Rural

A take on life from a glass half-full fella...

AGEING GRACEFULLY ALL ABOUT ATTITUDE: The irrepressible Clif Thorogood.
AGEING GRACEFULLY ALL ABOUT ATTITUDE: The irrepressible Clif Thorogood. Toni Somes

TO DESCRIBE Clif Thorogood as an optimist is something of an understatement.

 

In his own words he's never had a "half empty glass in my whole life".

He's been a university teacher, a goat dairy farmer, a piggery manager, a horse trainer and "broke a few times too, but never once been poor".

It's all about attitude, he explained.

"I don't take life terribly seriously."

Which isn't to say he hasn't had some serious responsibilities. Up until his retirement 16 years ago, he managed the second largest piggery in Australia.

I am still having fun. It's all about your attitude you know. I have never had a half empty glass in my life.

Yet it is probably appropriate to backtrack even further down the career path of this personable Southern Downs retiree who is now "82 going on 70".

He was the son of a Brisbane plumber and although his maternal grandfather had "agricultural" interests, he certainly didn't grow up in the bush but he always professed a deep yearning to be out of town.

After school he went to Gatton College where he studied animal husbandry from 1946-1948, before teaching for a year on the campus as a junior officer.

Then he worked around ending up at Monto for a while, where he discovered he loved horse racing.

"I bought a rough looking gelding called, Gay Abandon. That was back when gay meant happy," he laughed.

"Anyway, I rode this retired racehorse around the station during the week and when Monto races came around I entered him. There were four or five meetings up there back then.

"It was a bush meeting and Gay Abandon won and I took home 15 pounds - which was a fortnight's wages.

"It was his only start but it got me in and I've had some connection or involvement with race horses ever since."

Since then he has had some "useful" horses and while he hasn't made the big time he has raced horses in Brisbane and Sydney.

"I have never had one win a race in Brisbane but a few ran places," he said.

Among his personal favourites in a list of equines that spans six decades are horses like a gelding called Play Tag that won a swag of races and finished fourth in the Newcastle Cup.

Another horse, a stallion called Yet Again, earned his right to race in open company before being stood at stud.

Locally, one of his standout entries was a mare called, Nearly Irish, which won five races around the region in the mid-1990s.

In recognition of his efforts he was awarded a trainer's premiership at Warwick a "while back".

But racing has always been a sideline to whatever challenging project Mr Thorogood was immersed in at the time.

In the 1950s he set up a goat milk dairy in Mt Gravatt. The business was one of, if not the, first Queensland dairy to sell milk in cartons.

"We had Saanen Toggenburg goats at the dairy and we trucked the product into a deli in Queen St each day."

Then in 1974 he was offered a chance to manage the second-largest intensive piggery in Australia for FJ Walker and company.

Based at Tamworth and Parkville, near Scone, the operation boasted 7500 sows, and was a meat operation primarily supplying the domestic market.

"FJ Walker was originally a butchering chain," Mr Thorogood explained.

"In the years I took over, we supplied 100,000 units per year into the domestic market.

"Ideally we worked on producing 65-75kg dressed weight pigs and we liked them to reach that weight at 18-19 weeks of age."

He said the operation was one of the "best piggeries in the world".

"We were rather good and there was nothing modest about it," he laughed.

"We bred our own pigs and we developed what the market wanted."

He was at the helm of the operation for 22 years until he retired back in the mid-1980s.

"It was definitely a bit rough when we started but we worked hard to improve things.

"And we did make a loss one year but the rest of the time we were profitable."

He said prices grew as the pork product improved in quality.

"I still believe if you produce a rubbish product, you will get a rubbish price," Mr Thorogood said.

"Back then we worked on getting 180-200c/kg dressed."

The experienced manager's connection to the Southern Downs came via the pork industry.

For a time he juggled the management of a piggery at Willowvale with his commitments in New South Wales.

So when he came to retire, he chose Warwick, a centre close to Minden and Rosewood where he spent many of his younger working years.

Today he and his partner of 24 years, Kerryn Holloway, live on a 100ha property, Mokari, near the Condamine River, west of Warwick.

The couple have given up the pigs but still run a mob of thoroughbred horses, although Mr Thorogood's work as a trainer has come to an end as he battles with failing eyesight.

But even still he remains infectiously positive.

"I am still having fun. It's all about your attitude you know.

"I have never had a half empty glass in my life."

Topics:  bush characters rural lifestyle



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