Drover, trainer and fam­ily man

The Gympie Times - - NEWS - Tony Koch

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.

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