Richard Handley

If I was a sheep, I’d be a spring ’44 drop. My early childhood was spent on my parents, Stewart and Isobel Handley’s dairy/citrus orchard farm at Murphy’s Creek, below the range from Toowoomba.

My early education was at the local one teacher school where there was generally 20 to 30 kids. A number of us rode horses to school and many a race was held after school.

My education was completed at Toowoomba Grammar where I boarded for 4 years. I was keen on sport and represented the school in cricket, rugby, and athletics teams.

Early Career 1962 – 1965

On completion of senior, my first job was as a Jackeroo at Cunnamulla. I arrived at ‘Victo’ in the wee hours of the morning on the Westlander in January 1962. ‘Victo’ was one of a number of properties owned by the Griffith family, owners of the Toowoomba Foundry, and was a fledgling Merino stud of around 100,000 acres between Cunamulla and Wyandra.

1963 was an amazing season in that district – so good in fact that even the Kangaroos were dying because of the Sandflies – but great if you were breeding sheep. ‘Victo‘ joined 29,000 ewes that year and marked 33,000 lambs – an amazing result, but a great property. At marking time I was on the knife and after the removal of all of those testicles with my teeth, ended up with lips that were not a pretty site from all of the Gidyea bur.

I then spent time at ‘Nulbear‘, another of their properties, before going to ‘Dynevor Downs‘ as overseer. The ‘Dynevor‘ aggregation was the companies biggest holding and employed around 60 staff. Early 1965 the manager left ‘Nulbear‘ and I was asked to take over the running of that enterprise. ‘Nulbear‘ had 3 outstations and employed around 20 staff. 1965 was a terribly dry year and lots of Mulga was lopped for drought stricken sheep. I lived in the “big house” with a housekeeper, cook and cowboy gardener. Sounds great, but a very lonely life for a 21 year old.

Agency Career 1966 – 2000 (34 years)

During 1965, while at ‘Nulbear‘, I had several discussions with Bill Lewis regarding a change of career. Bill ( Mr Lewis, Andrews father) was the manager of Primaries in Cunnamulla and arranged an interview will Mr Bill Hart in Brisbane. On that visit I even met the great Mr A W Campbell. I was promised a start and so I gave six months notice and finished up at ‘Nulbear‘ on Christmas Eve. Extremely glad to be done with cutting Mulga to feed starving stock even though the season had turned before I left.

Primaries Roma Branch 1966

1966 commenced work at Primaries Roma as a cadet in the old office in Macdowall Street. I was fortunate enough to have a fantastic mentor – the late Mr George Henderson, a true gentleman. John Higgins was stock salesman, Harry Siggs merchandise manager, Pat Lenihan accounts and “Cookie” on reception. Roma had three sets of saleyards at that time. All meatworks cattle were sold in Primaries yards, all store steers in the blue yards (combined agents – New Zealand Loan, Winchcombes and Elders?) with all store females in Australian Estates yards.

1966 also introduced me to my first responsible job with my new employer. All accounts were done in the branches (no computers) so in February ’66 I was sent to Blackall to convert all balances in the books from pounds shillings and pence to dollars and cents – what a task particularly in the merchandise register! Another great experience, working for Mr Tom Scanlan.

When that was completed it was back to Roma and look after the store females on sale days. All the agents in Roma got along well. Friday afternoon all would meet at Dot Burns “School of Arts” hotel for a beer. It was two Bob in – you’d throw 2 shillings on the bar and that would get you 2 five-ounce beers. That way there were no big shouts, but everyone drank together. You could stay as long as you wanted to.

Primaries Cunnamulla Branch 1966

1966 transfer to Cunnamulla as assistant stock salesman replacing Royce Connolly. Bryan Hickey was  manager, Laurie Woolett stock salesman, Brian Reardon accounts, Jack Lang merchandise and Donna Wendelin and Kay Walters office girls.

Primaries Dirranbandi Branch 1966-1970

October 1966 promoted to stock salesman Dirranbandi, taking over from Robert Brown who had gone to Dalby to help establish a branch there. Stan Webster was manager, Keith Stubletti, Allan McNaught merchandise, Alan Travers, John Wilkinson accounts and Margie Lee and Bev O’Callaghan office girls.

When I arrived in Dirranbandi Stan told me I couldn’t have my company car for a couple of weeks – there was an event coming up that tickled Stan’s fancy – he was getting my car ready for a standing quarter mile or something similar. His nickname was “Gear-lose”, and he had 3 phase power at the office for his free welding. The living quarters were very basic, a bed in one of the offices with an electric fry pan in the staff kitchen. Did graduate to boiling veges on a kero heater. Eventually a kitchen was added.

