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Horses to horticulture and plumbing

LIFETIME OF EXPERIENCE: Bill Thomas with a mare he had broken in.
LIFETIME OF EXPERIENCE: Bill Thomas with a mare he had broken in.

FROM horses to horticulture, 85-year-old Bill Thomas has had a life full of different experiences.

Following a call out in Rural Weekly a few editions ago, Bill decided to share his memories of growing up on the land.

"I used to compete in flag racing and some other minor ring events a little bit, just for a bit of fun,” he said.

Mr Thomas said his father worked with horses during the hard times of the Great Depression.

"My dad was a keen horseman.

"He was a drover but during the Great Depression there wasn't a lot of droving to be done,” he said.

"So he took to doing a bit of work breaking in and shoeing horses.”

He said his father was also a bit of an amateur vet and used to treat horses for any problems they had.

"He knew when horses had ailments and he could treat them,” he said.

His first job growing up was delivering ice part-time in the mid-1940s and he said the pay was very different to what someone would get now.

"We used to get paid about four shillings a day, which was 40 cents, for a 12-hour day,” he said.

"We'd get up at daybreak and deliver ice all day. We would use a round saw to cut the ice and then load it into an insulated van.”

Mr Thomas also served his plumbing apprenticeship in Mount Morgan near Rockhampton.

He spent the first 22 years of his life in Mount Morgan before moving to New Guinea.

He worked in plumbing in New Guinea for 18 months.

"I wanted to travel around a bit, so I went to New Guinea and took a plumbing job there,” he said.

"When I moved back to the mainland, I went out west to places like Muttaburra and worked on some stations where people were building new homesteads.

"After that I moved to Aramac, where I met my wife, and then out to Longreach where I had my own plumbing business for several years.”

Although he didn't have much to do with horses after moving back from New Guinea, the love would start again years later when he had his four children.

"I wanted to focus on my plumbing work and I worked on local councils,” he said.

Mr Thomas and his wife purchased a small property as a part-time venture to spend time at when they weren't working in town at Mackay.

It was here the love of horses started again when one of his four children, his son, developed an interest in horses.

"I bought a small property up in Finch Hatton Gorge (near Mackay) and my son loved horses, so we got a palomino stallion,” he said.

"We bred some nice horses.

"I sold the property about 10 years ago so my daughter who lives in Biggenden took the horses, there's still three or four of them down there,” he said.

For a few years, Mr Thomas used to grow and sell fruit on the property.

"We grew a fair bit of fruit, mostly mandarins,” he said.

"We also experimented growing more exotic fruits like lychees, rambutans and avocados, and I used to sell them all locally.”

Today he lives in Mackay, as he has done for the past 35 years, where he looks after his wife.

Topics:  fruit horses mackay mount morgan


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