Cat­tle­man hon­ours his late wife with a char­ity

The Western Star - - RURALWEEKL­Y - Geordi.of­[email protected]­ral­ GEORDI OF­FORD

THE love story between Sir Gra­ham Mc­Cam­ley and his wife, Shirley, didn’t end when her life was cut short in an ul­tra­light plane crash in 2010.

His bond for her still lives on today, as the Cen­tral Queens­land cat­tle­man has es­tab­lished the Lady Mc­Cam­ley Memo­rial Foun­da­tion to hon­our her legacy.

Eight years on since her tragic death, the 85-year-old still gets emo­tional re­flect­ing on his late wife – they were noth­ing short of soul mates.

“Our son said to me ‘you are the only man suited to mum’,” he said.

Only weeks ago Sir Gra­ham auc­tioned off the last of his cat­tle ge­net­ics for char­ity, which marked a clos­ing mile­stone for his Tartrus Brah­man Stud.

In the next cou­ple of months he will re­lease a book that will share his tales of the cat­tle in­dus­try.

His ca­reer high­lights in­clude be­ing the youngest and first pres­i­dent of the Cat­tle­man’s Union of Aus­tralia and re­ceiv­ing a knight­hood for his con­tri­bu­tion to the beef in­dus­try – re­mark­ably, he has also sur­vived a he­li­copter crash.

This week the Ru­ral Weekly caught up with Sir Gra­ham to talk about an in­dus­try he worked hard for, and his dear Shirley.


Lady Shirley Mc­Cam­ley was the love of Sir Gra­ham’s life.

“She stood by me the whole time... no mat­ter what I was do­ing she was al­ways on my side.”

Sir Gra­ham made a prom­ise to his late wife when they were mar­ried.

“We said we’d never let the sun go down on us over a disagreeme­nt,” he said.

Lady Mc­Cam­ley was farewelled at a fu­neral at Rock­hamp­ton’s St Paul’s Cathe­dral which at­tracted 1200 mourn­ers. Shirley would have been hum­bled by this num­ber in at­ten­dance.

Af­ter her pass­ing Sir Gra­ham set up the Lady Mc­Cam­ley Memo­rial

Foun­da­tion to help char­i­ties which Shirley had pre­vi­ously sup­ported.

“She was one of the kind­est peo­ple I knew, if we saw some­one she wouldn’t want to talk about us, she would only want to know how they are and what they had been up to,” he said.

“The Foun­da­tion has a board with mem­bers from all walks of life.”

Re­cently, Sir Gra­ham auc­tioned off his brah­man ge­net­ics con­sist­ing of 8000 se­men straws with all pro­ceeds go­ing to the Lady Mc­Cam­ley Memo­rial Foun­da­tion, with Life­line be­ing the ma­jor bene­fac­tor.

“Life­line is do­ing some great work out in the ru­ral community,” he said.

“In a drought cat­tle and sheep can get so bad it gets to the point where they can’t be trucked and can’t be sold and it’s like watch­ing your life drift away in front of you.”


Sir Gra­ham has been in­volved with the cat­tle in­dus­try all his life.

His father ran polled here­ford cat­tle which Gra­ham con­tin­ued to do un­til the late 1950s.

“I went into brah­mans to prove how bad of a breed they were,” he joked.

“They had all sorts of prob­lems and they would only calve ev­ery sec­ond year.”

In 1963, Sir Gra­ham started work­ing with the CSIRO to in­tro­duce the brah­man breed and work on their fer­til­ity and weight gain.

“We culled any beast that didn’t calve within 365 days,” he said.

“The su­per dams would breed ev­ery year for ap­prox­i­mately 12 years.”

He said there was one event he would never for­get.

“We took one of our brah­man bulls to Tam­worth for a show and there was a santa gertrudis bull who held the record for be­ing 1000kg,” he said.

“We showed our bull, Rio, who won the Grand Cham­pion weigh­ing in at 1140kg and only had four teeth.”

Sir Gra­ham’s work in the cat­tle in­dus­try hasn’t only been on the breed­ing side.

He was the first and youngest pres­i­dent of the Cat­tle­man’s Union of Aus­tralia.

“Peo­ple on the land needed a voice,” he said.

“So I told some gra­ziers if you can get 1000 peo­ple in Rock­hamp­ton for one day, I will lead you.

“We had a meet­ing with 1000 peo­ple at the Le­ich­hardt Ho­tel and we took up a whole floor and Shirley and I were com­mit­ted from the minute ev­ery­one put their hand up to join us.”

In 1981 Sir Gra­ham was named on the Queen’s Birth­day hon­ours list and was later knighted in 1986 for his con­tri­bu­tion to the cat­tle in­dus­try.

“I never did what I did to re­ceive praise,” he said.

“I did it be­cause it needed to be done.”

In a drought cat­tle and sheep can get so bad it gets to the point where they can’t be trucked and can’t be sold and it’s like watch­ing your life drift away in front of you.

— Sir Gra­ham Mc­Cam­ley


SIR Gra­ham re­tired to Yep­poon in 2012 but that hasn’t stopped him from keep­ing busy.

“I was never re­ally ready to re­tire and I still haven’t fully re­tired,” he said.

He made the de­ci­sion to slow down af­ter the pass­ing of Lady Mc­Cam­ley and af­ter his own ac­ci­dent in 2007 when his he­li­copter came down on his prop­erty Tartrus.

“I still feel it when I move my neck a bit be­cause I broke it,” he said.

In the next few months, Sir Gra­ham will be re­leas­ing a book ti­tled Roads in the Sky.

“I’ve kept a di­ary ev­ery year since 1954, they con­tain ev­ery­thing from po­lit­i­cal com­ments, fuel prices and cat­tle prices to prop­er­ties I have bought and sold.”


CAT­TLE BARON: Sir Gra­ham Mc­Cam­ley by the river on Tartrus, where he lived with his wife and es­tab­lished the Mc­Cam­ley cat­tle em­pire.

Sir Gra­ham Mc­Cam­ley and his grad­daugh­ter Felic­ity and great grand­daugh­ters Hara and Tally, by the river at Tartrus.


Lady Shirley Mc­Cam­ley.

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