Drover, trainer and family man
THAT Ken Cavanough was a big man who took on big challenges throughout his remarkable life is hardly surprising.
He began life the 10th of 12 children of Charles and Amy Cavanough at Roma Hospital where his birth weight was an incredible 15 lbs 2 oz or, in today’s currency, 6.86kg. He also had two teeth, which, it can safely be assumed, meant he was weaned to the bottle very early.
Charles Cavanough was a drover and station hand, and the family was forced to move around to follow dad’s work opportunities. They lived in Tambo, Mungallala, Mitchell and Augathella, and because of this transient lifestyle, Ken and his siblings had many school changes. He was schooled to Year 4 standard, but in what was to become a trademark trait, Ken became an avid reader who self-schooled to be extremely competent with figures.
It is notable in this regard that he later became a first-choice Master of Ceremonies and guest speaker at functions, wedding and family celebrations.
At age 12 Ken was already working in a droving camp and then moved to more permanent employment during the war years on Hoganthulla at Augathella where he was mentored by the owner, Reg Neiberding, who was to become a lifelong friend.
When Ken was 19, a grazier who needed a big mob of cattle moved from Mitchell to New South Wales rang the Mungallala pub and asked to speak to “Cavanough” to whom he could offer the job as boss drover. He thought he was speaking to Charles Cavanough, but inadvertently offered the job to the teenage Ken who took it up, got a team together and successfully completed the drive. He then became the grazier’s permanent drover.
It was also in his 19th year that Ken married his lifelong love, Melva Long, and over the next 15 years the union produced one son, Bruce, and two daughters, Kay and Deb. The family unit remained close-knit forever, bonded by beautiful parents who provided the love, opportunity and example that was clear to witness by anybody who encountered Ken and his family.
It was how he and Melva lived their lives for their children – this big man with his big heart, and enormous sense of responsibility.
But he was not to remain a drover forever. It was an occupation that took him away too often from his family. So Ken turned his hand to a variety of occupations – including opening his own butchery in Mitchell, railway worker, fencer, roo shooter and tank sinker. But he was never happier than when he was working cattle and horses.
In 1961 he and Melva tried city life, moving to Boondall in Brisbane where he found work at Amagraze meatworks where butchers were so impressed with his work that he was employed doing relief work in 10 shops when other managers went on holidays.
He and Melva also tried dairy farming, buying a farm on the Logan River near Beenleigh, but that was too unrewarding so they sold the block.
That was enough of trying other occupations and metropolitan life for Ken, so he moved back to Mitchell and operated his butcher shop before taking on contract mustering on properties north of the town on the Maranoa river.
His legendary ability to work stock attracted him to the Australian Pastoral Company management who asked him to manage their three large cattle properties in the region – Womblebank, Redford and Winneba.
It is worth recalling that the company had 11,500 cattle on their books on these rough blocks but within a year Ken and his young mustering team trucked out 10,000 head – and were able to produce another 12,500 that the owners did not realise were there.
It did not hurt his reputation, with the company referring to Ken as “the best cattleman in the west’’ …. a description that was difficult to challenge, with an induction into the Stockman Hall of Fame as a Drover.
During this time he was instrumental in establishing the Tooloombilla annual rodeo and campdraft which has raised many thousands of dollars for the Royal Flying Doctor service.
Ken was an organiser, worker, judge of rough riding and drafting at the event.
Then at age 55 he retired to Gympie where his main interest was training racehorses he had bred. He had two goodies – Cavlon and Our Beech. Cavlon won the Lord Mayor’s Cup in Brisbane and Our Beech won the Gold Nugget in Gympie.
Cavlon had 29 wins in his racing career, even winning his 100th start as a 10-yearold horse.
A tireless worker for the community wherever he lived, Ken was a local government councillor, Rotarian, Mason, and actively involved himself in rugby league and cricket clubs, show societies, neighbourhood watch groups, churches and schools.
Ken is remembered in Gympie for his contribution to the Gympie Turf Club. This was principally done by running the bar where his honesty and abstinence ensured the profits went to the club.
He is survived by Melva and their three children.
REMARKABLE: Ken Cavanough and his beloved Cavlon, when Ken was 64 and Cavlon was four years old.
Wonderful memories of family and friends as the life of Ken Cavanough is celebrated.
Ken Cavanough, owner and trainer of Cavlon the race horse.