Henry Charles Daniel: A Cannon Hill original

IN THE FAMILY: McDougall’s stock and station agent and Henry Daniels’ great nephew, Ross Ellis.
IN THE FAMILY: McDougall’s stock and station agent and Henry Daniels’ great nephew, Ross Ellis. Emma Boughen And Contributed

HENRY Charles Daniels, 1907-1966, is one of the originals from Newmarket Yards to make the move to Cannon Hill.

Henry was gone before my time at The Hill so I never got to know him, more's the pity, for by all accounts he was a legend in his own time, a big man with a big voice who did not suffer fools gladly yet had a real soft spot in his big heart for those who measured up to Henry's standards - no mean feat apparently.

Henry was a hard man to work for yet a wonderful, generous man, who treated his mean like family, always welcome in his home.

Don Ross was one who did and Henry was only too pleased to have him in his team drafting cattle for Dalgetys and Australian Estates. Henry also contracted to Fitzsimmons, unloading and drafting pigs and calves and eventually moved into the road transport business as well, carting stock into and out of Cannon Hill, covering areas of the Darling Downs, Brisbane Valley, Fassifern Valley and Gold Coast Hinterland and northern New South Wales.

A man of many talents, Henry was also a buyer for many butchers including Melrose Meats. As good as he was, he obviously still needed good help to get all this done. His team included Don Ross, Ken Pope, Alan Storie, Neil Pugh and Sonny Ellis, good men all of them. They had to be to work for Henry Daniels.

In the words of Alan Storie: "Henry was a hard man to work for yet a wonderful, generous man who treated his men like family, always welcome in his home".

Mrs Daniels (Elizabeth) always had a feed on the stove for "Henry's boys".

Elizabeth and Henry had five daughters - June, Jill, Joy, Jacqueline (nicknamed Ina) and Kay - every one of them capable girls who idolised their father and grew up helping their dad in the saleyards and loving every minute of it. June was a regular driver for her father's trucking business, doing a weekly run to the Brisbane Valley for pigs and calves.

Alan told me Henry was an exceptional horseman and every horse he had "was a bloody beauty". One in particular, a nice big grey horse that Henry rode himself, was used every year in The Blessing Of The Plough ceremony, an integral part of the official opening of the Brisbane Royal Show (The Ekka).

Alan has very fond memories of Henry and his family and counts himself lucky to have had such a great start in life working for and learning from Henry Daniels.

Don Ross speaks very highly of Henry and recalls being like "one of the family".

Jill and Joy remember Henry as "the best dad in the world" and treasure their time in the yards with him.

In Jill's words he was "the best cattleman in the business" .

For myself all I can add is I have never heard a bad word spoken about Henry Daniels and I only wish I could have known him.

However I did have the privilege of knowing and working with Sonny Ellis, Henry's nephew.

Sonny grew up around the yards and spent a lot of his childhood with Uncle Henry and his girls.

In the words of Betty Ellis, "Sonny was like the boy that Henry never had".

Working for Henry as an adult and taking care of the transport business for him, was an experience that served Sonny well later when he drove livestock trucks for Byrne & Houston, operating out of Cannon Hill and eventually when Sonny went out on his own.

My earliest memories of Sonny are of the bloke who abused me the loudest on my first visit to the yards for patting his dog and then took pity on me and directed me to the superintendant's office where I could apply for a job.

That sums Sonny Ellis up for me: All business when he was working and the nicest bloke you could know. A great big voice only overshadowed by a big soft heart.

Sonny was one of the best when it came to training and working dogs. He loved his dogs and they loved him. If you doubted it, just try putting your hand on Sonny, they would chew your arm off.

The dogs I remember are two big black dogs named Nigger and Charley and a black and tan named George.

They were all rippers but Nigger was the best. Sonny used to say "if I could just teach him to drive I wouldn't have to be here at all".

Friday morning, as regular as clockwork, Gary Beckett and I would coax and cajole our dogs up to the dip, grab them and throw them in.

Without fail as Gary and I walked back to the canteen all wet and covered with dog hair, Sonny would arrive, stand at the door and tell his dogs "in you go". As they willingly raced and plunged in like Olympic swimmers Sonny would chuckle and say "when are you blokes gonna break those dogs in?".

Betty Ellis revealed something to me that I doubt Sonny would have ever admitted to: When Nigger, Charlie and George got home at night they were fed on their very own individual china plates. It tickled me to hear, but it didn't really surprise me. That was Sonny.

When it came to driving, Sonny would leave most blokes in the shade.

He could back a semi-trailer into places where some of us would have trouble parking a pushbike.

Sonny loved his job and when struck with a severe heart attack at only 48 years of age it was gut-wrenching for him to make the decision to sell out to Barbara Brown.

But sell he did and then took a position on the checkpoint for the rest of his working life.

The checkpoint was a real meeting place for Cannon Hill stockmen so at least Sonny was in good company every day and still close to the action.

Sonny and Betty had a large family, six if memory serves me correctly.

One boy followed in dad and Uncle Henry's footsteps - Warwick's very own Ross Ellis who entered the livestock industry as a wool classer, working in western sheds until he took up a teaching position in the sheep and wool section of Ithica College of TAFE.

Shearing several thousand sheep weekly right in the heart of Brisbane, we all knew this could not last and the sheep and wool division eventually transferred to Warwick.

But not before Ross, who had now risen to the head of department had the opportunity to realise a dream he had nurtured since watching Tony Ryan perform shearing displays at Expo in Japan.

In 1988 Expo was held in Brisbane and Ross Ellis displayed the art of shearing to the world.

The following year Ross and his family moved to Warwick and continued with TAFE.

Many local readers may know Ross as the friendly face behind the counter at the Mayfair Casket Agency or Mc Dougall & Sons' main sheep man for the past 15 or 16 years or the passionate supporter of rugby league.

However you may know Ross, I'll bet whenever you run into him you just can't help but smile - that's the sort of bloke he is.

I like to think he gets that from Sonny and his uncle, Henry Daniels.