Portrait of an unstoppable lady
A BROKEN wrist, breast cancer and a broken heel weren't enough to deter Rosemary Waugh Allcock, at 90 years of age, from still working her family farm in northern New South Wales.
She and her family have worked this coastal cattle property and horse stud, Taloumbi Station.
The 160-hectare farm, while much smaller than its glory days, is nestled between the coast and the mighty Clarence River and provides a direct living link to the Clarence Valley's colonial past.
"Every day while I walk around the farm and feed my boys and girls in the paddocks, I remember the years spent with my family around here, there are just so many wonderful memories and stories. I feel so privileged and blessed to be born at the right time and moment as if it were my destiny to own Taloumbi" Rosemary says.
Rosemary was born in 1924 in Maclean and was an only child. She was educated in horse riding, cooking, literature, painting, fashion and history; with her mother, Dorothea, grooming her from an early age to be married off.
That is what girls did in those days, but Rosemary had very different ideas about where her life was heading.
"When I finished my education at SCEGGS in Sydney I was handed letters of introduction and took up the strong call to travel Europe. This journey of self- discovery led me through the galleries and museums of Austria and Britain. While in Britain I was able to meet with my family and trace my lineage back 500 years, it was all so very exciting and grand".
Among the many highlights of Rosemary's first trip abroad was the purchase of an old book costing the princely sum of six pence.
"I was walking past a vintage bookshop in London and for some reason I felt summonsed to go inside. I walked straight to a shelf of old dusty books and pulled one out and much to my surprise it was written by a relative, the Reverend Alexander Waugh in 1830. The Memoir of Rev Alexander Waugh, D.D. was an extraordinary find that came out of nowhere and is one of many interesting treasures in my home today".
Waugh family traditions established over the past century continue today and are testament to a bygone era where colonial elegance, style and fortitude were high on the list of values to aspire to.
The original stockyards on the property were built with convict labour. Cotton was the first crop sown into the virgin landscape. The success of the crop was written up in the local news- paper.
The Waugh brothers went on to introduce devon herds, stud and stock horses, sheep, and in later years introduced the angus breed to the Clarence district. That link continues today.
As the 19th century rolled into the 20th, global events provided business opportunities for those on the land in the Clarence Valley, one of three major regions in Australia that succeeded in breeding horses for the wars.
The Waughs seized this opportunity by introducing clydesdales and Welsh mountain ponies to their herds, enabling the remounts to be sold for the Boer War and the First World War.
While the stock horses and remounts are long gone, the Welsh mountain ponies have continued to be an endearing fixture for Rosemary, who feeds and talks with them daily and knows each member of her stud by name.
Life in that pioneer period was tough for many; and even tougher for the women when their house burnt down - which was the case for Rosemary's mother, Dorothea, and grandmother.
This wasn't enough to deter Dorothea, a city girl who met her handsome farming husband while holidaying at Yamba's Main Beach. Rosemary believes her love of nature has come from her mother.
While her mother may have been a city girl, she grew to love the Aussie bush and its animals at Taloumbi Station and lobbied the state government in the early 1940s to have some areas of their farm declared a wildlife sanctuary.
Her dream was realised in the 1940s when a proclamation was made declaring the region between Angourie and Woolgoolga a bird and animal sanctuary where shooting was prohibited. Today this is Yuraygir National Park, the largest coastal park and undeveloped coastline strip in NSW.
Rosemary Waugh did end up marrying the man of her dreams, Dr Edward Allcock OAM from England who settled in the area and who came to Taloumbi Station looking to buy angus cattle.
Not only did he fall in love with Rosemary's damper, the magic of Taloumbi caught his attention.
Today the Waughs' love of nature still permeates the family seat where groves of trees planted decades ago provide inspiration for an aspiring artist and provide opportunities to sow seeds for future generations.
Rosemary clearly remembers the days spent on horseback mustering and droving with her father along the coastal plains of the Clarence River delta and it is this spirit of adventure that continues to inspire her today through her art practice.