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20th Edition


Harden Murrumburrah

Yass Valley town feature


A garden of excellence: “Owendale”, Narromine


Showcasing the best of rural and regional New South Wales

• Selling in every auction sale week • Leading wooltrade broker • Forward contract with Riemann • Offering Auctions Plus wool • Accredited & modern rehandle • Cash settlement on small lots • Merchandise • Shearing finance • Web access to client account • One competitive flat rate for all bales • Comprehensive market reporting • Detailed clip analysis

Since taking over our family farm I have been using Jemalong wool exclusively to market our annual woolclip. Using a combination of the traditional auction system and the internet based Wool Trade™ we have been able to take advantage of any upward movements of wool prices. This is due to personalised attention to detail and flexibility due mainly to Jemalong understanding our needs as a business. - Simon Squire-Wilson, Tiverton, Harden, NSW

APRIL 7, 2018 11AM - 4PM @






trading as Central West Magazine ABN 151 6322 9418 ADDRESS PO BOX 1050 DUBBO NSW 2830 PHONE 0429 441 086 FAX 02 6867 9895 WEBSITE FACEBOOK PUBLISHERS, ACCOUNTS & ADVERTISING Elizabeth & Alex Tickle EDITOR Elizabeth Tickle CHIEF WRITER & PHOTOGRAPHER Jake Lindsay ART DIRECTOR Zora Regulic

DISTRIBUTION Central West Lifestyle magazine is published quarterly (available at the beginning of each season) and distributed to selected newsagents and retail outlets within the Central West and in the bordering regions of the Far West, North West, Southern Highlands, Canberra, Goulburn, Northern and Eastern suburbs of Sydney, in addition to a selection of other rural and coastal areas of New South Wales. Subscriptions and back issues are also available to read online, on desktop and mobile devices. Unsold magazines are distributed to cafes, health waiting rooms, quality hotels/motels, bed and breakfast establishments, hair and beauty salons and tourist outlets.

Central West Lifestyle showcases authentic content from across rural and regional New South Wales. The heart of the magazine is in the Central West of the state, but a great story knows no boundaries. We are continually amazed by the innovation, inspiration and spirit that we find time and time again in communities both within the Central West and further afield. It is our passion and privilege to bring these stories to you.

SUBSCRIBE ONLINE To order a subscription or back issue (mailed or online), visit © Central West Lifestyle Pty Ltd 2018 All Rights Reserved No part of this magazine may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the publisher. While every care is taken in the publication of Central West Lifestyle magazine, the publishers will not be held responsible for omissions, errors or their subsequent effects.

Pegasus Print Group, is an environmentally responsible printing company that is committed to helping achieve a sustainable environment. To underscore our commitment to environmental sustainability, Pegasus Print Group has achieved FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) accreditation as well as being ISO 14001 accredited. Paper and paper-based materials carrying the FSC symbol can be tracked back to their source, guaranteeing they come from forests which are managed to meet the social, economic and ecological needs of present and future generations. Pegasus Print Group is also an accredited ISO 9001:2008 supplier, which ensures each step of our production process is aligned with world’s best practice to deliver the finest quality possible. Together, these accreditations offered by Pegasus Print Group, offer our clients a guarantee that their printed products are produced by world’s best practice environmental and finest quality standards.



 roximity to Canberra is just one of Yass Valley’s many P alluring attributes – stunning scenery, rich history, colourful characters and a strong community spirit among them.




140 “OWENDALE” Judy and Tony Barlow’s Narromine garden is a haven for flora, fauna, family and friends.


150 SLEEP EASY Tips on how to fashion yourself a five-star bedroom. 154 SERENITY NOW We visit Ian Birrell’s character-filled country home – once the Emu Swamp Methodist Church.


170 AUTUMN MENU Recipes for a fabulous three-course autumn extravaganza. 176 COUNTRY COOKING One-pot wonders for the country cook.


182 HEAVENLY CREATURES The Galapagos Islands are an animal lover’s paradise.


114 C  OURAGE UNDER FIRE The amazing story of Bill the Bastard. 116 BRONZED AUSSIE LEGEND Recognising Australia’s greatest war horse. 120 DOUBLY DELIGHTFUL Exploring Harden and Murrumburrah. 126 GARDEN PARTY The glorious Mayfield Garden is home to AutumnFest. 132 DIFFERENT STROKES People are drawn to Jude Fleming’s art classes. 136 LONG STORY Warren newsagents have plenty of stamina. 160 TO THE LETTER Dubbo Printing Works encompasses quality and tradition. 162 ONE STEP AHEAD Robyn McLennan puts her customers’ feet first. 166 FUTURE PROOF Mike Crowley & Associates help businesses help themselves. 174 DELIVERING THE GOODS Byng Street Local Store is becoming an Orange institution. 180 LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT Gulgong B&B’s owners have embraced the town and its history.

