Marie Farley leaves her mark

Extraordinary life of Kempsey legendairy


Life & Style
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Legendairy Marie Farley was still milking right up until she was 89.

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Legendairy Marie Farley was still milking right up until she was 89. Photo by Pat Farley.

Legendairy Marie Farley was still milking right up until she was 89. Photo by Pat Farley.

It was a long life. It was well lived and she was loved by her family of nine children, 25 grandchildren and 22 great grandchildren. Legendairy Marie Farley will be forever remembered by dairy industry leaders of tomorrow for her strength, resilience and endurance in the sector. She passed away on April 15. More than a week earlier Marie celebrated her 90th birthday at her Kempsey home, a celebration and one of the last opportunities to reflect on a lifetime of achievement.

Born Marie Therese Clarke at Hollywood Private Hospital Kempsey, on the April 4, 1929, Marie was the oldest daughter of Dorothy and Dennis Clarke, in a family of 12 children. In order of appearance there was: Bernie, Marie, Billy, Nancy, Connie, Sep, Betty, Ned, Greta, Margaret, Julie and Cassie.

In her early years she spent time on a number of rural properties including those at: Moonebah, Maria River, McCoys Creek, Moparrabah and Dungay Creek. Her parents ran beef cattle, raised pigs, grew corn and milked dairy cows. Cream was sold to the "Butter Factory" at Toorooka.

Marie first attended the small bush school of Wabrah where she rode 12 miles a day on horseback, often doubling two on a horse. She went to Sherwood Primary School and later continued her schooling by boarding at the Kempsey Catholic Convent.

Marie was a great talker and could easily converse with anyone she met. When Marie and her husband Jack toured Ireland in 1987, they stopped in the West Coast town of Slygo. She quickly struck up a conversation with the farmers, finding out about the cows, how they milk and what they feed them on. After being shown around the farm, Marie was invited inside and was offered a glass of Scotch Whisky as she sat beside an open fire.

At the age of 14, Marie left the convent school as she was needed on the farm at Sherwood. In her late teenage years, Marie found love, and the man she would be married to for 58 memorable years. Marie wrote about this time some years ago in the book, Memories of Home: "In about 1947 while going out to all the dances, I met Jack Farley. I was at the Aldavilla dance was very impressed with his good looks and charm. Jack used to ride his bike all the way from Pola Creek to Sherwood (about 30km return) to see me monthly. He must have been keen on the "Rose of Sherwood". Seeing there were no phones, Jack would write letters and poems and post them to me. After three years, Jack and I got married on the May 20, 1950 at the All Saints Catholic Church Kempsey. After we were married, we went to live on the farm at Pola Creek and 50 years later we are still there - a lot of water has flowed under and over the bridge since then. Jack and I have nine children...Josephine, Beth, Susan, Paul, Mark, Louise, Tom, Pat and Andrew. I was trying to outdo Mum, "No hope!".

In 1950, at the age of 21, Marie had left her up-river home and settled into lower-river life on the dairy property at Pola Creek. For the next 69 years she would stay to raise a large family, and run a successful dairy-farm with Jack.Times were not always easy, and the physical work was often long and hard. Every year brought the danger of flooding, and the major floods of 1950, 1963 and 2001 were devastating to farming families on the lower Macleay River. Marie's energy and passion for life was witnessed in her many and varied interests. Camp-drafting, cattle, cooking, ancient history, horses, antiques, travelling, whip-cracking, yodelling and let's not forget fashion. She loved dressing-up and had over 20 hats to mix and match. Marie milked cows until she was 89 and was involved in the running of the farm until she became too ill. Only 12 months ago, a cow was in trouble calving at the farm. Her son Pat rang his brother Paul to say that help is needed. On Paul's arrival, Marie had already delivered the calf herself. Marie was the backbone of the Farley family, always generous and kind. She stood strong in hard times and was an inspiration.

Marie Farley loved riding horses so much she went on horse trekking holidays including a week riding in the Snowy Mountains in the late 1980s.

Marie Farley loved riding horses so much she went on horse trekking holidays including a week riding in the Snowy Mountains in the late 1980s.

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