Cover image for Bertram Albert (Bert) and Peggy Farquhar
Agency:
Bertram Albert (Bert) and Peggy Farquhar
Agency Number:
Start Date:
13 Dec 1918
Description:
Bertram Albert (Bert) Farquhar was born in Scottsdale on December 13, 1918 and was educated at the Scottsdale District School. 
His parents Robert and Jane Farquhar went to Adamsfield shortly after osmiridium was found there in 1924 -25. They left in 1933 and Robert, with the assistance of Bert, established a lode tin mine near Lottah before returning to Scottsdale where he died in 1962 aged 77.
The time spent in mining camps during the Depression with his father were experiences that set Bert on an early entrepeneurial path. Initially with his brother he sold skinned rabbits, leased land, hired horses, mined and sold osmiridium and set up farming until they were one of the biggest potato farmers in the Commonwealth. Bert bought his brother out in 1941 and married Peggy Spotswood the year after. They raised a family of four surviving daughters.
Over sixty years from 1936 Bert Farquhar gradually built a grazing empire that covered over a hundred thousand acres mainly across Tasmania's north eastern corner, ultimately becoming the first individual to pay more than $10 million for a single farm in Australia when he purchased Tasmania's largest farm, Rushy Lagoon, near Gladstone, in the far north-east for $10.1 million in 1986. 
His earlier properties, including Wyambi, around the mouth of the Greater Forester River near Bridport and Waterhouse, consisted of much coastal river flats with salt tides which presented problems which he eventually overcame in partnership with Herb Nicholls when they built a simple tidal gate that opened automatically with the fresh water pressure on the out-going tide, and closed when the tide turned to come in. This simple system, which defied all engineering pronouncements, sparked massive agricultural development.
He initiated many farming practices that were 'unscientific' at the time including worm-farming to build soil-fertility, planting walnut trees to repel flies and successfully growing radiata pine plantations by inoculating the soil with useful microrganisms. His attitude was always "We can't make progress by ruining the country environmentally or trampling anyone underfoot economically" although his pine plantation plantings did draw criticism. 
He made the Rushy Lagoon property pay by the installation of irrigation and it became a premier sheep and cattle property, running eight thousand cattle and fifty thousand sheep, but plans to further develop it were thwarted by the collapse of the wool market in the late 1980s and bank interest rates which spiralled up to eighteen and twenty percent.
He purchased a Scottsdale food dehydration plant in 1946 that was marked for closure at the end of the Second World War and of the many that had existed throughout Australia it became possibly the only one to survive but not without Bert Farquhar's persistent struggle to make the drying, canning and freezing business profitable. Known as Dewcrisp Products it later became General Jones and later Simplot.
He was also responsible for the establishment in Scottsdale of the C.S.I.R.O. Laboratories and in 1957 when all similar centres were closed he enlisted the aid of Sir John McEwen and the Minister McBride to keep the centre open. It later became the Armed Forces Food Science Establishment.
He travelled overseas frequently from 1956 and brought new ideas back to Tasmania, some of which benefitted the whole of Australia, such as the idea of installing toilets at every petrol service station.
In the 1950s he engaged in land-clearing, pine tree plantations, sawmilling and chipping, mining activities and bridge-building over the Arthur River for mining and forestry purposes and the development of land for the Closer Settlement Board and the Agricultural Bank.
His acumen for assessing land for agricultural development and the installation of huge gravity-feed installation systems gave him legendary status and political recognition. He also maintained a financial interest in the mining industry through shares in magnesite deposits on Tasmania's west coast. 
He also took an interest in many community activities. He was Chairman of the North Eastern Soldiers' Memorial Hospital and served on its board for 39 years or more, arranging the purchase of the present hospital site. He was a Councillor for 8 years, a Director of the North-Eastern Aerodrome; Chairman of the Swimming Pool Construction Committee, a foundation member of the Rotary Club, a member of Northbourne Park and Aminya Homes as well as a Justice of the Peace for 36 years.
His dreams and schemes and his many accomplishments also created a 'small army' of fellow Tasmanians who have worked to give reality to his aspirations.



Information Sources:
article on Rural Legends - a featured story 'Bert Farquhar by Rosemary Grant (the ABC's Rural Reporter in Launceston, Northern Tasmania) - from website www.abc.net.au/rural/legends/stories - downloaded 26/11/2008.
Functions Performed:
Tasmanian businesses
Series Created By Agency:
NS4856 Photographs of Adamsfield - Robert Alexander Farquhar01 Jan 192031 Dec 1930

NS4860 Newspaper Clippings02 Aug 192223 Dec 1998

NS4849 Subject Folders - Sundries05 Nov 194208 Dec 2008

NS4842 General Subject Files30 May 194508 Mar 2001

NS4858 Framed Photographs and Objects17 Sep 194719 Oct 2000

NS4852 Plans, Maps and Photographs01 Jun 195601 Jul 1996

NS4859 Animal Husbandry Records01 Dec 196301 Apr 1992

NS4850 Certificates of Title22 Dec 196413 Aug 1988

NS4855 Photographs - Bert Farquhar01 Jan 196701 Jan 1995

NS4833 Subject Folders - Rushy Lagoon07 Dec 196731 May 1999

NS4838 Subject Folders - Rushy Lagoon - Cattle01 Jan 197031 Dec 1993

NS4950 Audio Tapes Acquired by the Agency01 Jan 197701 Jun 1999

NS4857 Photograph Albums01 Jan 197801 Jan 2000

NS4836 Rushy Lagoon - Sheep28 May 198008 Dec 1998

NS4949 Video Tapes Acquired by the Agency01 Jan 198528 Feb 1997

NS4840 Wages and Employment Matters15 Aug 198530 Jun 1997

NS4839 Subject Folders - Rushy Lagoon - Fertilizer27 Mar 198612 Apr 1996

NS4851 Diaries07 Dec 198731 Dec 1996

NS4853 Bert's Story01 Jan 199031 Dec 1998

NS4848 Subject Folders - People10 Feb 199312 Apr 1999