“Putting primary industry in the care of trade union mogul Simon Crean is akin to putting Ned Kelly at head of security at Westpac”.
Topping the Sydney Morning Herald Quote of the Year published on December 31 1991 was this one liner from Peter Taylor.
Those who knew him would chuckle: a formidable intellect, adroit and unsubtle, he never missed an opportunity to be provocative.
Ask his 14 grandchildren who became deft at discourse and debate amid gatherings involving their grandfather.
Peter Taylor was farewelled by hundreds at Nimmitabel’s St Peter’s Anglican Church last week.
His 84 years represented a life fully lived; a man who entered the world and died on his beloved Monaro, initially a quiet bookish child who became a vet, a farmer, a husband, a father and one of the most memorable farm leaders of the century.
Peter was born in Cooma Hospital in December 1937 to Charles, a farmer and Rita Taylor, a teacher.
His sister Robyn said her brother was very small, not sporty at all, didn’t like to be in the paddocks and had a particular disdain for horses – used prolifically on the farm – and it was their mother who shaped her son’s love of learning and problem solving.
Shipped off to boarding school at age seven, first to Beecroft Grammar – his bread and jam days – and then The Kings School until 1954, Peter would excel academically and was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to study veterinary science at Sydney University.
He graduated in 1959 with second class honours, a University Blue for shooting and the heart of fellow university student Anne Hudson, daughter of the father of Snowy Hydro Sir William Hudson.
The two were soon engaged and married in 1961, producing four boys in the five years the Taylors lived at “Bellevue” Nimmitabel.
Here the young family would roam, ride horses, camp, fish and explore the backyard that was their Snowy Mountains home.
They would later buy and settle on “Bobingah”, where he would come to live out his life.
In the 80s and 90s Peter Taylor the advocate, activist, zealous and loud reformer emerged, Robyn said.
“I can only say that this person represented a complete change of personality. I really don’t know what happened,” she said.
First mixing farming with representation on the Bombala Pastures Protection Board, Monaro County Council, Bibbenluke and Bombala Shire Councils, in parallel he served as a grower member of the NSW Meat Industry Authority and the NSW Livestock and Grain Producers Association (LGPA) General Council, Economic, Education, Land and Local Government, Pesticides and Wool committees until the early 1980s.
The NSW Farmers was emerging as a formidable expression of state farmer interests. Peter, then on the executive committee and general counsel, was on a similar trajectory with roles in the NSW Government Committee of Enquiry into Young Farmer Establishment Schemes, Confederation of Australian Industry Economic Committee, CSIRO Advisory Committee on Ethics in Animal Research and Wool Production Research Advisory Committee.
He was a NSW Farmers-appointed delegate to the National Farmers Federation (NFF) and Wool Council of Australia. He later became NSW Farmers’ vice president, senior vice president and in 1990, president.
He experienced the worst of times on his own land; the heartbreak, tenacity and grit distilled from that would fire his resolve in advocating for farmers at all levels.
When Peter was on the cusp of taking on the NFF presidency in May 1988, Anne became terminally ill. Peter decided she would come first, devoting himself unconditionally to her care until her death that September.
Averse to the land as a child, Peter Taylor was nevertheless a “bushie”.
He didn’t buy computers; he built them along with programs to administer the farm. He learned to fly and was a competent mechanic. He sailed in a boat he built of plywood sheets and resin and would late in life immerse himself in reading, robust bridge tournaments and brought his vision of a Snowy Hydro Museum to life.
It didn’t matter where he stood – be it board room, country hall, parliamentary offices or in the paddock – Peter Taylor commanded the room and set an example, as a father and a widower, for his four sons who would also flourish.
He was one of the last of a generation of farmers who truly represented the dust, mud and toiling, voiceless nature of that role.
He died where he wanted – at home just weeks after gathering with family for Easter in the bush. His life played out in the church where his wife had played the organ, where the stained glass windows and roof were donated in her memory.