Dairyfarmer turned bush poet reflects on remarkable journey

Dairyfarmer turned bush poet reflects on remarkable journey

Life & Style
Bob Magor, the Myponga dairyfarmer turned bush poet, released his autobiography earlier this year and is on the verge of releasing his tenth bush poetry book.

Bob Magor, the Myponga dairyfarmer turned bush poet, released his autobiography earlier this year and is on the verge of releasing his tenth bush poetry book.

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"IT was my passion and I never wanted to be the age I am now and wonder 'what if?'," says Bob Magor.

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"IT was my passion and I never wanted to be the age I am now and wonder 'what if?'," says Bob Magor.

"I would have sooner dismally failed rather than not know."

A Myponga dairyfarmer suffering from a "mid-life meltdown" in the early 1990s, Bob listened to a suggestion from his wife Beryl and followed his dream - a crazy dream, he admits - of becoming a bush poet.

"Dairying had been good to me but I fell out with the cows and realised I didn't want to be milking for the rest of my life," the now 75-year-old Bob said.

"My wife Beryl said you've got to do something different and suggested that I do what I always wanted to do - be a bush poet.

"Every bush poet I knew of had been dead for 100 years."

Bob's story began on the small family farm at Myponga where his dad inspired his love and passion for poetry.

"He was a big fan of Banjo (Paterson) and he had a brother-in-law in Adelaide and he was too," Bob said.

"When the two of them got together over a couple of beers they'd eventually drop into Banjo, reciting poems and I'd be sitting there as a small boy thinking 'that's good'.

"I was hooked on Paterson and was a big reader so started learning poems and reciting them at school.

"My ambition was to be the next Paterson."

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The dream of becoming a bush poet didn't seem like an imaginable reality in the small dairying community, says Bob.

He left school at 15 and spent the next 10 years working as a shearer and breeding fat lambs on the family farm.

Bob bought more land adjoining the farm and built a dairy in his mid-20s and spent the next 20 years milking cows and breeding sheep.

His passion for writing and poetry still burned within him, but took a backseat until he "fell out with the cows".

Bob's sons didn't want to be farmers and in his mid 40s, not wanting to milk cows for the rest of his life, he had a "meltdown".

Urged on by wife Beryl, who went full-time teaching, Bob took a leap of faith by leasing the dairy and writing for 12 months.

His first book was titled Blasted Crows and, struggling to find a suitable distributing and promoting arrangement, Bob took it upon himself to get the book's name out on radio, television and by embarking on road trips across SA, NSW and Vic.

He recalls with fondness calling into newsagents in little towns all across Australia and talking up his talents to get articles printed in local newspapers.

"I couldn't get anyone to publish it at first because they said nobody knew me and told me to come back when I was well-known so the only option I had was to self-publish," Bob said.

"I got 2000 books printed and thought if I don't sell any at least I've got enough Christmas presents for the rest of my life.

"By the time I'd done a lap around the state I'd sold the whole 2000 in seven weeks."

Bob went on to sell another 1500 copies of that first book across NSW and in that time stumbled across Tamworth, NSW, and a fledgling group of bush poets that performed at the Longyard Hotel.

He was an inaugural member of the Australian Bush Poets Association, established in the early '90s, and was inspired by fellow performers to memorise his poems and so began his love of performing poetry on stage.

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Bob said he did some "stupid kilometres" in his performing heyday travelling across NSW and Qld, and performing at local dinners, events and even cruises in front of up to 2000 people.

He sourced inspiration from real life events on the farm - like the time as a boy he forgot about the round left in his slug gun and shot the family TV or the time he watched his father madly scramble after the farm ute as it rolled into a dam.

It also came from mad mates, caravanning adventures and imagined farm stories, like the sheepdog trial about the dog who didn't get paid and took his owner to court.

While occasionally tackling more serious topics, Bob has always leaned towards writing about the humorous side of life.

"That's the way I'm made," he said.

"I'm a bit of a storyteller and embellish them a bit - every time I tell a yarn it gets a bit bigger.

"There's enough sadness in the world without me adding to it."

Bob's poetry career has led to him twice winning the prestigious Bronze Swagman award for written bush poetry and collecting four Bush Laureate awards for written and audio verse.

He has released nine books and accompanying CDs (with titles such as Blood on the Board, Snakes Alive and TheSheepdog Trial), a biography of notorious Northern Territory figure Roy Wright and his autobiography I Lived My Dreams earlier this year.

It chronicles his life as a boy growing up on the farm in the '50s, his ratbag teenage and early 20s years through the '60s, working as a dairyfarmer in the '70s and '80s, followed by his life as a bush poet from the '90s onwards.

While he no longer performs across Australia, Bob's 10th bush poetry book, Dancing With Toads, is due to be released before Christmas.

Bob can barely believe the success that came with the crazy call to become a bush poet, selling more than 100,000 books and CDs and performing in front of audiences across Australia.

"After I got going I never saw it as an income but a lifestyle that created my income," he said.

"All I wanted to do was sell a couple of books and get my work out there.

"Beryl and I occasionally look back together on the decision and say 'what were we thinking?'."

Bob Magor's bush poetry books and autobiography can be purchased by contacting him directly - visit his website for contact details.

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