150 170



190 C  WL SUMMER ISSUE LAUNCH Gunnedah turns out to celebrate in style. 192 WELLINGTON OPEN GARDENS Six stunning properties on show. 194 COLLECTOR’S EDITION LAUNCH A night of reflection and celebration in Orange. 198 WEDDINGS Gallant grooms and beautiful brides tie the knot.

20th Edition




Harden Murrumburrah

Yass Valley town feature

$12.00 inc GST






196 U  PCOMING EVENTS 206 O  UR ADVERTISERS 208 T  HE LAST WORD Robyn Sykes is spreading the word about life on the land.


A garden of excellence: “Owendale”, Narromine


Showcasing the best of rural and regional New South Wales


LAND OF PLENTY A peaceful rural scene on “Euralie” Yass, a superfine wool growing property owned by Paul Simons. (Page 22 Town Feature) Photographer: Shot by Jake

Goondiwindi Cotton Winter 2018 available at... ARMIDALE - Swish, COONABARABRAN - Chalkies, COWRA - The Closet Cowra, DUBBO - Country Chique, FORBES - Allure on Main GUNNEDAH - Pusegloves Clothing, LEURA - The Shirt Lady, LITHGOW - Signature, MOREE - Assefs, MUDGEE - Honey Pot Boutique NARRABRI - McInnes Clothing, NYNGAN - Bradswear, ORANGE - Kendal, QUIRINDI - Goodness & Gracious, SPRINGWOOD - Arabesque Springwood TAMWORTH - Pursegloves Clothing, TRANGIE - Ewe Two Clothing, WARREN - Bradswear, YOUNG - The Loft, YASS - Boots & Buckles Enquiries phone - (07) 4671 5611

A U T U M N publishers’ letter


welcome to autumn “Autumn has always been my favourite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” – Lauren De Stefano

Welcome to Autumn in the Central West and the regions beyond. What a magnificent and colourful season we are all privileged to enjoy!

Gunnedah Feature – Summer 2017 It was a very exciting time for the team at Central West Lifestyle and the many Gunnedah area residents who embraced the Summer edition so enthusiastically! Extremely strong sales were experienced by John and Ann Sturgess, owners of the Gunnedah Newsagency, as well as in outlets right across the state. It is so satisfying to see the attractions and uniqueness of the beautiful regional centres such as Gunnedah reflected in the pages of our magazine. Even more satisfying is seeing this exposure translated into visitation benefiting the entire local economy.

Team Christmas Party Our wonderful CWL team enjoyed a night of reflection and camaraderie in December at the gorgeous Blayney function venue Athol Gardens. Our sincere thanks to Karen and David Somervaille for their warm hospitality. Due to the diverse geographical location of many of our team members, the team Christmas party provides a great opportunity to meet up, share our trials and tribulations and celebrate how far we have come. This Autumn publication marks our 20th edition and five years in business. A big thanks to all councils, advertisers, newsagents and readers who have so faithfully and generously supported us throughout our five-year journey. We look forward to being able to bring you many more editions of Central West Lifestyle.

Alex and Elizabeth Tickle, Publishers of Central West Lifestyle with Judy Chaffey and Cr Jamie Chaffey, Mayor of Gunnedah.

Collector’s Edition Volume 1 After a most successful launch in late September at Kate Jones@one nineteen restaurant, Orange, the Collector’s Edition Volume 1 has met with very positive approval. We are told it has been purchased in multiples and has been gifted to relatives and friends to enjoy into the new year. This edition will continue to sell in newsagents and selected outlets throughout 2018 and makes an ideal gift for special occasions or as a keepsake showcasing 50 of the best stories featured in the first 18 editions of Central West Lifestyle.

Yass Valley Feature This 100-page feature on the stunning Yass Valley has been an absolute joy to research and photograph. The town of Yass and surrounds provide a kaleidoscope of experiences for the residents lucky enough to call the area home as well as the many visitors to the area. Thank you to the Yass Council for their commitment, vision and foresight in collaborating with our magazine. Facebook “f ” Logo


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Federal member for Calare Andrew Gee with Tina Gee and Alex and Elizabeth Tickle at the Collector’s Edition launch in Orange.

Winter 2018 Feature – Narrabri How exciting it is to go home to Narrabri and work on featuring this busy and inviting town, as well as the adjoining towns of Wee Waa and Boggabri. I (Elizabeth) grew up on our family property in the Rocky Creek Valley, about a 50-minute drive east from Narrabri and so I have many childhood memories of this gorgeous area. We hope you can enjoy this, our 20th edition and continue to promote all there is on offer in rural and regional NSW.

