Two days after my bowel cancer diagnosis my long standing friend and Dalgety colleague, Peter Garry died. A week or so earlier, when he accepted that his end was near, he asked me if I would give a career centred eulogy at his funeral. The very large funeral was held in the very grand chapel at his alma mater-St Josephs College. Here is what I said.
Vale Peter Garry-18th October,2013
When Peter so bravely asked me directly to speak about his career at his funeral, he made a throw away remark. He said, as if it had just dawned-“I won’t be there”. Then his great faith kicked in and he corrected himself, “yes I will”, he said with an inference, you’d better do a good job. So, Pete I hope I can do you justice.
When I was first sent to Bourke by Dalgety as a raw 19 year old, Peter was a colourful, mature in my eyes, 27 year old Head Stockman. He was tall, well built, popular with men and women and one can understand Pat’s attraction. He boarded at “The Gables” boarding house and did his ‘phone calls of an evening from the Dalgety ‘hole in the wall’ office in the main street, between Hales’ Store and Fitz’s Hotel, where the back bar was our favourite watering hole.
I recall curling up in one of the big leather chairs in his office and listening to him working the phone. Trading livestock in big numbers. To me it was all very glamorous. In those days Territory cattle were walked across Queensland and often changed hands several times on the way. Sometimes more than once to the same dealer. Legendary and highly respected dealer Jack Smyth loomed large and Peter was right in to it. Likewise big lines of locally bred sheep would often be sold with a 'lift' or placed ‘on the road’ with drovers and may well be sold several times before they eventually left the district. Commission rate was only 2.5% so agents had to get a “twist” if they could.
Peter was recruited from Country Producers Selling Co-op (CPS) at Mungindi to Dalgety, Bourke in 1957. He was going to do pharmacy at Sydney University, but he had grown up at Boorowa where his father Brian was a grazier and an agent for CPS and the call of the bush was too strong.
At Bourke he was joined by Jim and Kath Garnsey. Jim was the boss and the two of them built a great business. In the early 60’s more wool was trucked from Bourke railhead than any other centre in the world. From memory a total of 52,000 bales of which 50% went to Dalgetys. Jim’s arrival in Bourke was the beginning of a great friendship which lasted ‘til Jim’s death five years ago.
I won’t embarrass Pat with the details of Peter’s impecunious position at the time of their wedding, a story with which she is all too familiar. Suffice to say Peter was madly in love with Pat and he wasn’t going to allow something as base as a lack of cash get in the way of their marriage. I drew on his example a few years later when Gail and I were married.
After their marriage Pat had the joy of moving from Queen Street, Woollahra to the delights of Bourke and Pat will tell you how Kath Garnsey was her mentor and supporter and helped a not insignificant adjustment and the two families became even closer.
Whilst at Bourke Bernard and Matthew were born and Peter succeeded Jim as Branch Manager in 1965. Dalgety, Bourke had become one of Australia’s great inland stock and station agencies. Peter revived and coached the Rugby team which in later years went on to dominate the Western NSW competition. Within Dalgety, Bourke was a prestigious Branch and like the Governor it was named after, was very Irish. It helped to be Catholic!
In the third year of my Dalgety Cadetship I was sent back to Bourke to support Peter as he settled in to the management. So he was my boss. He had to contend with a horrific drought and an insensitive Head Office who were being tough with client finance-not an easy situation for a new Branch Manager. But, he prevailed and held the business together. Bernard found among his papers a report he had to submit on my performance which he had kept all these years. Perhaps fortunately for me, what he wrote in that lovely firm handwriting, is too faded to read!
Catherine also arrived at Bourke before Peter was promoted to Branch Manager, West Wyalong where Meagan was born. Thence to Regional Manager, Forbes where Julianne arrived and on to Regional Manager at Orange-all in a few short years.
In 1978 I had some say in his further promotion to Branch Manager of the very prestigious branch of Albury. Prior to 1960 Albury was one of the 11 Dalgety Branches in Australia (the others were termed “sub-branches”) that reported direct to London and was a very important centre for the Company.
Having grown up at Boorowa and worked at Moree, Mungindi, Bourke, West Wyalong, Forbes, Orange and Albury few people had better knowledge of NSW than Peter. Additionally he had developed a real flair for making rural property sales. So he was a stand-out candidate for the position of NSW Property Manager to which he moved in 1986. In this position he had state-wide responsibility for rural property sales and he loved the job. He told me it was his favourite posting. He gained his Valuer’s ticket and brought real knowledge and professionalism to the position.
The career picture would be incomplete without reference to his auctioneering skills both with livestock and property. He was complimented on his spirited selling by that doyen of auctioneers, Malcolm Capp and he confided how much he appreciated the compliment.
Peter was one of those quintessentially Australian characters who made companies like Dalgety the great institutions that they were. He worked for a single employer for 41 years. He was widely known and respected.
His life was centred on his family and his job. He also loved his sport with rugby and racing looming large and in more recent years, golf.
He was strong on integrity, loyalty, and reliability, and big on personality, competence and energy.
May he rest in peace.