In those days ‘Cubbie’ was a fattening block for A P Company and farming, (except for ‘Booligar’ and ‘Wynella’), was unknown. Cattle sales were held monthly. Noondoo area was highly sought after sheep breeding area and known for quality wool growing.

One of my best memories of Dirranbandi were the buying trips with Charlie Wood. Charlie lived at Brewarrina and had properties at Bollon. We established a great working relationship and one year turned over 125,000 weaner sheep.

The agents there got on really well and there was a great social life. – tennis, cricket and of course the memorable balls, particularly the Orange and the Green in Bollon.

Married Barb in 1967

Richard Handley and Barbara Britton married at St Mark’s Clayfield December 1967.

Photo – Richard Handley

My wife Barb is one in a million.

Barb’s family, the Britton’s, owned the picture theatre and a grocery store in Cunnamulla.

Barb’s father Kingsley, had died when she was just seven years old, but her mother Jean, was hell bent that Barb should have a good education. She was one of the first Cunnamulla girls to go away to boarding school.

It was at Christmas in 1962 that I first met this amazing young school girl from Brisbane Grammar who was home on holidays, as an arranged blind date.

Barb completed her senior, and then two years of study and training to become a high school teacher. Her first posting was to the high school at her home town Cunnamulla, where see taught for two years.

We married in Brisbane in December 1967. We came home to Dirranbandi from our honeymoon on the old Western Mail train – stock salesmen weren’t allowed private use of company cars at that time.

Primaries Quilpie Branch 1970-1972

Fred Martin replaced Stan as manager of Primaries Dirranbandi and I did a swap with David Milford at Primaries Quilpie in 1970 where John Moody was manager.

Primaries Quilpie Office

The Quilpie Primaries office

Photo – Richard Handley

It was here that I “ became the expert loader of K wagons in the country”. This was often done on my own for reasons best left, not in print. Primaries Quilpie loaded all Kidman and A A Company cattle that had been sold by Legendary WG Reid, and all of Stanbroke cattle going to Borthwicks. The branch earnings were $2.00 a K from Stanbroke and a small “share” of commission on paddock sales. From May to November every night 43 K and 2KB were loaded with the exception of Friday, when there was two trains loaded for Monday’s kill. All trains were loaded for a 2:00 am departure to miss a Brisbane passenger train traffic. Not only did we load the cattle, we also spelled them for two days as well. I became fairly handy at moving hay bales about – all cattle were tailed to the river because they wouldn’t drink Quilpie bore water.

One Friday night had just done paperwork for the second train when the first train came back. A storm Charleville way had done some damage to the line – Very very very big night. While in Quilpie the DPI started the TB eradication programme. I had never seen bullocks as big as some that came out of the Lignum at ‘Nappa Merrie’ -from memory 14/15 a K wagon.

Quilpie Trucking Yards

Quilpie Trucking Yards

Photo – Richard Handley

Initially Australian Estates had the only saleyards in Quilpie. The bulk of the cattle at Estates sales were cattle booked in by Primaries for their clients ( Quilpie). The combined agents then built a set of yards joining the saleyards. I headed west hopeful of picking up a few company stragglers for our opening sale. Vividly remember getting as far as ‘Morney Plain‘ and running into John Eyres and John Kemp from Kidman Head Office, and on their advice doing a U turn and heading for ‘Karmona‘, down on the Cooper. They also said we could have have all the ‘Durham‘ stragglers from ‘Karmona’ for our opening sale.

Spent a couple of days there and returned to Mood with my chest out only to get a blast from him for pinching Mr Reid’s cattle. Anyhow we yarded about 20 decks of magnificent 3UU shorthorn cattle from ‘Durham Downs’ for a top auction result. A big drafting job of not much more than taking the reds off the roans!

Mood and I were known as the T & E Team in Head Office; I did the travelling while Mood did the entertaining.

Another highlight of our time in Quilpie was the birth of our first child Melissa.

Primaries/Primac Barcaldine Branch 1972-1977

1972 I took over as officer in charge at Barcaldine from Geoff Dolan. On our way, we spent the night camped on Erac Creek because of storms. We then spent about 3 months living in the Shakespeare Hotel. Barb was pregnant with our second daughter Kerrin and Melissa as a very mobile toddler. Our furniture removal van got bogged on Listowell Valley Road and broke an axle. We couldn’t stay at the only motel in town because it was owned by only opposition agent in town.

“The Barcaldine company hose that was our family home for 5 years.”

Photo – Richard Handley

Rita Mansfield was a great office girl here and was a sad day for me that I had to give her notice following cattle slump in 1975. Thank God for manual exchanges in the bush because the exchange girls always new where I was and when I’d be back in town because I’d became a one man show. ( Christmas and Easter presents a cheap payback).