Warm regards, Elizabeth & Alex

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A U T U M N Jake’s message

stories in abundance G’day trendsetters. Congratulations! We’ve all survived another hot Christmas to bring you edition No.20 featuring the captivating Yass Valley. Yass is an old town with buildings dating back to the 1830s. In this edition you’ll take a guided tour through two of them: “Cooma Cottage” and “Cliftonwood”. These stellar Yass River properties were built when the town was in its infancy and stand today as relics of a bygone era when the horse was king and a good set of stables was just as important as a soft bed. Both historic properties have magnificent stables and a fascinating connection to the great Australian explorer Hamilton Hume, who features in so much of the history of Yass. In this edition we’ve scored a scoop with one of the country’s most recognisable faces and his secret rural hideaway in Gundaroo. He’s a great man with a big heart – thanks for having me, Dick Smith! You will read about sculptors, poets, winemakers and perhaps Australia’s oldest sheep breeder. You will also meet a tenacious wombat lover, a glass blower from Binalong and one of the country’s great music composers (think Picnic at Hanging Rock). When you’ve ploughed through all that you can read the story of the great bucking bull Chainsaw and the cowboy who saved him from our dinner plate. I’ll even throw in some romance, with an inspiring story of a beautiful young country lass left crippled after tragedy on the road. Her heartfelt message is to pull over when tired. Nothing is worth the consequences for you and for others.


As we head into autumn, my favourite time of the year, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the countless people who have shared their amazing stories with us over the past five years. We’ve covered dozens of NSW rural towns and cities and unearthed some cracker bush yarns along the way. The ingenuity, persistence and plain hard work that so many of you sink into your businesses never ceases to amaze me. It’s never easy and wasn’t meant to be but hopefully at the end of the day you have something/someone good to come home to. Mother has just arrived home safe and sound after a mini cruise. In her early 80s she reckoned it was excellent value and great for a break, even if most of her fellow shipmates were half a century younger and in permanent party mode! The point being that we all need something to look forward to! Instead of a big ship, pack your suitcase and visit these towns we have brought you. Find out why the locals love living there. I can assure you that glorious Yass won’t disappoint. In the meantime, keep focused on the goal line and enjoy our very latest efforts. Till the chilly winter winds bring us together once more, I’m off on the wallaby!

Cheers, Jake

ABOVE: Aerial shot of the stunning countryside surrounding Yass.


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Your first collector’s edition is superb, and testament to the calibre of work your team constantly delivers. CWL has put our region on the map and has no doubt been a revelation to the many city readers fortunate enough to feast their eyes upon a copy. I can only imagine the amount of work required to bring about such a world-class product and therefore you must be in need of a very relaxed and rejuvenating festive season. I wish you well in that and trust you relax and make wonderful memories with your loved ones. Tracey Robinson, Dubbo

We would like to express our gratitude to Elizabeth and Alex Tickle and the CWL staff for their efforts in producing such a beautiful magazine. CWL has continued to offer their support to Iandra Castle since our first feature in Spring 2014 and more recently The Collector’s Edition 2017. The ongoing exposure from the magazine has increased awareness and interest in our open days and general visits. We have found that visitors to the area actively seek out Iandra and use CWL magazine as a tourist guide to the local region. We enjoy the varied features of each edition and look forward to new areas covered so thoroughly. Keep up the hard work.

YOUR LETTERS It was with great delight I read the Summer 2017 edition of Central West Lifestyle, which allowed us the opportunity to showcase our wonderful and diverse shire in a beautifully presented publication. The feature has captured the true essence of our people and our places, and what makes us unique, as the land of opportunity. The launch of this issue illustrated the abundance of opportunities in our region and told inspiring stories of the people who make up our community. The magazine has not only become a talking point among locals, it has also created marketing and tourism opportunities – sharing and celebrating our vibrant community with other regions across NSW. Congratulations to Alex, Elizabeth and the Central West Lifestyle team for producing a publication that Gunnedah Shire and many other regions can be proud of for years to come. This feature makes me proud to call Gunnedah home.

Rod and Bev Kershaw., Iandra Castle

I have worked with a number of your team in respect of the Bill the Bastard article in this edition. I compliment you on the very high professional standards you all bring to the magazine and say thank you for all of your help in getting our article to print. I enjoy your magazine and I have described it as the Reader’s Digest of the National Geographic. What I mean by that description is, the photography and printing standards are similar to those of the National Geographic, top quality, yet Central West is like the Reader’s Digest – the articles are not too long and most interesting to read. I also think you do an excellent market research job understanding what your wide group of readers are looking for. Once again, thank you and well done.

