I’m the fourth generation of my family to live atop the Great Dividing Range, in a small farming village called Rydal.
Rydal is a place of rolling hills, bitter winters and daffodil dotted fields. For me, it will always be home.
I've always been interested in our family history and this curiosity led me to start asking questions, mostly to my mother, about the original family farm and how it was passed through the generations. My mother grew up in Rydal on an estate owned by my grandmother's parents and managed by my grandfather.
I don’t remember much about my maternal Grandfather John, or Jack as he is more commonly known, other than his tall and imposing height, his big hands that could pick me up in one swoop, and his kind face. An accurate description of my Pop would be a man who always wore a dusty, sweat stained Akubra paired with oil spotted trousers with suspenders, a button down flannelette shirt and boots.
A shearer, family man and a hard worker, my grandfather belonged on the land.
My Grandfather was one of 9 children. Surprisingly, they weren't Catholic (much to my maternal great grandmothers disgust!)! Six girls and three boys lived an idyllic life on Mt Lambie (just 10 minutes from Rydal) where they grew apples, cherries and bred fine Merino wool.
The three boys Harry, Jack and Alec were all very close, but all vastly different.
Harry is always fondly remembered for constantly tinkering with anything. It's always been said that given the chance, Harry would have preferred to be an engineer or mechanic. Harry was never married.
Jack, who wasn't particularly interested in being an orchardist like his father, had more of a penchant for sheep and livestock. Jack married Joan - who lived in Rydal - and they had 6 children; Margaret, Maureen, Helen (my mother), David, Susan and Cathy.
Lastly, Alec always wanted to continue the legacy in farming. Alec and his wife Joyce built a house on the property in 1952 and then had their three children Jimmy, Colin and Deborah.
From Father to Son
Although each son probably had a different opinion on how they wanted to be involved in the farm, it was never to be discussed.
When my Great Grandfather died in 1952, he left the farm to Alec and Harry.
As you can imagine, my grandfather was incredibly hurt by this decision. It was always Harry's birthright to inherit the farm -- whether he wanted it or not -- but as far as we know, it was never discussed with Pop about being written out of the will.
The 6 daughters weren't left any land either. And as I try and justify this through the fact that it was the 1950's, it still doesn't sit well with me.
Hitting the History Books
I sat down with my 2nd cousin Colin (Alec's son) who is the unofficial Hunter Historian and current owner of the original Hunter property to get both sides of the story. Colin and my mother grew up together with their respective brothers and sisters, and ever since Colin has remained a very close part of our immediate family.
We discussed everything from the original migration of the Applebee's (our ancestors) to our complex family history and succession lines.
It's an odd conversation to have.
Colin was able to help me understand some of the reasoning behind my Great Grandfather's decision to leave my grandfather Jack out of the will. As it was, Jack married into a well-to-do family and ran his wife's parent's farming ventures. Jack also owned 700 acres of his own land on the Cox's River that - according to my Grandfather - bred very fine wool. Because of this, Colin said that my Great Grandfather believed that Jack would be well looked after and that Harry and Alec needed the farm more.
Now knowing this, I can barely begrudge my Great Grandfather for his decision at what was best for his family.
Succeeding In Succession
Thinking about families and succession, what people want most is to ensure that their family ties and structure stay strong, and that business is not affected in the process. And how does this start? With open and transparent conversations.
Despite this, all three brothers remained very close throughout their lives, and so have their ancestors. Colin, who still lives on the same land, told me he felt guilty about what had happened to Jack and that's why he sold some land to my brother, Patrick. This, for some reason, is a real comfort for me; the "perceived" wrongs of the past have been reconciled, and the Hunter family continues to live on the land.