“The rented Primaries office in Barcaldine”

Phoro – Richard Handley

Highlights of time in Barcy were my reestablishing regular cattle sales, the picking up of a 1000 bale plus wool clip and a reduction sale of ‘Woolthorpe‘ steers. This sale is the only time I yarded a line of one  brand quality steers that walked in on one permit and left the yards on two permits. It was a cracking sale but caused me lots of sleepless nights before hand. (I still have the personal letter from W G Reid regarding the wool clip).

Also conducted regular sales of surplus horses from all A A Company properties. Got nicely touched up at the last one. A very cunning well presented gentleman purchased two decks on a stolen letter head from another coastal agent. It’s called experience, to phone before delivery!!

It was while I was at Barcaldine the merger of the two former cooperatives Primaries and Mactaggarts occurred to form Primac.

While at Barcaldine had the pleasure of working with another champion mentor and highly regarded stockman, Ernie Harriman, manager at Aramac branch.

When you are lacking maturity you do some silly things – in Barcy I hit top shelf with stupidity. Sent an N van of absolutely choice Wethers to Cannon Hill. The vendor, as they often did say to take a killer. Unfortunately there was an over supply and the wethers price didn’t cover costs. Stupidly I told the vendor he owed me a few dollars for the one he gave me. Not impressed with my cheeky comments. No names here!!

Primac Blackall Branch 1977-1982

A very rewarding five years and a move down the road to Blackall Branch in 1977. From the outside didn’t know of the challenges that lay ahead. After a while the cattle market started to pick up and Blackall became a major selling centre with two sales a week – Wednesday and again on Friday meant plenty of time in both saleyards and trucking yards.

Primac Blackall office

Primac Blackall Office

Photo – Richard Handley

And then there was the annual  Swan Hill Santa Gertrudis bull sale!! From one year to the next you wouldn’t know if you’d have it or not or if you did have it, would it be on your own, with Estates, with Dalgety or with both. The Russell’s certainly though turned off some magnificent bullocks from ‘Dumfries‘.

Now  a chapter on Swan Hill “Bachelor”. Bachelor was not only an outstanding Santa Gertrudis bull he was an outstanding “polled” bull who was champion at Sydney Royal – no mean feat even for a horned bull in that era. Poor old Bachelor developed a prolapse and of course was retired. He was very special to Terry and Jacqui Russell and I was given the job of having his head mounted by a taxidermist. This was duly arranged with T A  Fields in Rockhampton ( confirmed in writing) and also with the taxidermist (in writing) who was to be in attendance at time of slaughter. All arranged and he’s on his way to Rockhampton in a K wagon, all on his own – again train number, wagon number all confirmed in writing on departure. Unfortunately Fields had a train load of cattle from Winton on the way to Rocky and the train drover was having problems. When the trains meet in Jericho (Blackall on a branch line) the drover seized the opportunity to give Bachelor some company and lighten some of his wagons.

The rest is history – he wasn’t separated on arrival at the works, the drover told no one, and so poor old Bachelor went through the digestor and ended up as blood and bone. A visit to the office by naturally enough, two very upset clients, followed by a writ for negligence. All forwarded to Head Office with confirmations, and to this day I’m none the wiser regarding the outcome.

Primac Blackall Managers House

Primac Blackall managers residenceour family home for 5 years

Photo – Richard Handley

During the five years in Blackall we became very involved in the rural property market. I don’t think there was a property sold that a client of ours didn’t buy or sell or both. We were one way or another involved in all transactions – every property on both sides of the highway from Blackall to Tambo was a Primac client. Property sales of note, the successful auction of ‘Springleigh’ and ‘Granby’ for F S Faulkner and Sons, and the sale ‘Northampton Downs’ (to my old boss at Toowoomba Foundry).

The easiest sale of my life occurred after the ‘Springleigh’ auction. We were in my office, with  Primac and Faulkner Directors, signing contracts when a very impatient visitor to the auction wanted to know what other properties we had for sale. Gave him a listing page to fill in and said I’d catch up with him as soon as I could. Later reading his “listing” I rang a good client and asked him if he wanted to sellout. By smoko next day a deal had been done with the only problem getting them to agree on a delivery date. Soon sorted over a cuppa.

Facebook Post 24 February 2023 – Courtesy of Richard Handley

“Those were the days, and BIG ones at that.

Leave Blackall Monday afternoon for the two day Roma Hereford Bull Sale, with Colie Hauff – venture home Wednesday evening to prepare for the “Annual Pilgrimage“ to “Memelloo” Comet on Thursday, via Alpha to pick up Bill Gleeson. Collie was a great supporter of the McCamley sale and always took a top draft of bulls back home.

