Pastoral industry loses pioneer

24 Aug, 2006 07:00 PM
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LACHLAN MCTAGGART OAM

Born January 8, 1918

Died August 12, 2006.

LACHLAN McTaggart gave a lifetime of unselfish service to the pastoral industry during a career that started on a station in the South Australian rangelands and stretched to the Gascoyne and beyond in WA.

He was born and raised mainly in South Australia as the ninth of 10 children, moving to and from the family station Nonning in the early years before joining the Australian army in 1940.

Lachlan served with the RAAF as a gunner in Europe, and later as a bomber pilot in the Middle East during the second World War.

He was shot down behind enemy lines in El Alamein in the Western Desert while flying a mission during the siege of Malta, and walked across the desert for four nights burying himself in the sand during the day, avoiding capture in enemy territory to successfully return to base.

Lachlan's pastoral career in WA started in 1946, when he moved from SA with his older brother Donald and took up the pastoral lease at Bidgemia Station in the Gascoyne on behalf of the family company, the Nonning Pastoral Company.

Lachlan held the overall manager's position at Bidgemia Station for 25 years, firmly establishing himself and his family as respected members of the pastoral industry.

During this time Lachlan continued his passion for flying by making himself readily available to fly patients, at no cost to them, to receive medical attention.

This free service included flying Carnarvon doctors to attend critically ill patients, to help fill a gap the Royal Flying Doctor Service was unable to handle.

In 1953 Lachlan took his first committee seat, sitting on the Gascoyne Shire Council, a position he held from 1953-1980, including a term as president from 1953-1964.

Lachlan first represented the Pastoralist and Graziers Association (PGA) in 1955 as chairman of the Gascoyne District Committee, a position he held for four years.

Impressed by his leadership qualities,the PGA appointed him as its representative on the North West Consultative Council from 1962-1971.

He was also a member of the Agriculture Protection Board from 1970-1982, a position he held alongside that of Chairman of PGAís Vermin and Noxious Weeds committee.

During this time he played a major role in bringing government and pastoralists together to establish a Vermin Rating Scheme which is still in place today.

This achievement was a testimony to his firm leadership and diplomatic skills in helping to gel together individual free thinking pastoralists.

After 22 years as a member of PGA's executive committee (1967-1989) and 30 years as an active member, Lachlan was made a life member of PGA.

Despite life membership, Lachlan never stopped giving, continuing to pay his annual PGA membership fees and flying and accommodating representatives of the many organisations he so willingly worked with, free of charge.

Lachlan was not only a leader in the pastoral regions of WA, but also on his southern property Gunwarrie near Cranbrook, where he pioneered large scale tree planting to combat salinity.

He commenced planting in the early 1970s, eventually totalling 512,000 trees, and reclaimed or prevented more than 400ha from being salt affected, thereby also protecting his neighbours' land at the surrounding lower levels.

Typically, with no expectation of compensation, he also provided stock water to these neighbours during low rainfall years from a very large dam on Gunwarrie.

In 1968 Lachlan and his wife Jan moved to Muchea and there built a house on a small farm called Tallangatta, before finally settling in Perth in 1979.

To mark his significant personal and financial contribution to WA's pastoral industry, Lachlan was included on this year's Australia Day honours list with an Order of Australia award.

In accepting the award for a life of unselfish service, Lachlan was typically humbled, saying "I don't think I did any more than a lot of people that lived in the bush".

Lachlan is survived by his wife Jan, son Lachlan Jnr, two daughters Jane and Sara, and sister Gwen Harris.

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