Jamie Chaffey, Mayor, Gunnedah Shire Council

Bob Laing, Harden

I have now had the pleasure of reading all of your issues of CWL, and your ability to capture the true essence of country living is inspirational. Some stories have made me laugh and others have made me cry but all have shown the resilience of country people and their communities, making incredible reading. Congratulations and thank you Elizabeth, Alex and your talented team for producing such an informative and inspiring magazine showcasing country NSW and its citizens. The Spring edition featuring the shires of Coolamon and Junee, which is my home territory, surpassed expectations, leaving me more proud than ever of living where I do. If I could introduce a law it would take the form of compulsory reading of your magazine as in doing so you can’t help but appreciate this blessed country we live in.


A great story well worth sharing @carthianhill

Margaret Seymour, Marrar

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A fantastic shot - thanks @kendalstnewsagency

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Yass appeal fro m th e Mayo r of Yass Va l ley

Welcome to Yass Valley, a thriving community made up of eight diverse towns and villages: Binalong, Bookham, Bowning, Gundaroo, Murrumbateman, Sutton, Wee Jasper and Yass. Yass Valley has transformed into a growing, modern and regional community. We are known for our rich agricultural heritage, lively food and wine scene and our delightful country villages and towns, where our connected community know their neighbours and love the wide open spaces and fresh country air. As Mayor I am proud to have called Yass Valley home for over 25 years, with my husband’s family one of the many local families who have lived in the area for many generations. On a daily basis I am reminded why people choose to live here. We are a region of individuals who work together to create a united, friendly and welcoming community. Yass Valley is an easy three-hour drive from Sydney and less than one hour from Canberra, so we have the wonderful benefit of a rural lifestyle with the ability to access arts, history, medical and other services of a big city without the stress of having to live there. In small regional towns and villages across Australia it is the people that make them special. It is the way people rally behind a cause or volunteer endless hours to local community organisations, sporting clubs, community events and festivals and local emergency services.

“In small regional towns and villages across Australia it is the people that make them special.”


To Oberon

Grenfell Lake Wyangala

Koorawatha Bribbaree

Tuena Bigga


Wombeyan Caves



Binda Laggan Taralga Wombat





Grabben Gullen

Murrumburrah Galong Cootamundra

Binalong Towrang





Marulan Tallong


Jugiong Bungonia


Lake Burrinjuck

Lake Bathurst

Murrumbateman Gundaroo


Lake George

Gundagai To Melbourne

Windellama Tarago

Wee Jasper




Queanbeyan Braidwood


In 2013, four months after being elected to my first term as Mayor, the rural community of Bookham was devastated by a bushfire that burnt 20,000 hectares, took 19 days to extinguish and affected 58 separate farms. Our community was left reeling but it was the way that we came together to combat this devastation that demonstrated to me what this community was made of and that we could handle any adversity that was thrown our way. From local charities and support networks, sporting clubs to major events, it is our community that are on the frontline to provide amazing opportunities for our residents and the many visitors who travel to Yass Valley. The tireless volunteers that we have working to make our community better are the people that make Yass Valley an amazing place to call home. We are honoured to be given this opportunity to showcase our backyard in the Central West Lifestyle Magazine. I would like to dedicate this Yass Valley feature to the amazing members of our community who donate their time, for the benefit of others, to make this area such a wonderful place to live. I would like to extend a warm welcome to readers and encourage you all to visit Yass Valley and all that we have to offer. Cr Rowena Abbey, Yass Valley Mayor

capital goods Proximity to Canberra is just one of Yass Valley’s many alluring attributes. Yass Valley is in the Southern Tablelands of NSW, a regional area boasting a proud Aboriginal, strong colonial and innovative agricultural history. Yass Valley is located 280km southwest of the Sydney CBD, 600km northeast of the Melbourne CBD and 60km north of the Canberra CBD. Yass Valley has traditionally been inhabited by the Ngunnawal and Wiradjuri tribes. The Yass area was first seen by Europeans in 1821, on an expedition led by Hamilton Hume, and by 1830 settlement had begun. Yass Valley is an area of 3999 square kilometres and adjoins five other NSW local government areas and the Australian Capital Territory. Yass was one of the sites proposed for the federal capital after 1901 and in 1956 was the first mainland Australian town to introduce fluoride to its water supply. Yass Valley was born “off the sheep’s back” and while agriculture has been the backbone of our community, we are seeing new and innovative businesses standing up and being recognised nationally and internationally. Sharing a border with our nation’s capital, Yass Valley residents have unique work and education opportunities while living in a rural environment. The daily commuter and school transport options available make Yass Valley accessible and convenient to live in the rural countryside and still work, study or play in Canberra. The topography of the region is extremely diverse, ranging from the dramatic and beautiful hills, valleys and waterways of the Wee Jasper area, to the huge expanse of Burrinjuck Dam, the rolling hills of Binalong and the vast plains of Yass and Murrumbateman that are home to some of the finest wool and wine country in Australia. Yass Valley is blessed with some truly stunning scenery and delightful country villages, bursting with unique experiences, where you’ll never be short of things to see and do. Nature lovers will be impressed with the range of outdoor experiences on offer – from exploring caves and bushwalking, to strolling through our parks and gardens, camping and water sports on Burrinjuck Dam. History and heritage buffs will love the region’s connection to early rural Australia, which can be experienced at our museums,

