Florence and Ian Robinson at The Junction, Bungawalbyn
Florence and Ian Robinson at The Junction, Bungawalbyn Jamie Brown

Dairy herd dispersal the end of an era for former MP

THE dispersal of Ian Robinson's dairy herd last Friday closed a chapter on Bungawalbyn's evolution.

Most people can recall former Federal MP Ian Robinson, and would have heard about his 27 years in Federal Parliament - or the decade spent as state member prior to that.

But not so many realise that his family goes back in this district to a very different time.

In 1874, Ian's grandfather Louis selected land at the junction of Bungawalbyn and Richmond rivers, after several years running the European Hotel at the burgeoning Upper Clarence gold mining town of Solferino, near the mouth of Washpool Creek.

Louis cleared land at Bungawalbyn with much hard work, grew maize and soon after became interested in sugar cane, pushing for the establishment of the pioneering Swan Bay sugar mill.

After establishing a dairy farm on the property, he led the call for butter factories at Woodburn and Coraki.

Louis Robinson's European Hotel on the Upper Clarence gold fields in the late 1800s.
Louis Robinson's European Hotel on the Upper Clarence gold fields in the late 1800s.

From 1891, he was postmaster at Bungawalbyn and later one of the supporters of the Primary Producers Union at a time when the wider Bungawalbyn Valley supported 20 family-run dairy enterprises.

Ian's father, also named Louis, continued the family farm until Ian came on the scene 90 years ago.

As an only child he recalled Bungawalbyn with clarity - the pigs fed from the skim milk, the big she-oak tree that still grows by the river, the moo-ing of cows, the coming of the tractor and the going of the horse-drawn plough.

Ian got the chance to control a plough horse, and fondly recalls the need to understand animal instinct to make that task work.

But Ian also had a head for knowledge, and before he ever began studies he would lay on the top step of the neighbouring Bungawalbyn School and listen in on lessons.

Bungawalbyn School House, circa 1893
Bungawalbyn School House, circa 1893

Ian was inspired by his father as president of Woodburn Shire Council and followed his grandfather's lead by becoming involved in the Junior Farmer Movement aged nine. By 20, Ian was involved with agricultural politics at state level.

These days Ian is simplifying his life and last week's dairy herd dispersal, arranged by long-time valley agents T&W McCormack, will begin the farm's transition to beef.

And for now the deep droning of dairy cattle will no longer pierce the early morning fog on the banks of the Bungawalbyn.



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