Community leader farewelled

Community leader farewelled


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From RAAF aircrew member in World War II, potato farming and industry leader to community service and an OAM, Alan John Beattie filled his 88 years with sport, community and family.

From RAAF aircrew member in World War II, potato farming and industry leader to community service and an OAM, Alan John Beattie filled his 88 years with sport, community and family.

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ALAN John Beattie was born on October 26, 1925, at Atherton to parents Alfred and Hannah Beattie.

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ALAN John Beattie was born on October 26, 1925, at Atherton to parents Alfred and Hannah Beattie. He was the youngest of eight children.

Alan attended the Yungaburra State School where he gained his scholarship in 1940. Alan continued his education at Thornburgh College in Charters Towers until April 1942 when the outbreak of the war saw him sent to Herberton High School.

In 1943, Alan went to the Agricultural college at Gatton. Whilst there, he gained a ‘Blue’ for cricket and ‘1/2 Blue’ for football. Alan also joined the Air Cadets where he reached the rank of Corporal of College Flight.

In 1944, Alan enlisted in the RAAF as an aircrew member but was transferred to ground staff when the war circumstances changed.

The following year, Alan became an escort to his blinded bomber brother David on his return from England.

In July 1946, Alan was discharged from the RAAF and returned to the family farm on the Atherton Tableland. Upon his return he joined his brothers Herbert and Eric who, at the time, were dairying and growing maize.

They then decided to diversify into small crops, producing beans, peas and potatoes. Potatoes won the day even though an initial crop of three acres only yielded a meagre six ton i.e. two ton to the acre. As the prices at the time were so good they persevered.

1950 was a special year for Alan because on the December 30 he married his long time wife Jean Ruth Martin. Over the next ten years, Al and Jean had five children - Leith Margaret, Ian Colin, Donald George and twins Marjorie Jean and Peter Alan.

In 1960, Alan went to Victoria to potato seed growing areas to study and familiarise himself with the industry. He quickly honed these skills and upon returning to the farm was able to produce crops yielding 16 ton to the acre and Sebago at 12 ton to the acre.

At the same time, yields of maize had reduced to half-a-ton to the acre in the area with the family farm producing one-ton to the acre. Agricultural Department Reports at the time maintained that potatoes were not a viable crop for the area. By this time, other farmers were also growing potatoes and marketing was beginning to be a problem.

In 1963, after numerous meetings Alan was asked to draw up rules for the foundation of the Atherton Tableland Potatoes Growers Co Operative Association Ltd.

This he did and he became the first chairman/manager. The Co-op became so large so quick that in 1964 it became a full time job.

Alan later purchased a block of land in Grove Street containing an ex-army building which later served as headquarters for the Co-op. This acquisition cost a mere 6000 pound ($12,000).

The Co-op was doing so well that Al was appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, Mr John Row, to represent Qld on the Federal Potato Advisory Council in Canberra. He became chairman of that council in 1969 and remained in the position until 1973.

During his term at the Co-op Alan developed markets in Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Brisbane, Sydney, Mt Isa and Darwin as well as leading a trade mission to PNG and sending a shipment of potatoes to Singapore.

He was appointed to the Metric Conversion Board in interest of heavy produce and helped introduce 50kg bags to replace the 65kg bags.

In 1980, Alan was on the committee of C.O.D. for one term. That year, as part of the Gwynne-Leslie Creek land care group, he was instrumental in organising drainage of Leslie Creek in some areas and tree planting along Gwynne Creek.

In 1985, he was a founder of Far North Qld Rotary Field Day which attracted 1300 patrons and 300 exhibitors. This event was held on Alan’s farm.

In 1986, Alan joined up with a Sydney merchant and exporter in N.Z. and a Fiji importer to grow potatoes in Fiji and spent 12 months in Fiji.

1990 was a disastrous year, what with interest rates rising to 24 percent, and failed crops or poor crops and decreased prices saw Alan forced to sell part of the farm including the house that he had built.

This was also the year that, as Alan said, “I needed a holiday so I had a heart attack and was sent to Brisbane for treatment. I had my fuel lines changed.”

Returning home, Alan realised that farming was beginning to be too much for him so he commenced his washing, brushing and marketing of spuds business.

This is still operated by his daughter Marjorie today. This market significantly increased to a point where 1700 tonnes of Pontiac potatoes were processed, refrigerated and road transported (refrigerated) to Sydney in a year.

Alan was involved in community service all his life. In 2001,Alan John Beattie was awarded the Order of Australia medal (OAM) for “services to Primary Industries through the Far North Qld Rotary Field Day and to the Community.”

When he received his OAM, he said he was very proud of his achievements but he always insisted that others were more deserving or he only did what others have but that he was fortunate to be recognised for it.

He was a member of the Rotary Club of Atherton for many years and held various positions including President. He was awarded a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of Atherton for service to the community.

In 1994, Alan was a driving force behind ‘Drought Relief for the Outback’ where he organised fodder from the Tableland for transportation to the outback areas to feed the starving stock.

In 2006, Alan lost his long time mate and wife Jean who he supported and cared for to the very end. In 2008, he met his current partner Jill and together they have enjoyed each other’s company having taken several cruises to various locations around the world.

Jill has been a tower of strength to Alan. Of late, it had been a desire of Alan’s to reach his birthday on October 26, 2013, and I am sure that this was achieved because of the support of Jill, his family and friends.

Alan was diagnosed with cancer in January 2013 year and in February was told he did not have long to live. Through the persistence of Jill and his family, they convinced the medical staff to allow them to bring him home to the farm where he immediately appeared to be happy and become his old self again.

Alan’s main sporting interest was cricket. He was president of the Atherton Cricket Association from 1946 to 1963 and his stats were pretty amazing to say the least with his best performance of four wickets for four runs with the 5th wicket being dropped.

He represented the Tableland on many occasions and NQ several times. Best batting stats 101 N.O. in 14 overs.

Ray Sutton in presenting Alan’s eulogy said, “I first met Alan in the late 80s. I was travelling along the Malanda Atherton Road at about midnight when I came across a bloke chasing cows off the roadway.

“At that time, I was the local policeman and had one of those vehicles with red and blue light on the hood, which seemed to scare most people, so with lights a flashing I helped the poor old farmer to get his cows back into the paddock.

“That farmer was Alan. From that day on, we’ve been friends. I can vouch for Al’s cricketing abilities as I played against him in indoor cricket and whilst he was much senior to most players, his knowledge, skills and anticipation was much sharper than the younger player.

“I came out to see him after one such match and could hardly walk with sore legs, chest and arm muscles and there was Alan working his heart out with no apparent ill effects”.

Alan passed away at his family farm at about on Christmas Eve 2013.

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