historical sites and antiques centres, including Cooma Cottage, once home to famous explorer Hamilton Hume. Yass Valley is brimming with talented artists, sculptors, designers and creators following in the tradition of our forebears including two of Australia’s best-known poets, Banjo Paterson and John O’Brien, and trailblazing author Miles Franklin. Yass Valley Council supports and delivers a range of services and facilities to meet the social, recreational, educational, cultural and family needs of residents and visitors. Such facilities and services, combined with the welcoming and friendly locals, wide open spaces and wonderful experiences on offer, make Yass Valley a sought-after location for people wanting to live the good life, or just escape for a short break. If you are looking for a new destination to live, work or play, Yass Valley has it all and we look forward to welcoming you! CWL For more information visit ABOVE: Burrinjuck backwaters (Image: Kim Nelson); Wee Jasper Caves (Image: Geoff Kell). FACING PAGE: On the outskirts of Yass, Cooma Cottage has a fascinating history linked to the early development of the town.


lasting impression Proud and strong, the early buildings of Yass have stood the test of time.


Yass Valley | Yass T O W N F E A T U R E

Festivals & Events Take a look at what’s on offer in the beautiful Yass Valley and schedule a visit to coincide with one of our fabulous annual events. Best of the Canberra region

March , April & May

Year Round

Yass Show March / April

Yass Community Market 1st & 3rd of month, 10am - 1pm Sat

Harvest Festival April

Wine, Women & Song May

St Augustine’s Hall and grounds, Meehan St, Yass

September & October Turning Wave September

Murrumbateman Moving Feast October

Sculpture in the Paddock Sept / Oct

Murrumbateman Field Days October

Tulip Top Gardens Sept / Oct

Gundaroo Music Festival October

Murrumbateman Village Markets 2nd & 4th of month, 9am - 1pm Sat Recreation Grounds, Barton Hwy, Murrumbateman

November Classic Yass Hills of Hall Spring Wine Festival Yass Rodeo Bowning Country Fair


T O W N F E A T U R E Yass Valley | Yass

days gone by Yass Va l ley


Images kindly supplied by the Yass and District Historical Society.

Yass Valley | Yass T O W N F E A T U R E

CLASSIC YASS Classic Yass is a much-loved event for vintage car enthusiasts and their families, showcasing automobiles, memorabilia, and popular music from days gone by, held over the first weekend in November. Promoted by the Yass Antique Motor Club, Classic Yass is a family-friendly and fun event, bringing together everyone’s favourite parts of “the good old days” in an idyllic setting in the historic town of Yass. Featuring cars from the early 1900s through to the ’70s, fashion through the years, music, market stalls, plus the much anticipated Billy Cart Derby, there is something for everyone to enjoy. CWL For more information visit

Yass Valley Information Centre Local wine, gourmet produce, gifts, maps, brochures, refreshments. 1300 886 014 259 Comur St, Yass NSW 2582

Open Monday – Sunday 9:30am – 4:30pm *Closed Good Friday & Christmas Day


TRAIN OF THOUGHT Yass Railway Museum takes visitors on a ride through the town’s transport history.

The town of Yass was established well before the railway came to town in the early 1870s. Well, almost to the town. The railway was extended from Goulburn to Yass but didn't come through the town because of the difficulties involved with crossing the river. Thanks to community pressure, a tramway was built connecting the mainline, about 4km away at Yass Junction, into town. Yass became one of the few towns in the country to boast such a sophisticated mode of transport. Passengers had their last ride in 1958 and 30 years later the tramline became non-operational to railway traffic. "The station is built on the ground for economical reasons," railway museum president Bob Frank explains. "The station master built a platform to allow ladies in their petticoats to enter the carriage. We claim it is the shortest platform in NSW." Bob well remembers the train chugging down Dutton Street when he was a boy, along with the


circus coming to town via rail and the carriage from the tech college that helped educate rural communities in different technical skills. "This has always been a huge sheep area," says Bob, a former mechanic. "For many years the wool was carted by rail to the Sydney markets." By the 1960s the railways had been largely replaced by the automobile and life would never be the same. The museum was opened in 1992, nearly 100 years after the building of the Yass tramway. It has been run by a small committee of volunteers keen to keep the history of the rail alive. Secretary Bill Pigram, a former engineer, says his group would love to one day reopen the tramline for tourism. In the meantime, you'll find plenty of history at the Yass Railway Museum, open every Sunday from 10am to 4pm and on special occasions and public holidays. CWL

ABOVE: The Yass Junction Railway Station. FACING PAGE CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: A train chugs past homes in Dutton Street, Yass, during the mid 20th century; President Bob Frank feels right at home in the Railway Museum; the 140-year-old locomotive provides a fitting backdrop to the museum; viaducts support the XPT; the miniature train station.

