Paying tribute to one of the wool industry's finest

Goulburn community mourns wool-grower Robert Peden's passing

Sheep
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Mr Peden touched many lives and left a lasting legacy.

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LOVED: Robert Peden described wool as "the world's greatest fibre" and strove for continual improvement on his property, Bullamalita. He died on Thursday. Photo supplied.

LOVED: Robert Peden described wool as "the world's greatest fibre" and strove for continual improvement on his property, Bullamalita. He died on Thursday. Photo supplied.

Robert Peden might be most popularly known for providing the stud ram on which Goulburn's Big Merino was modeled.

The prominent district wool grower was always proud of the fact but it was just a slither in the life of a man who made a much bigger impact on the industry.

Mr Peden, of well known district superfine wool-growing property, Bullamalita, died at Bourke Street Health Service on Thursday, July 9. He was seventy-nine.

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Son Michael said he'd suffered a stroke two months earlier. He had a second stroke during recent hospitalisation and passed away peacefully.

"He lived a beautiful life," he said.

"If you can see your kids and grandkids grow up and do the job he did 'til the day he died, it doesn't get much better than that."

Michael, now the fifth generation wool grower in his family, said his father's achievements were "huge." Since his father's death, he had fielded phone calls from as far away as Uruguay.

"He touched a lot of lives and left his mark on the wool industry," he said.

Born in Goulburn, Mr Peden was one of four children to Ross and Emily. He was raised on the family property southeast of the city and attended Windellama primary school before boarding at Scots College, Bathurst.

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He returned to Bullamalita after his education, driven by his passion for wool and farming. The stud was established in 1923 by his grandfather, Charles Archibald Peden. It was de-registered in 1944 but Ross had re-registered it in 1955 with the purchase of five Merryville rams, Michael said.

Robert and his father, Ross were a powerful team at Bullamalita. Ross, who was also very well known in the wool-growing industry, passed away in 1984. Photo supplied.

Robert and his father, Ross were a powerful team at Bullamalita. Ross, who was also very well known in the wool-growing industry, passed away in 1984. Photo supplied.

Together, father and son endured many highs and lows, including a large bushfire in 1978 that destroyed 320 head of sheep, including 19 stud rams, 14 bullocks, fencing and yards. Then there were the many vagaries of wool prices. But there were also big successes, including winning grand champion fleece in the Commonwealth competition nine times.

Taking over the reins

Robert took over the stud after his father's death in 1984. In 1985 the pastoral company supplied the award winning ram on which the Big Merino was modeled. He was christened 'Rambo' in a local naming competition but the real ram was "an outstanding 72kg superfine sire with 16.5 micron wool," Michael said.

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There were many successes, including the Zegna perpetual trophy in 1993, awarded to the most outstanding fleece judged by a panel set against Australian Superfine Woolgrowers Association criteria. It was one of 160 entries from around Australia and scored 95.8 out of one hundred.

In his acceptance speech, Robert described wool as "the world's greatest fibre" and urged growers to strive for improved quality. He won the trophy again in 1999. In between, there were a string of other awards.

Robert was also generous with his time and mentorship, hosting many international delegations. He had worldwide connections, sold rams to New Zealand and judged interstate shows.

"He was passionate about his lifelong friends that me made along the way," Michael said.

"...There wasn't much that dad wasn't able to achieve in the wool industry. He has always been a hard worker, passionate about the cause and before his time. (he was) a true innovator and man of the land."

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Robert married Maree in 1976 and together they had three children - Bronwyn, Angus and Michael. The couple were very much a team in life and the industry.

The Big Merino was modeled on a Bullamalita superfine ram. Photo supplied.

The Big Merino was modeled on a Bullamalita superfine ram. Photo supplied.

Michael said his father was most proud of his five grandchildren. He loved playing with them and showing them new and interesting things on the farm, as well as "spoiling them." In his spare time, he enjoyed a 'punt,' fishing, reading and following his beloved Saint George Dragons.

But he remained involved with the property right up until his admission to Goulburn Base Hospital. Michael joined his father at Bullamalita at age eighteen.

"He never took a backward step and was very active up until his ill-health," Michael said.

Just a week before his hospitalisation he was weighing first cross ewes with him and his good friend and agent, Dicky Cabot and the 'Croker boys' from Nutrien Ag.

"I'll remember him as a strong, hardworking character who loved telling a yarn but was very generous and would take the shirt of his back for anyone," Michael said.

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"He was a fierce influencer of the wool industry and will still leave his mark through his connections and impacts on other wool growers."

Ram showing with John Williams of 'Thalabah,' Crookwell. Photo supplied.

Ram showing with John Williams of 'Thalabah,' Crookwell. Photo supplied.

'A good bloke'

Former Australian Wool Innovation chairman Wal Merriman said he'd known Mr Peden for most of his life. Both families had shown sheep together over several generations.

"His contribution to the wool industry is huge," he said.

"Rob was part of the Great Southern Merino group, which used to be the Southern Tableland Field Day committee. He was very instrumental from the beginning and helped to get grants from the council for pens at the Goulburn showground."

The late Robert Peden has left a lasting mark on the Australian wool industry. He died on Thursday, aged seventy-nine. Photo supplied.

The late Robert Peden has left a lasting mark on the Australian wool industry. He died on Thursday, aged seventy-nine. Photo supplied.

Mr Merriman said Mr Peden always had a high-quality flock. He was also a member of the Superfine Woolgrowers Association.

"He was a really good bloke," he said.

"I've had phone calls from Victoria and New Zealand since he died. He was known far and wide and was widely respected."

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Mr Peden is survived by Maree, their children, partners and his grandchildren. He was a loved brother to Bruce (deceased), Janelle and Meridee.

His funeral service funeral will be held at the Goulburn Recreation Area on Braidwood Road on Friday, July 17 at 11.30am. Strict physical distancing rules will apply.

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The story Paying tribute to one of the wool industry's finest first appeared on Goulburn Post.

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