The Bligh family has been grazing sheep and cattle, and more recently farming, on the Condamine near Brookstead for more than 100 years.
In 1908, Peter Bligh’s grandfather, Arthur (known as ACV) Bligh bought Condamine Plains which had been part of Gore’s original Yandilla selection. This property is still farmed by Peter’s cousin Harley Bligh. ACV was civic minded and a member of the Millmerran Council for many years.
By the time ACV died, he had provided for his family of seven children, having bought among other properties, Kurrowah. Peter and Sally Bligh now farm this property which ACV purchased in 1924 from Brodribb, who with Carter had bought this part of the original Cecil Plains Station from the government in the mid 1860s.
Peter’s father John started work on Kurrowah in 1929, straight from school. He worked there until he volunteered for World War II, 7th Division, having married Nancy Stumm in 1940. John contracted polio in the Middle East in 1941 and was invalided home. He spent several years recuperating in Greenslopes Hospital, before returning home to Kurrowah.
Despite being largely paralysed from the waist down, John managed to run sheep and grow grain with the help of farm labour and his own growing family. In those days, the dingo fence was better maintained and it was possible to run sheep. A friend adapted a car with the clutch and brake operated from the steering wheel, except for the accelerator, as John had movement in his right foot. Bush ingenuity at its best.
The original 1880s homestead was riddled with white ants so was replaced in the early 1950s by a new house which was more accessible for a wheelchair. The house was constructed of bricks made on the property, and the wood was cypress pine, less prone to attack by white ants.
A little after this John decided a better bridge was needed to link the two parts of Kurrowah on either side of the Condamine. In 1954, a contractor was building the current bridge at Cecil Plains, and at weekends he would come up and work on the new bridge which is still used.
Peter and Sally have made the homestead into a lovely home, situated as it is on a lagoon which was once part of the Condamine River. Here they have brought up three daughters, and now have four granddaughters. Some of the furniture, including dining chairs, came from the 1859 Cecil Plains Homestead. Peter’s godmother, Sheila Williams, was the daughter of the last manager at Cecil Plains and she worked in the Land Army during World War II driving tractors on both Condamine Plains and Kurrowah.
In 2011, the Blighs sold part of the property. The rich black soil was where Peter grew much of his cotton. They have kept the area on the western side of the Condamine where they now run some cattle and grow cotton, chickpeas and sorghum. Peter says they will probably retire to Toowoomba at some stage, but not yet.
Words by Wendy Moline | Image by Anna Tomlinson