Yass Valley | Yass T O W N F E A T U R E



Yass Valley | Yass T O W N F E A T U R E

Simons says

Paul Simons AM has lived an exemplary life of ships, shops and sheep. Paul Simons has sailed the seven seas, climbed to the very top of the corporate ladder and now runs two sheep properties on the Southern Tablelands and Hilltops regions – all managed with the same steely resolve to do it once and do it right. It's even more impressive when you realise Paul has just turned 90 and is arguably the oldest fine wool grower in the country. It's been one long tumultuous journey for a Welsh lad born to working-class parents Cecil and Beatrice Simons in Swansea, who both lost their fathers at an early age. Right from the start, Paul had it drummed into him the meaning of sacrifice and devotion to duty, beginning with the sinking of his father's ship at Gallipoli. Cecil and the surviving sailors were swiftly given rifles and ordered to fight the Turks entrenched in the escarpment that lay before them.

During the slaughter there were periods of inactivity and in one such moment he struck up an unlikely friendship with Colonel George Haines. Years later, during the Depression, a chance encounter by Paul’s father led to a life-saving labourer's job on an oil refinery outside Swansea. Little wonder that the Colonel became Paul’s godfather. On the advice of his brother in Chicago, Paul's father later became a vacuum cleaner salesman. They were like the mobile phone of today – everybody had to have one. “During this time there was huge unemployment in southern Wales. We'd drive to the Welsh valleys and see all these starving, freezing miners. They used to stand along the railway line hoping the railway engineers would throw them some coal. Life was fairly grim,” Paul says. >


T O W N F E A T U R E Yass Valley | Yass

Paul says he learnt much of his business acumen from Marks & Spencer in London. “In my view they are the best retailers in the world with a certain knack for doing business.”

Home life was no better. Paul's only sibling suffered frightful fits and had to be tethered during the day. It was a huge family problem. "My father couldn't stand it and took to the booze leaving mother with the sole responsibility of caring for him, administering opium every night to put him to sleep," Paul says. In 1935 his despairing parents sent him away with friends to the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow, while his 14-year-old brother took his last breath. By then Germany had started their Nazi movement and Britain was again preparing for war. In 1937 his father once more signed on the dotted line for King and Country, serving another 10 long years at sea. During the dark days of WW2 with his father constantly on the move, Paul attended six different high schools, making learning difficult. Besides, there was still a war to be won even if it was in the final stages. He was only 17 and brimming with confidence when he signed up as a cadet with the British Merchant Navy. "I can't say I achieved much in the war but in those last few months, the Allies sank 150 U-boats for the loss of only five ships," he says quietly, pulling out one of his trademark cigars. After meeting his future wife Gwenda Grant in Sydney at war’s end, they maintained contact via letters. In 1949 he disembarked in Fremantle, made it to Sydney and worked in the Australian Merchant Navy for a further five years. During this time, he studied accountancy by correspondence, knowing he'd need something to fall back on when he made it back to shore. His life at sea finished once wife Gwenda gave birth to a son. His first job was keeping the books for a rubber company making car tyre retreads and Dunlop Volley tennis shoes. "I can still remember the production cost was 20.3 pence for a new pair," he says with a grin. "In the shops they would sell for four pounds!" Already his mathematical mind was working in overdrive. One year on, Paul was bored after a decade navigating the high seas. In late 1954 he was accepted as a Woolworths trainee manager, starting at the very bottom of the ladder in the Glebe warehouse unloading trucks by hand. Supermarkets, pallets and bulk handling were unheard of. Within 18 months he was appointed store manager, enthusiastically devouring every aspect of retailing. Twenty years later he was appointed Woolworths' youngest director before advancing to the joint general manager's position. In 1977 he was sponsored by the company to complete an Advanced Management course at Harvard University – a huge turnaround for a fellow who had been told by his final school, Gowerton Grammar’s Headmaster, Dr James – “Simons, you’ll never amount to anything”. It wasn't a great time to be on the board, however, and Paul grappled with the executives over such things as excessive pay packets. He resigned because of a serious conflict of interest at board level, which occurred when he was conveniently absent at Harvard University. “I couldn't agree with the board’s ethical standards and wrote a letter of resignation, leaving after 24 years with nothing but my own super contributions.” Immediately there was a flood of offers. A Hong Kong retail company asked him if he thought Franklins Supermarkets might be a good investment. He had six months to come up with an answer. In mid-1979 he became the new Franklins boss, forsaking a six-figure salary for a five per cent share of increased profits.


