Born: Perth, December 17, 1924.
Died: Capel, May 3, 2022, aged 97 years.
THE Australian beef cattle fraternity and WA thoroughbred racing lost an industry icon with the passing of Richard (Dick) Vincent at Capel last month.
Calling the shots till the end, the 97-year old pastoral and farming maverick, passed away peacefully surrounded by family at his home on the banks of the Wonnerup Estuary.
And on Sunday friends and family travelled to the region for a 'farewell to Dick' gathering, just down the road at Port Geographe, much of which he planned himself.
They recalled a larger-than-life character with a mind as sharp as a tack, a storyteller with a wicked sense of humour, a deal maker and risk-taker, innovator and talented cartoonist, who had a love of good looking horses, cattle and women.
A man who started with nothing but through sheer grit, wit and hard work and without the shackles of inheritance, created and drove his own successes.
He was born in Peppermint Grove, but there was no silver spoon.
He barely knew his father, a businessman and yachtsman, who spent most of his time travelling.
His parents divorced when he and his brother John were very young and financial pressures through the depression forced his mum Molly's hand to move to The Grange, Dongara, to live with her parents Francis and WB (William) Mitchell.
WB was a brother to former WA premier and WA governor Sir James Mitchell.
WB taught Mr Vincent to ride when he was just two and it's where he found his love of horses and also where he was first exposed to pastoral station life, as he listened to the stories of passing travellers.
Primary schooling was by correspondence taught by his mum, with secondary schooling at Hale School, a huge financial sacrifice for her and one not appreciated by him because he did not want to go back to living in Perth.
On leaving school he joined the RAAF, firstly in air crew and then in the meteorology unit, based mostly in Darwin.
When he was discharged in 1945, with just 200 pounds to his name, he returned to Dongara and began breaking in horses, four every eight days, for which he got five pounds a horse and later share-farming with a team of horses and an old Fordson tractor.
It gave him the start in 1952 to buy his first property, the 546 hectare (1350 acre) soldier settler block Talga, at Toodyay, in partnership with the family's original Peppermint Grove neighbour John Stoddart.
Considered low priority because he wasn't married, Mr Vincent sat outside the office of the chairman of the settlement board for four days until he was granted an interview.
They crossed paths again some years later when Mr Vincent was president of the Pastoralist's & Graziers Association of WA (PGA) and when he said to him "you won't remember me" the response was "how could I forget you".
During his time at Talga he married South Perth girl Claire Oldham and they had two children Peter and Jody.
It's also where his foray into livestock began, running Shorthorn cattle and Merino sheep.
Breeding thoroughbreds was part of the program too, something he continued until his death making him one of the longest participating vendors at annual Perth yearling sales and also venturing to sales in Sydney where his top price was $450,000.
His horse successes were many including winning breeder of the year and broodmare of the year (Lady Danna), a triple Group 1 winner (Barely a Moment) and the first horse to win a race in every Australian state (Victory Lad).
Unable to expand at Talga, the family sold and returned to Dongara buying the 1619-hectare Bonniefield, which hugged the town's northern boundary and another 3237 hectares south of town comprising Springfield and Nhargo, in partnership with Claire's father Ron Oldham.
There they grew crops, ran sheep and cattle and introduced a Hereford stud, Bonniefield, to the mix, later adding a Brahman stud and then a combination of the two, a Braford stud to supply seedstock to northern pastoralists.
Peter and Jody recall Dongara as a fun time where they fished and swam and ate crayfish more than bacon for breakfast.
An annual highlight was the Dongara Easter Cup race meet, made even more memorable given the racetrack was on their property and there were plenty of working bees and parties in association.
One night after a particularly big day at the races Mr and Mrs Vincent returned home with a bit of a stagger in their step to find a 'snake' in the bed.
"Don't go near the bed Rencie (his nickname for Claire), grab the shotgun," Mr Vincent yelled.
Like the warrior protector, he blasted away at the bed filling it with holes and pulled back the sheets to reveal the dead serpent his missing belt.
In the 1960s, Mr Vincent followed in his father's yachting footsteps and competed in three Sydney to Hobart yacht races aboard Narani in 1963, where he was the hero in stormy seas, Tam O'Shanter in 1965 and Cecily June in 1967.
In 1970 he sought water of a different kind buying Hamelin Pool station, Shark Bay, with its huge artesian bore and lake, a magnet for birdlife, where they ran sheep and cattle and later Matilda Downs, Kendenup, "which nearly sank him" when the bank reneged on the contract to finance him.
