RETIREMENT is not in the vocabulary of leading Dubbo stock and station agent Peter Milling.
The soon-to-be 85-year-old thrives on the cut and thrust of business and still looks forward to going to work each day.
“I love what I do,” Mr Milling said.
“I always have. It is in my blood.
“My grandfather and father were stock and station agents. So were three uncles, two cousins and a brother. I even married the daughter of a stock and station agent.
“I’d have to say the industry captured me. It was part of my life from early childhood when I would stand on a butter box to reach the wall-mounted telephone to take messages for my father.
“It didn’t matter so much what the message was. The important thing was being able to say who had called.”
Mr Milling’s grandfather, Oliver Louis (O.L.) Milling, founded the family business, O.L. Milling and Co, at Dunedoo 100 years ago this month.
Oliver Louis was aged 10 when his family left Ireland to make a new life in Australia.
They settled on an orchard at Fairfield and started growing flowers for the Sydney market.
“O.L. attended school until he was about 13,” Mr Milling said.
“He had various small jobs, including a butter and egg run around Parramatta.
“He was underage when the Boer War started but managed to talk his way into enlisting with the elite NSW Lancers.
“O.L. went off to war, had his horse out from under him, was mentioned in despatches and contracted enteric fever, which killed hundreds and hundreds of soldiers.
“He lay unconscious in a tent in the desert for a fortnight and was eventually sent home.”
Arriving back in Australia, Oliver Louis joined the NSW police force as a mounted trooper. He married the love of his life Christina Bennett.
“They had 11 children and a wonderful marriage,” Mr Milling said.
“My grandfather was a great family man and a tremendous businessman.”
Initially sent to Bathurst police station, Oliver Louis was transferred to Gulgong and finished up at Leadville.
As a mounted trooper he went around all the big stations on his horse.
People would talk about what was happening and how they wanted to buy some ewes or sell some cattle.
“My grandfather got the idea that he could start a business as an agent,” Mr Milling said.
“He joined up with a fellow called Harry Horne who was a member of the upper house in Parliament.
“The business was established at Dunedoo at a time when there was great excitement about the coming of the railway.
“Three days after the doors opened World War I started. You can imagine how difficult it was but they weathered the storm.
“A short time later Mr Horne retired out of the business. O.L. worked hard in a town that had three stock and station agencies. He took on all comers and the other businesses gradually disappeared.
“He later established a rural merchandise store around the corner from the stock and station agency.
“His sons, including my father Herbert, came into the business as they got older.
“Things had just started to get going very, very well when the Great Depression hit in 1929.
“They weathered that too and expanded the business into offices at Mudgee, Dubbo, Trangie and Gulargambone.
“I got good experience because they sent me to work in the lot of them.”
Mr Milling founded his own company at 177 Darling Street, Dubbo in 1973 and established a travel agency at Orana Mall when the shopping centre opened in 1979.
The stock and station and travel businesses were amalgamated under one roof when the premises at 105-107 Macquarie Street was purchased from Dalgety.
“Building up the business was hard work and I never got home until it was dark,” Mr Milling said.
“Then I would sit on the telephone until 10pm. My darling wife (Toni) often said she got engaged to a telegram and married a telephone.
“She would feed me while I was talking to clients and later when I went to soak in the bath she would sometimes find me asleep in the water.”
In his early days in business telephone calls were relayed through manual exchanges.
The introduction of automatic telephones made communication more efficient.
Things changed dramatically all over again when mobile phones arrived.
“My working life has revolved around listening and talking to people,” Mr Milling said.
“My grandfather always told us information was the source of all wealth. His other motto was ‘pay, be paid and be on time’.”
There are not many properties in central western NSW that Mr Milling has not visited. Some he has sold three times.
He’s worked through droughts and dramatic downturns in livestock prices and times of great prosperity in the rural sector.
“The biggest booms were in sheep during the 1950s, cotton in the 1980s and in sheep and cattle in 2015,” he said.
“There have been so many changes over the years but some things have remained constant.
“I’ve been running horse sales at Dubbo for 44 years and many of the same families have been dealing with Milling and Co since the first stock and station agency was started a century ago.
“When my father came to Dubbo to open a branch of the business there were practically no livestock sales. He was instrumental in getting the livestock markets at Troy organised.
“I was in attendance at the first sale there on June 28, 1950. Dubbo has become a major selling centre attracting livestock from everywhere, into Queensland and right out to Broken Hill where stock used to be sent to Adelaide.
“Irrigation in the Macquarie Valley transformed farming and livestock. At the present time livestock prices are unbelievably high. We’re part of a global market and the world wants our lamb and beef.”
Mr Milling is proud to be part of the Dubbo business community and happy with his life.
“I had a wonderful wife and have three wonderful daughters,” he said.
“I’ve worked hard doing something that I really love.
“Being a stock and station agent is something you really need to have a feeling for. And you need to like people - that’s an essential.”