Within eight years turnover soared from $300 million to $3.5 billion, making Paul a very wealthy man. But it wasn't over yet. There was still plenty of charm and integrity left in the tank of this tough but fair competitor. In the meantime, IEL, which owned approximately 17 per cent of Woolies, was turning over $50 billion in Australia but still losing $12 million on the bottom line. IEL’s Board stumbled across Paul's Harvard business plan and invited him to enact it and reverse the company's fortunes. Paul by then had retired from Franklins in 1987. He agreed to come on board as executive chairman, in charge of 100,000 employees across the country. Things went well until Gwenda was taken ill with cancer during an Italian vacation in 1989, finally succumbing to the disease in 1992. “I was going to chuck the job in but my wife insisted I stay. So, I kept going until 1993 when Woolworths was floated on the stock exchange – the biggest initial public offering in Australian corporate history. A billion shares traded for $2.50. Two years later, I retired.” “During these years he was judged Businessman of the Year and Retailer of the Decade, received an Honorary Doctorate from Griffith University and made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of his "significant contribution to the retailing industry in Australia”. Paul says he learnt much of his business acumen from Marks & Spencer in London. "In my view they are the best retailers in the world with a certain knack for doing business. They never cut corners or sell doubtful items and are always fair with their people."

Yass Valley | Yass T O W N F E A T U R E

Now it's all behind him and Paul is more at home keeping an eye on his superfine wool Merino flock at “Euralie” in the Good Hope district. It’s a million miles away from the Woolworths boardroom and there's plenty of time for reflecting on an interesting and varied life so far from his Welsh homeland. Paul retired to the farm a few years after he left retailing. He and Gwenda had always felt a strong connection to Yass. Gwenda’s aunt was Sir Walter Merriman's wife, Lady Kate. She and Gwenda were both raised at “Elizabeth Fields”, on the Yass River. After noticing “Euralie” advertised for sale in The Australian Financial Review they were both keen for an inspection. The property was part of extensive land grants given by the federal government to Hamilton Hume, Australia's foremost early explorer in the late 1830s. “In 1982 we contacted the agent who advised us not to waste our time. It was run down and there was a drought well in evidence when we visited,” Paul says. “I asked Bruce Merriman how does one value a farm and he told me you should be able to run four dry sheep to the acre in a good season. In those days one dry sheep to the acre was equivalent to $100 so I put in a $600,000 bid for the 1500 acres. Within 24 hours I was the proud owner of a farm of which I knew nothing about.” Within a few years, Paul had added an adjoining property of 1000 acres, “Wyndarra”. Fortunately, he found men with the right qualities like the late Bill Privett and Malcolm Jones, who has diligently worked on the property for 20 years. Malcolm travels out to the farm each day before sun up to supervise the 6000 superfine Merinos that annually produce about 140 bales of 15-18 micron wool.

The other part of the equation is partner Lyndall Eeg, who worked with Paul at Woolworths in corporate communications. “She’s still a communicator, now facilitator and brands ambassador (local and overseas)”, says Paul, forever the wily strategist still calling the shots. “There's an old saying: If you want to be successful, surround yourself with people who make you look good,” Paul says with a smile. “In that regard, I've been most fortunate with wonderful teams at both Woolworths and Franklins. I certainly couldn't be doing what I'm doing now without the support of Lyndall and Malcolm – plus my Sydney-based business manager, Margaret Forge, who’s worked well for me for over 45 years.” Paul’s key beliefs are: Be fair with work colleagues and properly reward them, and share any good fortune you have with others in your local community and beyond. “That we do not fully process wool in Australia any more is shameful," he says. "Respect for the land and animals is a priority. Non-mulesing for us has reaped financial benefits.” Despite recent open-heart surgery, Paul Simons is feeling energised. He's thinking about his children – David (a busy general surgeon in Taree) and Margaret, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild, and visiting the Old Dart for perhaps one last time. Then he might sail his 16-metre schooner berthed in Hobart into the sunset – a fitting gesture for an endearing and humble old Welshman. CWL FACING PAGE: Paul Simons AM with partner Lyndall Eeg and farm manager Malcolm Jones; Paul in his naval days and toasting another success in the corporate world during the 1980s.



