Honouring a district personality

Andrew McPherson.

By Simone McPherson

On Sunday 24 April, Andrew McPherson of Barelli in the Parish of Glenlyon lost his life to a heart attack. He would have been 67 in November.

Andrew Philip McPherson, the youngest of three sons, was born on 23 November 1955 in Melbourne, Victoria.

His father had made his mark on the cardboard packaging industry which, in effect, lay the foundation for early retirement and moving into the cattle business around the township of Hamilton in the Western Districts of Victoria.

This would later have a considerable influence on Andrew’s life.

Andrew attended Melbourne Grammar School, where he took two trains and a bus for the round journey home again.

On this route, he would walk right past the front of the National Gallery of Victoria.

Being an inquisitive little chap, he would wander through the Gallery, taking in all the Old Masters and other Historical pieces of early Australiana Painting history.

This sparked a love later in life of Australian literature and poetry, with Banjo Paterson being his most favourite along with “The Magic Pudding”.

On many occasions, he would invariably miss his connections home.

He was a very lively child full of mischief; there was a good ten years difference between himself and his second youngest brother.

He loved playing pranks on his parents, much to their dismay (especially his mother), and even belonged to a gang of boys back in those early days who caused major mayhem in their district.

He spent summers and holidays beside the sea and loved sailing, winning several trophies for his age group when he was eight and through to 10 years of age.

Andrew finished his schooling at an early age and started working for his father on their property. His father had invested in Angus Cattle, and this was how he was introduced to horses which would play a noticeably big part in his life.

On his 18th birthday, he bought a plane ticket to the United States, packed his ‘port’, and threw his stock saddle over his shoulder. He set of in search of a man called Ed Connell.

Andrew had a book which was his Bible of Ed’s – “Hackamore Reinsman”.

Andrew had also corresponded with Ed over several years and Mr Connell had invited a young Andrew over to visit him.

Ed Connell was one of America’s great horsemen, he was one of the first mentors to bring the ‘Vaquero’ style of training horses to the American horseman and many, many horse trainers have been influenced by Ed’s style of training over the years.

Andrew still had that very book and another which he acquired – “Reinsman of the West – Bridles and Bits”.

They are part of his treasured horse book collection.

The ‘Vaquero’ style of riding horses initially comes from the Portuguese word ‘Vaqueiro’. Vaqueros were the foundation of the North American Cowboys, having their roots in the Iberian Peninsula and later developed by the Mexicans. A ‘Vaquero’ essentially is a horse-mounted livestock herder.

Andrew did find Mr Connell in the United States and returned various times over the next five years, taking Australian stockhorses through their Rodeo Circuit.

On those trips, he also collected Vaquero style mane hair into ‘Mecates’, a rope made from the horse mane hair.

He also had Hackamores and Cinches, which were all made from horse mane hair as well.

He learnt Spanish, but only enough to flatter the girls.

He also invested in “Garcia” Bits and Spurs, which had been beautifully crafted from silver and gold.

Until recently, he had placed numerous orders to Elko in Nevada through the web to J.M Capriola, who bought out G.S Garcia way back in the late 1970s.

These pieces along with a documented purchase from ‘Christies’ of London, the Spurs that once belonged to “Pancho Villa”, a notorious Mexican renegade who was one of Andrew’s champions, also became part of his horse memorabilia.

Upon returning to Australia with his newfound understanding of horsemanship, he went on to work at Nareen Station in the Western Districts of Victoria.

Nareen was then owed by Malcolm Fraser, Prime Minister of Australia from 1975 to 1983.

Andrew also worked as a shearer – though this was by far not his most favoured job as he had a distinct dislike for sheep.

So being the natural-born prankster that he was, he would spend most of his working day in the shearing shed causing havoc, much to the exasperation of the shed boss.

Later through his love of the Iberian Horse – Andalucian’s, Lusitano’s, Carthusian’s, and Marismeno breeds; in essence the Baroque Horse – Andrew was fortunate enough to be taught by one of Nuno Oliveira’s trainers.

Nuno Oliveira was a Portuguese equestrian horse trainer and dressage instructor who migrated to Victoria.

Nuno Oliveira adopted the ‘Baroque’ or ‘Classical’ style of working a horse which was a revelation to Andrew.

And through Nuno’s schooling, he was introduced to working his horses in dressage exercises with Classical Music playing in the background to help keep time.

This is where Andrew developed an appreciation of Opera in particular the many, many Arias.

The Iberian Horse has considerable natural adjustability, and they can develop any form of gait that you want, as long as you train them in a manner adapted to their biomechanics, which Andrew came to understand and want in a mount.

Through this teaching, Andrew then discovered the Mounted Bullfighters of Spain and Portugal, in particular, a Spanish Bullfighter called Pablo Hermoso de Mendoza Canton.

Hermoso revolutionised Mounted Bullfighting in the 1990s through his love and his relationships with his mounts.

So, to Andrew’s now expanding library of books on horsemanship, was added first the videos of Hermoso’s mounted bullfighting then the DVDs.

After the breakdown of his marriage, Andrew decided to move north to Queensland to retire on a small cropping property and found 500 acres outside of Rathdowne.

Though after a year he was bored. There was not enough room for riding his beloved Andalusians and cropping was not his thing.

He wanted to get back into Angus Cattle, breeders as that was his forte.

He had been topping the markets back in Hamilton with his steers for quite a number of years and was very well known in the district.

He sold up at Rathdowne and started looking at pastoral properties along the Cooper and as far up as Longreach.

He now had a young son in tow, so access to good agricultural schooling for his son became important.

He ended up settling on an old pastoral property that was once owned by Fairfax in Southern Queensland.

So in 2004, he purchased ‘Calm Downs’, which consisted of just over 12,000 acres of traprock country.

First, he had to set up cattle yards and stables for his Horses.

The old place was quite run down and in need of fencing, though he went ahead and purchased 800 head of cattle; cross breeds to start.

Three years later he sold the ‘homestead’ paddock and with it went the name ‘Calm Downs’.

He moved the lease title over to the remaining 11,000 acres, which was another old property that the original ‘Calm Downs’ had leased many years previously and that SunWater had reclaimed portions of with the construction of Glenlyon Dam back in the middle 1970s.

The property was named Barelli.

In 2009, I met Andrew whilst visiting my relatives at Glenlyon Station.

The following 11 years for me were filled with ups and downs as I came to understand living and making your living off the land.

But working every single day by Andrew’s side, as I soon became his “righthand woman”, was and still is the most fulfilling part of my life which I will never, ever forget.

To this day I miss so terribly, so utterly that man who was so much more than Captain Chaos, the larrikin and that prankster that relished stirring the pot.

He is the love of my life.

Thank you to all, who knew Andrew and supported us as friends, acquaintances and in business.

I know you will all miss Andrew’s antics and escapades and his larger-than-life personality now he has joined the “Ghost Riders in the Sky” … one of Andrew’s favourite Johnny Cash songs.

God Bless You, My Darling Andrew.