By Rod Hayes and Garry Knox
STUART Hayes has sold the farm.
After 141 years, the Hayes name will no longer be on the mailbox. The sale of the property to the Jelbart family, and the imminent clearing sale this week, diminishes a very long-term association the Hayes have had with farming in Woodleigh.
Four, and arguably five generations, of this arm of the Hayes family have enjoyed the spoils of South Gippsland farming.
Along with the Hunters, Jones and Crawfords, the Hayes’ were a big part of the public face of Woodleigh. Farming families in Woodleigh have changed considerably in recent years.
Siblings have succumbed to the lure of “city lights” rather than the green grass, tranquillity and productivity of Woodleigh Vale. Families that have been the cornerstone of a once thriving small town, are getting older and movin’ on.
Stuart’s recent health scare has prompted him and his wife Sue to reassess their future. Selling the farm was the toughest decision of all.
The Hayes tradition began in Woodleigh with John Hayes. As one of many Irish Catholics he emigrated from Ireland in 1870, and apart from a brief “dig” on the Ballarat goldfields, Woodleigh Vale would be his long term home. His brief flirtation with Ballarat led to his marriage to Bridget, and five children.
The starting point for farming was in 1878 with a tip off that a Mr Warhurst was forfeiting his property. For a lease payment of 2 shillings per acre per year, and the commitment to improve the property by 300 pounds in an initial 3 year period, John Hayes could simply peg out the 295 acre property.
In the early days at Woodleigh, John and Bridget suffered wild pigs, droughts, bushfires, snakes to the point that the gun was always at the ready, impenetrable bush, dingoes, grasshoppers and caterpillars, wallabies, the arrival of rabbits, some financial close calls, and the very basic living conditions that accompanied early settlement.
Two wars and the great depression would provide further hurdles to following generations.
The opening of the Wonthaggi rail line, the Woodleigh rail station (formerly named Hunter) a Post Office, store and school, and the establishment of the Woodleigh Cheese and Butter factory were all welcome additions.
John and Bridget had five children. Ted, Roderick, Patrick, Mary and Ellen.
Roderick, fondly referred to as Pop Hayes by later generations, would continue the farming lifestyle at Woodleigh. His brother Patrick would indulge in numerous purchases of Loch real estate, including the Loch abattoir and butcher shop.
In turn Roderick had four children, Don, Bay, Paul and Joan.
Don and Paul would become well known for their earth moving and bulldozer business. Don farmed in his own right closer to the Bass River, with Paul continuing (and adding to) the original selection. Joan married Bill Barber and in the mid 60’s the Barbers moved to Esperance. Land there was 75 cents per acre. Joan spent a lifetime educating kids in the very rough and tough outback of Western Australia.
Paul married Maureen Ryan in 1957. A new brick house coincided with their marriage. Together they contributed enormously to the district. The church, the Red Cross, football and cricket clubs, the Loch Fire brigade, the UDV all had the Hayes imprint. Paul was a Unigate director. Maureen spoke proficient French, a passion she maintains today (mid eighties).
The Jans and Kamphius families share farmed the Hayes dairy farm during much of this time.
Paul and Maureen had four children. Stuart, who succeeded his father Paul on the Woodleigh farm, Pauleen who was lost in a car accident, Greg who lives in Wellington Point Brisbane, and Rod a retired school principal in the Latrobe Valley.
Stuart has milked cows at Woodleigh for more than forty years. He too has generously contributed to the community. His crowded agenda, his friendly disposition, his sporting achievements and his love of a yarn have all become part of Woodleigh folklore.
Jobs that should have been done today were often set aside to accommodate off farm/community commitments. Stuart is notorious for turning up late to meetings. A lesser person would not turn up at all.
The story goes that at the Leongatha football club where Stuart played over 150 games, the barmen had trouble getting Stuart to settle his tab at the bar. To the barman’s surprise, Stuart presented the club with two baldy calves, more than enough to settle his account and with the potential to provide a windfall if someone was to rear them.
Stuart’s son Jai is home from Newcastle at the moment helping to prepare for the clearing sale. Greg wryly comments that 20 years ago there was just enough room in the big shed for the Woodleigh Colts cricket gear. The accumulation has continued. Prepare for a big and diverse clearing sale.
Stuart and Sue will soon shift to Inverloch. Travelling, and watching Jai play State level basketball are on the agenda.