Simply had to stay for the after party, then stop for a few quiet “wee drinkies” in Emerald before delivering Bill back home in Alpha.

I was always home in time to go to the Blackall Saleyards at daylight on Friday – the weekly sale day. Oh the memories – all part of the initiation”.

Photo: L to R: Colie Hauff, Glen Dunn, Keith McCamley, Richard Handley.

Primac Dalby Branch 1982-2000

1982 off to Primac’s Dalby Branch. Having spent so long in the west and central west I had made a lot of contacts in the cattle industry. Naturally I received a lot of direct calls for marketing advice and a lot of cattle followed me to Dalby saleyards. I was told by a Kidman manager that the biggest duffers were managers from other company properties. I soon discovered that the real opposition was not the other agents in town but other Primac branches wanting to get into the western clients too.

Dalby always looked after western branches and made sure they knew well in advance if their clients had been in direct contact with us.

Feedlot Services

Dalby looked after the books for a number of feedlot clients and some had problems keeping up with our settlement date criteria. At a meeting with Aronui Feedlot I suggested that maybe I could bring some western cattle in to be custom fed and that we would do the marketing. During 1983 Primac Dalby had over 5000 cattle on feed. We ran out of space and after talks with the Carey’s at Sandalwood they established a commercial feed lot there as well. From these humble beginnings Primac Feedlot services evolved.

Merchandise Expansion

As well as changes in livestock marketing, Primac Dalby also had a huge change in direction in merchandising. We did a deal with all feedlots in the area to supply all inputs. As well as animal health, sales agronomists were appointed to provide sales and advice for all broadacre crops. With increasing market share a special hazardous goods shed was constructed to handle insecticides and pesticides in bulk.

Dalby also was a major seed and fertiliser distributor.

Primac Dalby Merchadise building extension 1986

Dalby office renovated in 1986- at opening of extensions visitors included local State member of parliament Brian Littleproud, Primac CEO Don Swan, Dalby Branch Manager Richard Handley, Dalby Mayor Meg Wuth and Primac South West Regional Manager Norm Jenner

Photo – Richard Handley
Primac Dalby 1986

Dalby office renovated in 1986

Photo – Richard Handley

The next step was for a “woolbroker” to get involved in the cotton industry. We went the full hog here and this included the development of some rather large crop credit accounts. This was no easy task convincing the board of directors that “dry land farming” was very similar to “rain grown”!!

In the west we had clients – now I had to get used to consumers, cockies and conmen as well as clients. What’s your best price or what selling spot are you on Wednesday’s sale often were the questions asked? Eventually we overcame the obstacles and became a highly regarded office to do business.

Primac 25 years of service

“In 191 I celebrated 25 years continuous work for Primac (Primaries) in some illustrious company.”

Photo – Richard Handley

Elders takeover Primac in 1997

Primac for some time was regionally managed, and I was fortunate enough to work with one of the best, the late Norm Jenner. Then came the change to divisional management. Elders took control of Livestock and Wool divisions but left the Merchandise division out of the initial take over. Even though Dalby was a major livestock branch it was actually in the merchandise division. We survived as Primac Merchandise for about 18 months then came the knock on the door. Elders had the lot!

One day the Elders hierarchy arrive at the Dalby Branch for a meeting supposedly to review our budget. The meeting did not last long – they had come to deliver a message:

“We want you gone by 5.00 pm today.”

After 34 years my Primaries / Primac career was over, just like that.

New Opportunities 2000-2011

I had 12 months selling Case tractors and farm machinery as well as minimum til planting equipment and thoroughly enjoyed it. 22 new tractors in first 17 weeks made me think ‘how long have I been missing out on this’. I refused to sell used machinery. Had too many former clients and friends I couldn’t sell too ‘cause I like to sleep at night.

I had been a fully licensed Real Estate agent since 1984 so decided to give selling real estate a shot. Got into that at the right time and got involved with digital marketing. Even put in a bid to sell all the Stanbroke properties by electronic marketing. We got a good hearing but think the deals had already been done.

In 2003 went into a partnership in a Ray White franchise in Dalby. Sold my share in 2011 and retired.

Retirement 2011 – Current

Still live in Dalby and still happily married for 54 years to the same great woman. Some people have all the luck. Well, that’s me. Barb deserves a medal for the way I treated her early in our marriage, particularly in Quilpie. Long working days and nights, long evenings at The Club or pub, heavily pregnant in a house with no air conditioning and a wood stove to boot. I came home one day to see a length of firewood being fed into the firebox with the other end on chair.

But despite it all we survived.

Now have a great extended family and have enjoyed some amazing holidays both overseas and in this great country we are fortunate enough to call home.

* Last updated 06/02/2021

Posted in : Primac Gurus