In an earlier post I reported the death of Alex Buzo. Now I have to report the death of David Wright at the age of 73. I did not know David so well. For reasons I will explain in a moment, there was a strong family connection. But David was much older than me and we mainly met at meetings, functions or at the airport. Often at the airport, because he was always travelling and so was I.
Judith Wright, David's sister, described the early days of the Wyndham and Wright families in Generations of Men. I spoke of the part played by George Wyndham in establishing the Australian wine industry in my posts on wine in the Hunter and on the New England Tablelands.
The Wrights were one of the pastoral dynasties that played a major role in New England history. Unlike Victoria where, I think, the pastoral dynasties were simply absorbed into the Melbourne establishment, New England families like the Wrights saw their public role in local and regional terms.
David's dad, Philip (PA) Wright, was born on 20 July 1889. As he grew older and took over control of Wallamumbi he extended the pastoral interests established by his mother Charlotte May. But his focus extended well beyond the properties, playing an active role in the evolution of the vision of a broader New England. Among other things, PA:
- played the key role in the establishment of the New England National Park, I think the second National Park in NSW
- played a major role in the establishment of wool selling at Newcastle in the face of determined opposition from the Sydney wool brokers
- played an active role from the twenties in the New England New State Movement
- actively supported Don Shand in the establishment of East-West Airlines.
- was a major benefactor to the University of New England from its establishment as a College of Sydney University in 1938 and was a member of the College's advisory committee and then of Council, succeeding Earle Page as Chancellor in 1960. Wright College was named after him.
My grandfather David Drummond came to Armidale as a farm labourer in 1907. He and PA became friends after Fah entered State Parliament in 1920. They shared a common vision for New England including separation and each helped the other. As I remember it, and I cannot easily check this following the death of my aunts, David Wright was in fact named after my grandfather who was also his god-father.
It is no easy task growing up in a well-known family, seeking to carve out your own position. David had a passion for the development of the beef industry, a belief in the importance of the underpinning role of science, a passion he shared with other Wright family members. He built up the V2V herd and brand, looking for new ways of selling including objective measurement.
According to Professor Bernie Bindon, David was one of the pioneers of the scientific research which underpins today's beef industry.
"I can't think of a beef industry person who's made a bigger contribution to not only the growth of the beef industry but the science that underpins the beef business," Professor Bindon said.
David also pursued broader business interests , but with much less success. Finally, and after a long-running and bitter legal battle with the banks, his cattle empire was dismantled with debts of $50 million. The blow was enormous.
Foreglen, the property that my grandfather had finally purchased in pursuit of his own dream of a place of his own but then had to sell because he could not manage it and his parliamentary career, had later become one of David's properties, was the home of David's son and was lost with the rest.
In 2002, the ABC Dynasties TV program looked at the Wright family story including the loss of Wallamumbi.
David soldiered on, maintaining his local involvements. The last time I saw him, quite recently and by accident, was on television attending an Armidale dinner. Our thoughts are with the family.