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Barker Family - Pig Farmers

William Barker (1888-1945)

William (1888-1945) (57yrs) had a farm of 37.5 acres (two 15ac and Hackett's 7.5ac blocks) It was 524 Webster Road but the numbers have changed; it was opposite the present staff car park at Prince Charles and extended west over Downfall Creek; later Dandalli Street was built in that area. The farm included the piggery, a dairy, poultry and crops.
Bill married Evelyn Shaw in 1915 but was working the farm before that time. Downfall Creek flowed through the western part of the property and he had a windmill pumping water from it to the piggery where the water was stored in a tank. The water mains did not come through the area till some time before 1934. He ploughed a furrow and laid pipes to connect the farm with the main supply.
The piggery had approximately 25 pens with 6 pigs in each plus the pigs that ran outside with open shade sheds; maybe as many as 300. Some were bred on the farm but mostly store pigs were bought at Cannon Hill saleyards in groups of 30 at a time. These were brought home and left in the open where, by fighting each other, they sorted themselves out, into groups; after about a week they could be put into pens in their own groups. When they were fattened up they could be sold as heavy bacon pigs at Cannon Hill.

The pigs were fed on swill which was made from the foodstuffs collected from hospitals, restaurants, hotels and any other eating place. The collection was then put into 'pots' and boiled till it was a mash, then after cooling overnight, it was fed to the adult pigs while the growing pigs had to have more nutritious fare which included additives to the swill. The pig manure was sold to small crop growers in the local area.

The farm ran about 45 cows, most of which were bred on the farm, with about 30 being regularly milked. Milking started 3am and milk was sold to Jack McMurtrie who had a milk run around the Avenues at Kedron. However Bill was only making two pounds ($4) per week from the dairy and it just wasn't worth the effort so he closed it down.

The crops grown were mainly for the cattle and included Cow Cane, Maize, Millet, Imphy (a sorghum type crop), Rye and Lucerne which was grown on the flat near the creek. Arrowroot was grown for the pigs to be used when there was a shortage of swill. When the dairy was closed down Bill used to sell the crops to local dairy farmers. All the ploughing was done with horses, the first tractors did not appear in the area till about 1948. In the 1950s they did have a Lend lease Ford truck 1944 model on the farm. The lend lease title meant that it was brought out by the US army in World War II and sold after the war as surplus.

The poultry section comprised two galvanised iron sheds, closed in at the back and ends with wire netting on the front, each holding 500 birds with their nesting boxes and perches; the fowls were locked up at night but ranged over the property during the day. The eggs were taken to the Egg Board twice a week in boxes holding 30 dozen per box. When birds passed their best laying age they were sold by Male's Poultry Auction for Aged Birds at Little Roma St in the city.

Bill employed workers on the farm several of whom were with him for long periods and during the Depression he would employ men on the dole for a morning's work. They were probably able to earn small amounts apart from their dole money.

In about 1942 Bill had a stroke and was bedridden for the next 5 years till his death; during that time he was nursed by Evelyn and daughter Ruth while the boys, Bill and Hedley assisted by their brother in law, David Wiseman (Ruth's husband), ran the farm. Evelyn had power of attorney and supervised the financial management of the farm.

The farm continued till about 1959 when Evelyn died and it was sold to the developers, Reid Murray who began housing development in about 1962. The local agent for the developers was Jock Timmins who also owned a service station in Chermside on the north corner of Latham Street and Gympie Road.

William Barker and George Wilson in the yard at Barker's Piggery on Webster Road. They were still using horse power in 1922 during the Great Depression.

Clearing the Trees.

In the early days trees were the enemy, they had to be cut down and, preferably, sold. Failing that they could be used for firewood or split for slabs and posts to use on the property. The last resort was to burn them on the spot.

The work was hard, hot and dangerous. Many accidents resulted from falling branches or the trees themselves.

The first step was to fell the tree which could be done with cross-cut saw or axe. Another method was used by Bill Barker and is shown in the accompanying photo. It was to pull the tree down using a winch arrangement.

A steel cable or rope was hitched as high as possible around the standing tree and anchored as low as possible to another tree or stump. The cable was then winched in pulling the tree down. Sounds simple? It was as long as the job went off properly. But if the cable snapped there would be a backlash and a man could be seriously injured or even killed.

William Barker clearing trees 1920's
Clearing the trees was the first step in building a farm of any type. From left: Harry Newman, Andy Johnston and Bill Barker, the owner.

Hedley Barker (1929- )

Hedley Barker (1929 - ) In 1955 Hedley leased a 20 acres pig farm from his uncle, Dave Barker, who had bought it in 1949 after selling another property at Kedron to Bruce Pie. Hedley eventually bought the property which was on Horn Road, Aspley and bounded by Little Cabbage Creek from which he could pump water till the town water arrived in the mid 1960s. The piggery itself was located on the present Hillcrest Street, West Chermside.

In 1959 the adjoining property belonging to an accountant Mr Clifford became available. It was small, only 8 acres, but it had a brick house and ran 1,000 fowls which Hedley took over. It remained a poultry farm and was operated in conjunction with the existing pig farm.

The existing pig farm had long piggery sheds which held 300 pigs and were built on an east-west axis so that the main rays of the sun were on the roof all day during the hotter months keeping the pigs shaded. In winter the rays of the sun slanted in from the north and warmed the pigs; there were another 100 pigs out in the open.

