsimmons commencing March 1974 and back into the livestock department. I had to wait until flood waters receded so I could get back to Brisbane from my parents’ farm. In May 1975 Mactaggarts merged with Queensland Primary Producers to form Primac. This meant a move to the Primaries building at 99 Creek Street and of course many staff changes. I had some new work colleagues – Eric Bassingthwaighte, John (Wilko) Wilkinson, Graham Webb, Gary Pickard, Rick Stephens, Steve Alford, Tony Dunn, Anne Dowling, Margaret Davenport, Joanne Lockrey. If I’ve missed anyone, I apologise. Nora Goggins who worked for Glenn Dunn in Stud Stock, became a good friend and of course Pat Bishop (ex Mactaggarts) was in the blood stock department. Sometime later, Mr Webb suggested that I go to Cannon Hill saleyards to do my sale work as we were short on staff, so I packed up an old manual typewriter, adding machine, stationery etc and created my own space in the Primac office. My old typewriter made such a noise, one buyer used to comment that he knew I was at work as he could hear me from the car park !!. Cannon Hill installed liveweight scales. This meant increased cattle numbers so sale days were very long.

1988 saw another Head Office move!, but Cannon Hill and Ipswich were always my “weekly go to” venues.

Just before Expo commenced in April 1988, our building was sold and we purchased another and moved to 109 Melbourne Street, South Brisbane. Eric Bassingthwaighte accepted the position as manager of Ipswich branch and divided his time between Ipswich and Cannon Hill sales. Ipswich sales were busy so I was asked to help out every Wednesday on sale days.

Sadly, Vic Barwick lost his battle with cancer. He had such dedication to his work, was well respected and a wicked sense of humour. He could sniff out a cold beer at 50 paces and we certainly needed a cold beer after hot days at Ipswich sales. We worked closely over the years, he truly was a good friend.

My Tuesday’s at Cannon Hill now started at 5am. With the loss of Vic, someone else stepped in to draft the calves, the casual workers did the penning and I wrote up our booking up book. I would arrive around 4.15am, collect our paperwork and walk up a very dark lane way to the office block, always relieved to see the light on in the Elders office next to ours as I knew Lenny Pugh was already there (Lenny worked for Elders) Lenny would call out “did I want a cup of tea”, “yes please” was my reply. I’m not sure when Lenny had arrived and how long the tea had been brewing but me thinks it would have eaten the end of a tea spoon if I’d put one in my cup.

My worst nightmares were clearing sales and we had many of over the years, in particular, towards the close of Cannon Hill when developers were buying farms in the north and south coasts hinterland, Brisbane Valley and Samford/Dayboro areas close to Brisbane. Items as far as you could see, two auctions going at once and little old me doing the invoices and collecting money.

Finally in 1991 and after 60 years of operation, Cannon Hill closed, a sad day for many in particular the stockmen & women whose lives centered around the yards.

Around 1996, Primac Exports was developed, exporting a small number of angus steers to Japan. Prior to this, Elders currently had the total shipment. I showed interest but only received a very minor role. Sometime later the lady who was doing the administration for the export resigned so I asked her to show me everything as no one had been appointed to do the job. I ended up with the job and loved it. Unbeknown to me, it was a move that paid off some years later.

I also became involved in and enjoyed CALM (now Auctions Plus).

Over these years I still managed to travel, Africa being one of my favourite places in particular Botswana and Namibia.

Yet another merger, this time with Elders and my role changed yet again, but not for long!

1997 brought about the takeover by Elders. I managed to keep my job in livestock administration but over time my job description changed until it was purely administration which I wasn’t keen on but thought I’d best keep going . Then in 2008, Elders announced a large re-structure and my position became redundant. I had a choice of accepting another job in the new re-structure or taking my redundancy.

After a 41 year career with my time with Primac comes to an end

I took the latter and as one does when one has just lost one’s job, I went to Greece and Italy for four weeks with my sister !!

I tried a couple of jobs when I came back but they didn’t work out. When Bill Edwards left Primac Elders he took the export business with him, he now offered me the administration job which I gladly took and worked from home. Bill had increased his shipment numbers and by now we were exporting Wagyu F1 steers. This industry was always in the spotlight so procedures changed often, difficult to keep up with them. Dealing with the Department of Agriculture in Canberra was a bit tricky but shall always be grateful to the two Government vets in Brisbane for the help and support they gave us.

I was offered another job as a medical receptionist ‘on call’ for a group of doctors on Wickham Terrace, something I knew absolutely nothing about but I gave it a shot and loved it. Sometimes the two jobs clashed so had a few early mornings and late nights.

Bill’s son, Matthew Edwards and his wife Alice took over the live export, no changes for me except increased cattle numbers and sometime later Elders pulled out of this market, so we had the whole shipment for a while.

Finally retirement in 2015, but I still have that travel bug!

Come 2015, I decided to retire, time for some more travelling but I had some health issues in 2016 which stole a year from me. I was also still handing over parts of my export job to the new staff member. I managed a couple of overseas trips before covid struck but like many Aussies, I’ve started visiting places in our own amazing country.

Posted in : Primac Gurus