There is always action aplenty at the South Eastern Livestock Exchange. A project in the making since 2008, the South Eastern Livestock Exchange (SELX) is NSW’s newest and most technologically advanced livestock selling centre, with the first hammer falling in August 2016. At the intersection of seven highways and arterial roads, SELX is just off the Hume Highway in Yass. Construction of the $15 million, 16ha worldclass, regional livestock selling centre took 313 days. With a roof spanning five rugby fields, 86km of steel railing and 524 selling pens, the facility has the capacity to sell 3800 cattle and 30,000 sheep on any given sale day. Extensive research into the design and functionality of the saleyards has achieved a facility focused on animal safety and wellbeing, environmental sustainability and workplace health and safety. Twelve “Foundation Agents” sell out of the state-of-the-art centre, with prime lamb and sheep sales every Wednesday and prime cattle every Thursday. Special store cattle sales for cow and calf units, weaners and anything that goes back to feedlot producers are held on the last Friday of every month.


Yass Valley | Yass T O W N F E A T U R E

In its first 12 months of operation, SELX sold close to 73,000 cattle and is ranked as Australia’s seventh largest cattle market. In the same period, 745,000 sheep and lambs were sold, making SELX the fourth largest market in NSW, with the centre trading over $164 million in livestock in its first year. “Large centres like SELX, which are attracting larger numbers of livestock from up to four hours away, are proven to create more competition, with vendors achieving higher prices,” SELX Administration Manager Tom McCormack says. “With a roof covering the entire facility, soft flooring in the cattle and multispecies pens and improved animal handling practices ensure the livestock sold at SELX lose less yield and achieve better selling results.” SELX is right on top of new technology that helps streamline the business and selling process for both agents and vendors. “Before the sales start we tablet book our sale to create a catalogue electronically,” Tom says. “The agent advises us of the numbers in each pen and then we add the buyer and price, which all goes straight into our online software. As the last pen is sold and checked off, the buyers’ and producers’ information is available.” The SELX team is leading the industry with this technology and it’s a far cry from the old days when transactions could often drag on for weeks. The first 12 months of operation were very successful, but the yards are not resting on their laurels, continuing to push the barrow when it comes to traditional livestock marketing. “We are now one of Yass Valley’s largest businesses and with this comes the responsibility to give back to our region,” Marketing Manager Gill Elphinston says. “At our 12-month anniversary, SELX celebrated by announcing eight scholarships with the Country Education Foundation. It was our way to give back and to help rurally based students with their studies or expenses associated with achieving their career goals.” The first SELX/CEF scholarship was awarded to Meg Perceval, Harden, who is studying Vet Technology at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. SELX will also be assisting a student from Boorowa, who will be moving away from home to become a firefighter, with more scholarship recipients to be announced throughout 2018. Joining the SELX brand in 2018 is the organisation’s second venture, the Western Victoria Livestock Exchange (WVLX), Mortlake, which commenced trading in January. CWL

SELX is right on top of new technology that helps streamline the business and selling process for both agents and vendors.




Located at the intersection of seven highways and arterial roads, just off the Hume Highway in Yass NSW. State-of-the-art technology is revolutionising the buying and selling experience at SELX. With a roof and elevated walkways agents, vendors and buyers operate in year-round comfort.

An onsite truck wash provides ease and convenience for livestock carriers. Soft flooring ensures vendors achieve better sales results and less yield loss. SELX has arguably Australia’s best sale yard café.



Yass Valley | Yass T O W N F E A T U R E


sweet home Cooma Cottage houses important Australian pioneering history.

His name is attached to a Canberra suburb, a federal electoral division and a major highway connecting Sydney and Melbourne, but Hamilton Hume is equally remembered for Cooma Cottage, his ancestral home in Yass and one of the earliest surviving homesteads in southern NSW. The original section of the cottage was built by pioneering pastoralist Henry O’Brien and his younger brother Cornelius before being purchased for 601 pounds by the famous explorer in 1840, along with 100 acres of prime Yass River frontage. After his exploring days Hamilton was determined to make a bold statement to reflect his new status as a prominent pastoralist. Over two decades he built extensions to the original dwelling, adding his own version of Palladian-style wings and a Greek Revival portico. Today Cooma Cottage is owned and managed by the National Trust, and stands as a glowing representation of colonial architecture in early Australia. The immediate landscape remains virtually unchanged since the 19th century although the sprawl of Yass is catching up, with busy roads passing near the front gate. Walking through the building you can almost feel the presence of Hamilton Hume, who discovered the Murray and Darling rivers and forged an overland track between Sydney and Melbourne, effectively opening up the Melbourne area for future settlement. >

Walking through the building you can almost feel the presence of Hamilton Hume.

CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: The homestead was built as the town of Yass was taking its first infant steps; an aerial shot depicting the grand design of Cooma Cottage; explorer Hamilton Hume who lived there most of his life; the back of the homestead looking over the Yass River.


Today Cooma Cottage is owned and managed by the National Trust, and stands as a glowing representation of colonial architecture in early Australia.

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Central West Lifestyle Autumn 2018 Preview - Issue 20  
Central West Lifestyle Autumn 2018 Preview - Issue 20