The sheds were divided into pens measuring 3m x 2m (9ft x 6ft) each holding 6 baconers or porkers and each one floored with loose laid bricks on a bed of sand. The individual brick, being comparatively small is heated by the pig lying on it at night and helps to keep the animal warm. Concrete, on the other hand, is laid in large slabs which retains a low temperature and takes much more heating. Another shed holding 600-700 pigs was built in which the pigs were manually fed.

The pig pens were manually cleaned and the manure stored in the fly proof manure shed house till it was sold to farmers as fertiliser.

Breeding sows were kept in separate sheds but the program was not very successful so most of the pigs were bought, fattened and sold up to 100 at a time.

Two 400 gallon 'pots' or ships tanks heated by oil fires were used to boil the swill. When cooked it was transferred to a cooling vat where the tallow floated to the surface and was skimmed off into 44 gallon drums and sold to Campbell Bros in Bowen Hills for soap making; a cooking would yield between 4 and 8 gallons of tallow. When cool the swill was then run down a chute into the pens.

The plant was continuously upgraded with a new shed being built to house 1,000 pigs while another 500 were in the original sheds and the farm was turning over 100 heavy bacon pigs per week. The pigs were sold to various firms such as Darling Downs Co-op at Doughboy, Mayfair Bacon, Murarrie Bacon factory, Huttons Bacon depending on where the price was best.

In 1970 the piggery was upgraded with new pig sheds and larger pens each holding 20 pigs on a floor of slats which enabled the manure to drop through on to a lower floor where it was flushed away by recycled water from two large settling ponds. The water was lifted by a paddle wheel from the ponds to flow under the pig's floor and back to the ponds. The pig waste was transported to the manure shed by a front end loader and, after being sold to small croppers, was transported to the customers in a three ton truck.

A new swill cooking system was installed in the form of two 2000 gallon stainless steel vats with agitators in each vat to mix the swill. A 10 horse power steam boiler pumped steam into the vats to boil the mixture which, when cool was pumped by 1.5 inch pipe into troughs in each pen. The feed troughs were made from steel sheet piling used in the construction of the underground car park in King George Square.

Over the years three other piggeries were bought from relatives as they retired. Even with all this production he was not in the big league as very large piggeries were appearing with many thousands of pigs. They would divide their herd up into separate piggeries of about 5,000 pigs so that if any disease broke out not all of the herd would be affected. In 1974, when the government finally banned the use of swill, Hedley decided to quit and held an auction sale to dispose of all the equipment but the property was not sold.

Hedley Barker - Pig Farm Pre 1970
This photo shows the layout of the sheds on the pig farm before the 1970 upgrade. The main change in 1970 was the addition of a very large pig shed to carry 1,200 pigs while the other changes were inside the existing sheds.

The Layout of the Piggery.

This diagram is taken from the above photo of Hedley Barker's Pig Farm. The numbers are explained below the diagram.

Nos. 1,2,3 & 4: Open range sheds and yards where the newly bought pigs were kept for the first couple of weeks. This was a sorting out period where the pigs arranged themselves into groups.

No. 5: A lean-to on the pig shed No. 6 where a Boiling Pot was located. Here swill was cooked by steam piped from the boiler shed No.7. The swill was fed to the pigs in the adjacent pig shed.

In the 1970 upgrading another pig pen shed was built 230feet by 60feet (70m by 19m) which held 1,200 pigs. It replaced Shed No. 11 and had a raised slatted floor allowing the pig dung to drop through and be flushed to a settling pond.

No. 6: The main pig pen shed which held 25 pens each holding 6 or 7 pigs depending on their size. The pigs came from the open yard sheds (Nos. 1,2,3 & 4) after sorting out.

No. 7: The boiler shed where the cooking steam was generated with oil fire. Also two 400 gallon (1,830 litre), cooking pots were located here. In 1970 they were replaced with two 2,000 gallon (9,150 litre) stainless steel cooking pots.

Nos. 8&9 (one shed) & 11: Pig pen sheds with 25 pens holding 6 or 7 pigs each.

No. 10: An open yard.

No. 12: The fly-proof manure shed which held the manure till it was sold and transported to farmers for fertilizer.

Change in Land Use as the Farms Close Down and Sell Up.

In 1982 the family contracted surveyors, engineers, planners and earth moving contractors to develop the area for housing under the name of Aspley Crest.

Aspley Crest covered 30.5 acres (12ha) made up of the 28 acres (11ha) of the Barker farm on the higher side of Horn Road and another 2.5 acres (1ha) from Charlie Wilson on the low side of Horn Road to fulfil the Council regulation that 10% of the area be set aside for parkland.

The estate comprised 120 house blocks plus roads divided into three sections which were developed sequentially from 1982 to 1987.

Aspley Crest is bounded by Horn Road on the north and the northern part of Stringybark Drive on the west. The southern boundary is above the northern part of Ironwood Street and to the west of Candlebark Street. Neither of these two streets form part of Aspley Crest.

Two other small nearby developments were carried out by the Barker family, one on Regal Place and the other on Whipbird Place.

In 1974 Barker's closed their piggery and sold the equipment but kept the land. This was then developed into a housing estate and the blocks were sold to homebuilders. This was how many of the farmers in the surrounding areas provided for their retirement.

Names of the Streets and their Origins.

Streets:
--Hillcrest - good view
--Stonycroft - uncle D.S.J.Barker had property at Kedron called Stonycroft, a name associated with Grandfather David who came from the midlands of England
--Barcroft - Barker + croft (as in Stonycroft)
--Aspley Court - named after suburb
--Marley - combination of names of Marjorie and Hedley Barker
--Stringybark - trees +bark (in Barker)
--Regal - upmarket name
--Whipbird - birds at creek