A legacy in sheep, family and friends

The worldly achiever to whom the farm was always home


Sheep
Martin Gilmore, Tattykeel, Oberon, at Sydney Royal Show, 2016, with one of the stud's many grand champion Poll Dorset ewes.

Martin Gilmore, Tattykeel, Oberon, at Sydney Royal Show, 2016, with one of the stud's many grand champion Poll Dorset ewes.

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Martin Gilmore of Tattykeel, Oberon, might have been lost to the industry sooner than expected, but has left a legacy among the stud breeding world unlike few others.

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Martin Gilmore’s life, while having ended suddenly in July at just 52, could best be summed up by the song lyrics: “What's more important is the time that is known, in that little dash there in between”.

He loved his music, his family, friends, and being a part of his community, but also achieved things that for most in the livestock industry are only dreams.

In short, with the death of this Garth Brooks tragic who also never missed a James Bond film, the sheep industry has lost a legend.

The youngest of five children of John and Mavis Gilmore, Martin’s love of animals began young, with his Kelpies and Dorsets and later he would become the brains behind the Tattykeel breeding programs.

Having developed his knack early, his memory for detail, including for animals back generations in pedigrees, was considered photographic. This understanding of bloodlines meant he knew which crosses would work, but his interest went right through to the finished product.

As nephew James Gilmore said, it was Martin that was usually the one up at all hours, or who stayed back from the show to tend to the newly arrived embryo transfer lambs for whichever breeding program’s latest lamb drop was arriving.

Along with James, Martin had a close relationship with James’ brother Ross, and was the right-hand man for older brother, Graham, as well as being the spare hands on the farm when any of them were away.

The only person to attend every Tattykeel on-property sale, Martin’s deep interest also prepared him to be the driving force behind the development of the Australian White, which occupied a lot of his time during the last decade of his life.

This included not just his in-depth knowledge of the pedigrees, but the decisions around how he would mate a particular ram with a certain ewe and then follow that mating’s progress through to birth to analyse whether it was a success.

Martin’s pursuits in this field also extended to a black equivalent of the Australian White, which the rest of the Tattykeel team have now named the Martinmore.

The Martinmores grazed the paddocks close to the Fernlee house, where Martin called home since the purchase of the property in 2010. 

He moved there from Tilsbury to be closer the stud operations, Tilsbury having been his home in the period between then and his time at Tattykeel, which he moved out of in 2003.

When not busy tending to his sheep, or helping with the family’s fledgling Angus stud, he was taking care of family. His twin sister, Michelle Heffernan, Sydney, said his house was open to everyone.

Friend and fellow sheep breeder, John Sutton, Glen Innes, said “Marty”, who used to select rams for John, was a great host.

“He could cook alright – he was a bachelor, so he had to,” he said. “He was also a great John Denver fan. He had every John Denver album.”

But when it came to sheep, he said Marty was the master.

“As far as the Whites are concerned, they wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for Marty.”

While he took the occasional trip to Glen Innes to lend his mate a hand, it was his trip to Ireland in his 20s to meet the Irish Gilmores when the travel bug bit.

With Michelle, this was the first of many trips, including through Europe, parts of Africa, and the US, where highlights were visits to Graceland and Nashville, his love of country, rock and opera earning him the name of “Mr Music”.

He shared this interest with family, including his last concert, a trip to see the Wiggles with great nieces and nephews, Emilie, Hudson, Lawson and Wesley – up there with seeing The Phantom of the Opera, or Chicago on Broadway.

But for this country boy, coming back to the farm was always his favourite journey.

He had a willingness to help others, which was reflected in his involvement with Oberon Apex, for which he was awarded a life membership. He was also a long-time president of the Oberon Tennis Club.

“He was thought of as the quiet achiever, but was the over achiever,” Michelle said.

Martin spent many hours sharing advice with young breeders, often discussing particular animals.

Michelle, to whom he spoke daily, said he was also devoted to maintaining the family’s Dorset Horn flock.

“I guess he just remembered where things started.” 

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