Cattleman honours his late wife with a charity
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.