Hamelin Pool was sold two years later in 1972, for almost four times what he paid for it, the same year they sold Bonniefield and bought Hamelin Park, Williams, with both transacting at $50/acre.
There, Mr Vincent started Hamelin Park Simmental stud, one of the first in Australia to adopt the European breed, which he was exposed to while on the PGA cattle and meat committee.
He subsequently served on the World Simmental Federation for 12 years with three as president, on the board of Simmental Australia for 16 years, including six as president, and the Simmental Association WA for 18 years, with seven as president.
But despite his profile, it was son Peter he credited for the success of Hamelin Park.
During that time Mr Vincent travelled often, judged at every royal show in Australia except Adelaide, at shows in Christchurch, South Africa and Zambia and met many dignitaries, including attending several high society events with the Duchess of Devonshire.
Thanks to his forward thinking, the Simmental breed was the first in Australia to introduce performance recording.
He later joined the Australian Registered Cattle Breeders Association, the representative body for all breed associations and his work there remains one of his legacies.
When he was elected president in 1979, it had just 12 breeds as members and no money.
Within the first two years of his three-year term, he had 35 breed societies on board representing about 13,000 registered breeders and it had the financial resources to drive and contribute to research and other projects.
Mr Vincent's contribution was recognised by industry with the establishment of the RW Vincent Award, which acknowledges outstanding service to the Australian cattle breeding industry and has been won by some of the most capable and influential producers in the nation.
On the livestock marketing side, he was an early adopter of new technology and the first to push for CLASS, the forerunner to CALM (Computer Aided Livestock Marketing), now AuctionsPlus, to be introduced to WA from the eastern seaboard where it was being trialled.
It was largely for this beef industry work, plus his involvement in the thoroughbred horse breeding and racing industry that he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2015.
In 1979, he bought Minilya station, Carnarvon, in partnership with a group of Perth businessman, beating Yosse Goldberg to it, after posing as an insurance assessor to get a look over the place.
They ran Merinos and had "three years of fun" before doubling their money when they sold.
But the real jewel in his agricultural property crown was the million acre (404,686 hectare) De Grey station, Port Hedland, which he bought in partnership with Mark Rubin in 1984.
He was camping on the De Grey River when he heard it was for sale and with his mind racing back to all those stories he had heard about it as a kid, he knew he had to have it.
It had been flattened by a cyclone just before he took over so there was an enormous amount of work to be done fixing waters and putting a roof back on the homestead and building the cattle herd from about 10,000 head to about 25,000 head.
He was at his happiest there riding among the cattle on his favourite horse Charlie and camping out along its river banks during mustering, often for weeks at a time.
With no workable succession plan De Grey was sold in 1997 to current owners, the Bettinis.
In 2002, with his partner of 24 years, Jan Cornish, when he was 78 and she was 66, Mr Vincent got to relive that riverbank life in an epic ride to celebrate the Year of the Outback.
It was just them and four horses, one each to ride and one pack horse each, which Jan spent three months training.
They drove 1600km from Capel to Balfour Downs station, Newman and spent 14 days and 400km riding towards the ocean along the Oakover, Nullagine and De Grey Rivers.
Dramas along the way included being charged by a bull camel on heat which they had to shoot to save themselves, three of their horses breaking away and heading for home until Dick managed to gallop them down on the remaining horse and Dick and his mount almost being lost in quicksand.
Ms Cornish was his soulmate, someone with whom he shared a love of horses, dogs and cattle and enjoyed a similar sense of fun and getting up to pranks.
With help from long-time overseers 86-year old Neville Smith, a former Queensland and Northern Territory cattleman and accomplished racehorse trainer, and his wife Barbara, they continued to run their broodmares at Capel and De Grey Park Droughtmaster stud, which was only sold last year.
In typical fashion, Mr Vincent was still buying and selling and doing deals in the weeks before his death.
He could pull-off some of the most hard-nosed deals without blinking an eye, but he had a soft side particularly for children and young people, especially those disadvantaged or needing a hand and those keen to have a go.
He was known to loan a horse, give away a heifer or two and provide guidance and advice, something he always regretted not having from his father.
Characters like Dick Vincent - 'Slippery' to some - are not born every day.
Every person that knew him has a story to tell about him, but none will tell it as well as he would have.
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