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Retro Station Retro Station

The Retro run was listed for sale without stock but with a capability for 40,000 sheep in 1866. It was a portion of Gordon Sandeman’s original Gordon Downs holding purchased from the Archer Bros. in 1861. Retro was again advertised in 1874 with 80,000 sheep and a large area of fine country.  Messrs Chrinside and Power purchased the run in the late 1877 with stock for the lump sum of £81,000. They still owned Retro in 1893 at the time of Mr Chirnside’s death.

Newspaper articles mention John Burn as manager from 1875 to 1898. Mr Burn sat on the Peak Downs Divisional Board (PDDB) from its inception in 1884, resigning from the Board on 29.6.1900 as he was leaving the district.

Portions of Retro were resumed and opened up for selection throughout the years eg. portions lv to 4v, parish of Khosh Bulduk, and portions lv to llv, parish of Capella in 1866, and a portion of Retro East in 1918. These resumptions evenyually brought its area back to just over 71,000 acres.

Mr John Chisholm took over as Manager and was elected the P.D.D.B. in 1902, and to the newly formed Peak Downs Shire Council from 1903 to 1909. A telephone was installed in 1903. Mr Chisholm's wife, Bertha Amy (nee Brent), died in 1909 and was buried in Clermont.

Mr Percy Charles Allan succeeded Mr Chisholm as Manager, also in 1909. He was appointed to the Peak Downs Shire Council in 1910 on the resignation of Mr Norman Burdekin from Malvern Downs

At a 1913 Lamb Raising Royal Commission, it was reported that there was some evidence that the Peak Downs country was suitable for rearing lambs, however, without provision for green feed at the critical period when the ewes most required it, there was not much prospect of graziers abandoning present methods to embark on a new industry. Mr Allan gave evidence that he had conducted experiments in dry farming, raising wheat crops for three successive seasons. If these experiments continued to be successful, it was quite possible that lamb raising might then be an option on the Peak Downs.

On March 31, 1916, Cr Allan wrote to the Council asking for four months leave of absence stating that owing to the drought, Retro was compelled to close up for a time.

The Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Company Ltd. (incorporated in 1863) held the run between 1913 and 1925 at the least. In 1925, it is recorded that Retro was running 188 cattle and 31,617 sheep. The station’s sheep won prizes at both Longreach and Rockhampton Shows.

At the Cannon Hill livestock sale on Thursday 2 November 1933, AML&F sold on account Retro Station, Capella: l8 bullocks, 1 at £8/12/6, 11 at £8/10/, 6 at £7/7/6, averaging £8/2/7; 16 cows, 5 at £6/15/, 7 at £5/15/, 1 at £5/12/6, 1 at £5/7/6, 2 at £4/15/, averaging £5/18/2.

A good 300 acre wheat crop was grown in 1927. Referring in a newspaper article in December 1933 to the possibility of providing against stock losses in times of drought by fodder conservation, Mr Allan said, "The central west should be a store-house for the west of Queensland generally. Retro station carries 35,000 sheep and in the worst years 25,000, with a 54 per cent lambing. By fodder conservation the sheep have been saved when every other station in the area has had to send every hoof to relief country, with losses, or buy fodder at exorbitant rates. The difference in the price of the wheaten chaff grown on the station, and what would have been paid for it in bad times, was £18,000.”

“The average sowing on Retro is 150 acres a year, but this year only 90 acres has been sown, mostly of the Florence variety of wheat”, he continued. “This crop will return only about 300 tons, but had it been used for stripping it would have returned 10 or 11 bags to the acre. The crop is grown only to provide feed, as an insurance against a time of drought.

Since wheat-growing was started on Retro, in 1912, 2500 tons of wheaten hay has been stored for this purpose. Three times in this period the advantage of the provision has been proved. There is now 600 tons of wheaten hay stored on the station.”

On two occasions, Mr. Allan grew experimental plots for the Department of Agriculture. On the first he had 54 different samples, and on the second 72, and all were satisfactory for growing. “Retro is the only area in the central west in which there has been any farming”, Mr. Allan said. “The black soil country through the district is similar to that of the Downs, and would produce good wheat, but there are transport difficulties.” 

Retro was offered for sale in August 1937. It was described then as comprising a little over 71,764 acres and being situated 18 miles from Capella and 20 miles from Clermont. ‘There is a rail siding on the property. The station is very highly improved and well watered. The country is generally black and chocolate soil, and is thickly grassed with Mitchell, Flinders, blue, button, and various other grasses. The stock comprises 26,350 well-bred sheep, including 14,300 ewes which were joined in November. Shearing is arranged to start on August 23. There are also 160 useful horses and 100 mixed cattle. The property is considered to be understocked, the capacity being estimated at one sheep to 1¾ acres. The sale will take place at the Wool Exchange, Brisbane, and lithos and particulars can be obtained from the selling agents' offices.’ It did not sell at that time. 

Percy and Maida Allan had three sons, Lesley (died in infancy), Frank and Geoffrey (Chum). Geoffrey died in the Wee Waa hospital in August 1937 at age 20, two weeks following a kick from a horse while working on Boolcarrol station. Mr Allan retired in 1938 and passed away in October 1950 at age 78. 

Willson Bailey Jnr (born 1873) was stud overseer for fifteen years before becoming Manager for two years. Possibly 1939 – 41 after Percy Allan retired. Previous to this he had worked on Peak Downs and was the overseer of stud sheep on Magenta.

Charles Dasborough (wife Alma) was Manager between 1941 – 46 and possibly to 1948.

In June 1949, Retro’s 71,764 acres was purchased by the Queensland British Food Corporation (QBFC). At that time it boasted a 17 room homestead, 36 stand woolshed, station store and the many accommodation, administration, work buildings and structures required to support the operations of a station of that size.

In 1956, after the winding up of the QBFC, the Queensland State Government subdivided the Retro acreage into 5000 (approx) acres blocks and threw them open for selection - plus one 11,000 acre grazing block that was sold at auction. Kevin Rees drew the block on which stood the Retro homestead, quarters, woolshed, meat house and sheep yards.