Thursday, May 26, 2022

Know your local – Brendan McKnight

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Brendan grew up at Trevenson Park horse stud in Baringhup, working with his dad. In 1991, with the help of his Uncle John, a builder by trade, he built his own house next door. They started the build in March but it was held up by wet weather.

Brendan McKnight
On the right is Sam and is still a pup at 16-months-old, while the 10-year-old Max, is the miracle dog. He was on a quad bike when he was just a pup, he fell off and was crushed by the trailer driving behind. Brendan had a friend who was a vet, who saved his life. Photo: Tarrangower Times

“I remember we had to wrap the bricks up in foil so we could keep working on it,” said Brendan. “There was no power, we did it all with the genny. I spent every waking hour building that house. We  got married on 12 October and we moved in then.”

Brendan then started running sheep with around 700 ewes.

“It’s good at the moment, but can be hard at times. It’s your enthusiasm that carries you through. As you get older you realise you can’t control everything.”

Brendan met his wife Jennifer at Highview in Maryborough and he talks with pride as he describes her career working for Mt Alexander Shire Council in Maldon and for the last 11 years at Tarrengower Prison in administration.

“I tell her I was obligated to marry her because she got me through my exams in high-school,” Brendan laughs. “Nick, our son is a really good mechanic and Bec worked as a dental nurse and is now an accountant. They both worked on the farm first though. No grandchildren yet, I need a bloody 14-year-old to help me on the farm now,” laughs Brendan.

Brendan has been a member of the CFA since he was 16-years-old and has been the Captain of the Baringhup CFA for the past 23 years, making Brendan the longest serving Baringhup Captain.

“I remember the big fire here in 1980. I was 14 at the time. It burnt the bum out of the tower and all the way to the big roundabout near Bendigo. I remember it was very hot and windy, I had a new brick bedroom, which was nice and cool and at around 12.30 people started yelling ‘fire’. I looked out at the hills and it was all orange. It was my job to catch my pony, Old Harry (he was a bit of a legend in his time. Won a race in Kyneton), I had to saddle him, but the wind kept knocking the saddle out of my hands. I had to round up 100 horses and put them in pens and yards, whatever I could to keep them out of the path of the fire. We only lost a few paddocks in the end, but you don’t know what’s going to happen at the time.

“I learnt then the effects fire has on the rationality of otherwise sane people. There was this older guy, a neighbour and he drove up to our gate, I have no idea what he was doing there on our property. I was on horseback and told him if you’re looking to get back to your place… and I’ll never forget him saying, “I nowhere to go boy!

“Poor Old Harry was knackered by the end of it, it was 40 degrees.

“When I first started out as Captain, well you don’t know what you’re doing when you first start anything, and I was at the opening of the new Maldon station talking to someone I didn’t know about our old tanker. Turns out the guy was the guest speaker, Glen Foster, and that’s how we ended up with a new tanker!

“Mobile phones have been the best thing for firefighting. In the early days you’d have to be calling a landline, you’d get someone’s mum, who’d say, ‘hang on a second, he’s out in the paddock,’ he’d finally get on the phone and say, ‘nah I can’t come,’ it was a real time delay.”

Brendan has also spent time carting water after buying an old 2150 in 2003. He bought an old Acco and did it up to cart water to the farm.

Brendan McKnight
The old Acco. Photo: Tarrangower Times

“That Acco was the most faithful thing, an absolute legend. Of course you’ve got people saying, ‘can you just run us a load,’ it was good, cash in hand. The old standpipe near the Kangaroo was open 24/7 then, I’d go and do a day’s work and then I’d be sitting up at the standpipe at 10 o’clock at night, calling the kids at the Roo’ to bring us some chips,” Brendan laughs. “It was the most boring job, but I did it until 2016 and then gave the business to Nick.”

I asked Brendan whether he has any hobbies, “Farming’s a hobby isn’t it?” Brendan asked. “I pat the dog instead of yelling at it,” he laughs.

Tarrangower Times 21 January 2022

This article appeared in the Tarrangower Times, 21 January 2022.

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