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On 12th July 1947, a group of interested cattlemen and women met at Lucey's Hotel, Mt Garnet to discuss the possibility of forming a Saleyard to market their livestock. As a result, the Primary Producers Co-Operative was soon formed, under the Chairmanship of Ken J Atkinson Snr. On 2 April 1948, the company name of North Queensland Saleyards Company Pty Ltd was adopted.
Historical documents show $5000 was required to fund the project, with shares issued at $25 each. The sale of shares in the Company was restricted to graziers, to avoid losing control of the Saleyards to any large corporations. At this time the biggest shareholder in the Company was Mr Walter Lawrence from Wrotham Park, which at the time, was one of the larges pastoral holdings in Queensland. Mr Lawrence pledge $1000 to the project, and Mareeba Saleyards was born.
An extract from the 1947 share registry shows the following founding shareholders:
Shareholder Property District Brand
KJ Atkinson "Wairuna" Mt Garnet S9Z
Stan Collins "Spring Creek" Mt Garnet 9WC
Paul Hawkins "Brooklyn" Mt Molloy LO1
MJ DeTournouer "Wetherby" Mt Molloy 7VG
GG & VG Atkinson "Gunnawarra" Mt Garnet )5(
Walter Lawrence "Wrotham Park" Chillagoe 6DO
Mrs DK Champneys "Kinara" Mt Garnet 5VD
RL "Mont" Atkinson "Cashmere" Mt Garnet 9WD
Louis Fischer Daintree Q7F
Percy Peters Mareeba P4U
Dudley McDougall "The Springs" Mareeba lazy E1D
Jack Wallace "Fonthill" Mt Molloy
Ned Cobb "Glengarrie" Daintree RC crank
Jimmy Cobb "Sylvinia" Daintree CL3
Mrs E DeTournouer "Wetherby" Mt Molloy 3XU
Fred Keppel "Merlunda" Cape York XM0 B9L
James Grant "Mandalee" Innot Hot Springs L2G
Paddy Ahlers "Bellvue" Chillagoe A spade 9
Hughes Brothers "Koolatah" Normanton Y2X
Josephine Atherton "Nychum" Chillagoe W6A
Arthur H Wilson "Conjuboy" Mt Garnet V5A
Glendean Pastoral Co "Olivevale" Laura J0T
Est SL Roberts "Curraghmore" Mt Molloy Q lazy S 5
J F McGutcheon "Cowley" Innisfail 1SS
Starke Graziers "Starke" Cooktown RX9
WH Bert Simms Auctioneer Mareeba
Each station was entitled to one vote, regardless of the number of shares held, and ownership of shares was transferred with the sale of the property.
The first Chairman of the Board was Mr Ken J Atkinson Snr, who held the position from 1947 until his retirement in 1976. Mr Vernon G Atkinson was then elected and held the positon until 2002. Mr VG "Gerry" Collins has held the position of Chairman since.
The original yard plan was that of a draft at one end, with a lane running down the centre of the yard and pens branching off each side. Each pen was designed to hold approximately 150 head.� Parts of the original yard stood until 1994, when the old sections were subdivided and replaced with steel.
Tenders for the construction of the Saleyards were called from July to August 1947, with the contract being awarded to the Mareeba Construction Co. At first it was decided to build the yards without removing any timber. When this was too slow, the site was cleared by blowing the trees with dynamite and pulling them over.
Mr Glen Steele, foreman for Mareeba Construction Co at the time reports that:
"The virgin site was rich, red soil covered with box trees on the railway side, sloping bck to a swampy, marshy area covered with ti-tree at the back. Construction began in September 1947. It was extremely hot and dry and hard going. All the holes were dug with crowbars, three inches at a time, filled with water and left to soak, and then dug another three inches. Then the wet season came and all the holes on the swamp side filled with water and fell in."
Contractors supplied the timber, with the ironwood posts coming from the Mt Molloy district. Rose gum or flooded gum as it was commonly called, was used for rails, these were bolted onto the posts - very modern for an era when most yards were cobb and coed. Mr Steele reported that "Mareeba Construction Co was able to obtain a large number of bolts very cheaply at post war army clearing auctions, and so the use of bolts."
The first agent to hold a selling permit was WH Simms, with New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agencies Co Ltd and Dalgety & Co Ltd followed soon after. The first sale was set down for 7th April 1948, but had to be cancelled due to a rail strike, and was subsequently held on Wednesday 19th May 1948, with a yarding of 1325 head.
The Boards' earlier decision to restrict the sale of shares in the Company was justified in 1952, when Primaries tried unsuccessfully to buy the yards. Dalgetys tried again in 1960, but with the same result.
Catwalks were erected in 1959, and lights installed in the main drafting area in 1962, with the yards being fully lit by 1963. The plunge dip was installed in the 1965/66 financial year with dipping fees set at 12c per head.
The most significant modernisation plan to be undertaken at the Saleyards occurred in 1983, with the installation of liveweight scales, at a cost of $85 000. The first liveweight sale was held on 25th January 1983, the same year that the Mareeba Saleyards moved to weekly Tuesday sales, which had previously alternated with Tolga on a fortnightly basis.
Over the last thirty years, the Board has continually strived to improve and develop the Mareeba Saleyards and its surrounds. The Company currently has 48 shareholders, many of whom are direct descendents of the original founding forefathers.