Obituary – Harold Thomas Berechree

Harold Thomas Berechree (August 25, 1922 – May 7, 2017)

Harold Thomas Berechree was born at Mengha, a second child for Tom and Caroline “Maggie” Berechree.

At around age four, the family moved to Faheys Lane where they lived for seven years. Then in 1933, aged 11, the family again moved, this time to the old homestead at Irishtown Road which in later years was to become his own property up until his recent passing.

His school years were few, he had been doing some farm work from when he was seven years old to help with the family finances at a time when money was tight.

He became an expert at bandicooting spuds to help feed the family, something he continued through his career until he retired from the fertiliser trucks. Along with one of his brothers, he spent a whole day picking up chat spuds at Edith Creek as a teenager. When they finished the farmer refused to pay them so they went on their way vowing to never work for him again. To the farmer’s surprise, the next morning all the chats were spread out all over the paddock. Gets awful windy at Edith Creek!

Following on from farm work Harold worked in the timber industry for many years. He worked at mills at Lileah and Trowutta, travelling with Hughie McCauley who was later to become his father-in-law after meeting his daughter Sylvia and falling in love.

This courtship led to their marriage in 1943, seeing them live with Nana Bonney as well as Sylvia’s parents Nana and Pa McCauley. During this time Hughie and Harold worked together at the mills leaving Sylvia and Nana to milk the cows and look after the pigs until the men were home on the weekend.

Harold and Sylvia moved down the road to milk cows for Alf Thorp, and in 1945 their first child Elaine was born.

Later he returned to sawmills, moving the family to Leesville and working at the Leesville Mill alongside his brother Terence “Tinny” who by this stage was also married and living in the house next door. Both houses were basic as was the one at Thorp’s, with rats being able to come through the cracks in the wall at night.

In 1948 second child Neville was born.

These were tough times and Harold was proud of the fact he operated the twin saws at the mill which was classed as one of the top jobs at that time. The money however was not sufficient to provide for the families, so Harold and Tinny would return after tea and rack timber into the night with the assistance of a lantern.

The two families became very close during this period as Tinny and Marge had a daughter Vonda who had a disability and needed extra care. This care and that of the other children was shared between Sylvia and Marge, forging a lifetime bond between the two wives.

In 1951 Harold and the family moved back to the family homestead at Irishtown Road and purchased the family farm. He worked for many years as a fettler on the railways with Sylvia milking the cows and caring for the children.

Their third child Leo was born in 1956.

Around 1960, Jack and Belle Spinks who owned the house in front of the family home purchased the taxi service in Smithton, which presented the opportunity to purchase their house and move the family into what was to become home right up until his move to Emmerton Park last year.

He was also given the opportunity to drive taxis for the Spinks family which he did for some two and a half years.

With his ambitions to succeed, it was at this time he decided to trade the old car in on his first truck to commence a long, and at times, tough career in the transport and fertiliser industry.

His intense and reliable work ethic ensured that the business was successful, but was underpinned and supported by Sylvia’s financial management and homekeeping duties.

Due to Harold’s easy going nature, Sylvia had to chase up all the debts as he would tell the farmers, ‘Pay me when you can, boy’, even if they had little money to pay their own bills.

His unique ability to handle livestock made him a favourite carrier with farmers, and had at one stage four trucks carting including the contract for King Island cattle off the boat at Stanley in the early ’70s.

As he moved into the fertiliser spreading area, he commenced with a small 10 bag spreader on the back corner of the tray which had to be filled from bags stacked on the tray. Quite often the farmer would ride on the back and tip the bags in as it emptied, being no bulk fertiliser back then.

He had a reputation for being fearless when spreading fertiliser, taking the truck where a lot of tractors had never been.

With the introduction of bulk fertiliser, he purchased his first bulk spreader. They could not afford machinery to load it and it would arrive in seven tonne bulk wooden bins on the train. On average, using a large coal shovel, he would transfer 14 tonne a day into the spreader and then spread it.

Fertiliser became big business so it was time to sell off the general side of the business to Jim Reid and Roy Hardy.

Harold ended up operating two or three spreaders with Neville who also operated two or three spreaders, working in together as a group, sharing the workload.

In the mid ’80s Harold fell from a ladder, landing on concrete whilst freeing a stuck rollerdoor in the workshop. This resulted in a split vertebrae and several months away from the trucks. Leo came back and drove to help out at a busy time. Not long after this Harold and Leo formed the partnership along with their wives which became known as Irishtown Spreading Service. They operated the highly successful business together until it was time for Harold to retire and spend some quality time with his beloved wife. They expanded into the on farm bulk bin industry, a first for Tasmania, with contractors in other areas using their operation and equipment as a blueprint to establish a similar service in their own areas. He was a longtime and active member of the Australian Fertiliser Services Association, and was highly respected within that industry. It was this activity which led to Neville becoming state president and Leo state secretary in later years.

Upon retiring, it was difficult for Harold to wind down, but wasn’t long before he really started to enjoy spending time at home and on his farm, putting his beloved new Case tractor through its paces. It was his pride and joy, so most days you would find him on the farm or helping out a neighbour shift, push over, dig or fix something.

He had the unique quality to work with people, including his two sons, without there ever being an argument, perhaps he used to give in most of the time to keep the peace!

Besides his work, his other passion was football and his beloved Canaries. As a player he was a skilled, determined, fast and tough footballer, who backed off for no man. Once his eye was on the ball, nothing was going to stop him getting it.

As a supporter he expected the same from current day players, and if they didn’t deliver he was not backward in telling them so. He was also very keen to catch up with the umpires for a beer after the game and explain to them why they needed to improve their decision making. He contributed to the operations and management as a committee member, earning him a Life Membership in 1996.

Family was very important to Harold. He was so proud of his three children, and always had a special bond with daughter Elaine who assisted her mum and dad with all the extra chores over the years. Her husband Garry also was always there to lend a hand and support them. Leo’s wife Dianne soon became like a second daughter to Harold and he so adored her. She also loved him as her own father, and was always there with a helping hand. After Sylvia passed it was the assistance of these people that made it possible for him to live independently up until he moved to Emmerton Park. He sang their praises every day. It was a difficult adjustment to move into Emmerton Park and leave his own home and farm, but soon realised he needed the care and support they could give to him as his health declined.

He absolutely adored all his grand and great grandchildren who called him Old Pop, Funny Pop, Silly Pop and were spoilt every time they visited. His love for them was evident by all photos adorning his lounge room.

The family of Harold Berechree wishes to publicly acknowledge the support of Emmerton Park during the past six months of Harold’s life.

Words cannot fully express the gratitude the family feels for the management and staff at the facility, for the care and friendship given to Harold during his period as a resident.

He regularly spoke about the exceptional manner in which he was treated at the facility by all the staff and volunteers.

The compassion and support shown to us, the family, during his last few days will never be forgotten.

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