The Fairley family goes back a long way in the history of Picton. In fact they have been living in the same location in Picton since 1855 when John and Margaret Fairley who are John's great, great, great grandparents arrived on the “Simonds” from Ireland. John believes his family came from the Dungannon District in County Tyrone, Ireland. Once established on his small holding, his great, great, great grandfather, John Fairley, began driving bullock teams to the railheads, laden with goods destined for the city. Young William Fairley, John’s son who was ten years old when they arrived in Australia, worked alongside his father, looking after the family in his father’s absence and occasionally accompanying him on the bullock drives. William dreamed of expanding his family’s landholding and farming the land.
As the years passed William married Letitia Mulholland. The couple settled in the valley and William worked the farm gradually expanding their landholdings. William and Letitia had seven children but it was Edward who returned to the land in Picton after a successful career as a light horseman to continue working the now well-established farming land. Edward married Agnes Bollard and they had two children, Edward (Ted) and Florence.
The Fairley family had by now well and truly become part of the Picton community. This tradition has continued on, right down through the generations. Many members of the family have been elected to local council and have been instrumental members in many community organisations.
It was Ted, Edward’s son, who continued on the family farming tradition. He married Clarice Johnstone and together they had three children, Robert, Bill and Joan.
In the 1950’s Bob, John's father, and Bill chose to return to the land and reopen the dairy and work with their father, Ted. John also chose to do this when he left college and has been there ever since. His brother Peter joined him in the nineties. Peter now maintains a cattle-raising business and John runs the dairy. In 1957, John's dad, Bob married Joy Cheney and they had three children, John, Peter and Lyn who all still live in Picton. Peter and John live on the farm and Lyn lives closer to town with her family in Mum and Dad’s old house.
The Fairley’s have just about always been involved in dairying in one form or another. The original location of the dairy was further out of the valley. This land and the dairy was sold a few generations back. For many years they operated an old walk-through close to the site of the existing dairy, even in the days when he commenced farming. In the early eighties they rebuilt the dairy at its current location in the “modern” herringbone style. This was a great change for them (and certainly less demanding on their backs.)
After nearly one hundred and fifty years the farm has had its ups and downs. There have been many prosperous and hard times as there always are in farming but on the whole the land and the lifestyle has been good to the Fairley family. Perhaps the years ahead will be the most challenging. With the urban sprawl getting ever closer, the harder it becomes to keep places like Picton rural. However, farming is more than a job, it is a way of life and it effects the lives of more than just the families who farm. To John and his family it is not just about dollars and cents but about their heritage and the way they want to see their valley stay as farm land. And hopefully they can keep this tradition alive for a few years longer.
Photo Credit: Simon Bennett