Sir Graham McCamley by the river on Tartrus where he used to catch barramundi and enjoy family barbecues.
Sir Graham McCamley by the river on Tartrus where he used to catch barramundi and enjoy family barbecues.

Sir Graham McCamley bids family property Tartrus farewell

LADY Shirley McCamley's presence can be felt as soon as you step into the homestead at Tartrus, 50km west of Marlborough.

From the family photos taking pride of place and immaculately kept household to the warm, country hospitality, even those never lucky enough to meet her know her memory has not faded from those she held closest.

The house where she and husband Sir Graham McCamley, 80, raised their three children and grew one of the most successful cattle businesses in Australia is now filled with the giggles and playful antics of their great-grandchildren Tally, 5, and Hara, 2, who live there with their mother Felicity McCamley.

For this reason you know that the decision to sell Tartrus, along with his other properties, is not one Sir Graham takes too lightly.

The property is full of memories for the family and their love for the land is alive and well four generations on from the patriarch.

"(The house) is beautiful now. It's like back to the old days with kids' things everywhere," Sir Graham says.

"Whoever buys it, I hope it's people who appreciate it."

Felicity's love for the bush is obvious and, despite saying goodbye to her home, she is excited to be taking on Royles, her father Russell's property.

Sir Graham McCamley has always loved the river running through his property, Tartrus, and says it has helped in his success. His granddaughter Felicity lives on the property with her two daughters Hara, 2 and Tally, 5 but will say goodbye to the family home when Sir Graham sells all his properties at auction in Rockhampton on June 5. Photo Kathleen Calderwood / The Morning Bulletin
Sir Graham McCamley has always loved the river running through his property, Tartrus, and says it has helped in his success. His granddaughter Felicity lives on the property with her two daughters Hara, 2 and Tally, 5 but will say goodbye to the family home when Sir Graham sells all his properties at auction in Rockhampton on June 5. Photo Kathleen Calderwood / The Morning Bulletin Kathleen Calderwood

"It's a wonderful way to raise children," Sir Graham says, detailing Tally's affinity with cattle.

 

Felicity jokes about a heifer lifting Tally straight off the ground when she was a toddler, only held on by the string of her hat.

"Shirley nearly had a fit," Sir Graham says.

There has been no shortage of women passionate about the land in the McCamley family, starting with Lady McCamley who spent her young childhood on a property in Clermont.

Now Felicity is following her lead, favouring pregnancy testing and AI.

Sir Graham and Lady McCamley were leaders in the industry, using the only computer in Queensland at the University of Queensland for their breeding programs in the '70s. They were also instrumental during the beef depression and in the Cattlemen's Union, of which Sir Graham was the first president.

The two were a team, Felicity says.

"We had a little message," Sir Graham says.

"I could touch her hand when I couldn't remember someone's name and she could find out their name without offending anyone.

"She had that manner about her from the day we got married."

He has always been known for his love for flying and is without doubt Australia's oldest helicopter pilot.

He learnt to fly choppers 32 years ago but has had his light-wing licence since 1960, with over 18,000 hours of flying time under his belt.

When his first daughter Jennifer was due, he took Lady McCamley to the hospital three weeks early and returned to the property. But she was born only two days later and Sir Graham was rained in.

"I decided then I better learn to fly," he says.

"I brought (my son) Russell home in the plane."

A fourth-generation producer himself, Sir Graham grew up in Dululu and his attention was first brought to Tartrus when his father purchased Kaiuroo in 1932.

"I bought it because I loved the river," he said.

It is this river, just below the junction of the McKenzie and the Isaac rivers, to which he says he owes a lot of his success.

Sir Graham still holds the Australian all-time record for the largest grain harvest of three tonnes to the acre.

"People could never believe we grew that with no fertiliser," he says.

"It was fertilised by the river."

Sir Graham has decided to sell Tartrus and Royles Lot 2, a year short of having spent 60 years on the family property, as well as the entire Glenprairie aggregation, which he has only owned since 2005 but coveted for over 50 years.

He attempted to buy it twice and was third time lucky, purchasing the property before auction - a record sale for Westpac at the time.

"The owner then was fanatical about organics so that was a big attraction," Sir Graham says.

All the properties are organic and he says Glenprairie has been the most productive property he's ever owned.

"Glenprairie's a wonderful place. It's got a 40-inch rainfall and you're able to run organic cattle on it," he says.

"It's watered from heaven."

The property is bordered by the ocean and Herbert Creek and has a major erosion control bank and plenty of natural lagoons.

"We don't have to fertilise and we get one lot of rain, a four-inch storm, and we've got feed for the next six months," Sir Graham says.

"We can supply every week of the year, organic cattle - the Glenprairie road never closes.

"The organic cattle are the strongest they've been in years and with inquiries increasing, there's no problems whatsoever."

Sir Graham is passionate about organics - he and Lady McCamley lived on organic produce and he remembers fondly living on beautiful barramundi he caught fresh from the river on Tartrus, before having a barbecue and lighting a fire on its banks.

He is determined to sell the properties, letting the market dictate the prices at the auction on June 5.

And despite how hard it will be to say goodbye to the property where he and Lady McCamley made all their memories, he knows he is making the right decision.

"Shirley and I started with nothing and if I end up with nothing it doesn't bother me."

Sale properties

Tartrus: 31,394 acres

Royles Lot 2: 6130 acres

Glenprairie: 66,501 acres

Oakleigh: 18,476 acres

Stoodleigh: 15,254 acres

Tanderra: 13,890 acres

Sir Graham signed a contract for Tartrus and Royles Lot 2 late Wednesday afternoon. The properties have been purchased by Andrew and Gillian McNicol and Family from Collinsville, North Queensland.

4pm Thursday: CATTLE king Sir Graham McCamley has signed the contract to sell his family property Tartrus and adjoining Royles Lot 2, one week before they were due to go for auction in Rockhampton. 

Sir Graham signed the dotted line late yesterday afternoon, selling a total of 37,525 acres, 50km west of Marlborough, to Andrew and Gillian McNicol and Family from Collinsville, North Queensland. The price is yet to be disclosed. 

The properties were due to be auctioned alongside the 114,121 acre Glenprairie aggregation on June 5, at the Rockhampton Leagues Club. Glenprairie will still be auctioned as planned. 

His organic brahman cattle will be sold in a clearing sale on June 22.

The sale signals the end of an era for the McCamley family, who have spent 60 years on Tartrus building one of the country's most prosperous cattle businesses, as well as raising several generations of graziers.   

For more about Sir Graham's decision to sell see tomorrow's Rural Weekly.



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