Fifty-two for Hugh

Fifty-two for Hugh

Togari boy Hugh Gillies isn’t missing the droll of the alarm clock after 52 years on-call for Tasmanian Irrigation. 

Hugh and his parents moved to the region in 1959 to a farm in Montagu Swamp, now Togari. 

Serving with the 9th Division in Tobruk, Libya and New Guinea, his father was allocated a settlement farm after World War II. 

Hugh attended Redpa Area School until he was 15 when he left to work for the Agricultural Bank as part of their land settlement scheme, clearing and developing land around Togari and Redpa. 

After that dried up, he began milking for Geoff Grey and picked up a job maintaining eight miles of road on the Bass Highway for the Public Works Department between the Britton Swamp sawmill and Dismal Swamp. 

Hugh would walk down his eight mile stretch with his wheelbarrow, pick and shovel fixing potholes and pumping water from drains and off the road. 

“That was always hard work. In the summer the trucks would fly up the road and spray dust in your eyes and up your nose,” Hugh laughs. 

“Then in the winter they’d cover you in mud.” 

In 1964, Hugh got hitched to his beloved Joy – and together they have four children and are enjoying 55 years of marriage. 

When he finished up his work on the roads, he went to work with his parents on the family farm. It was during this time that he also picked up part-time work with the Rivers and Waters Supply Commission, now Tasmanian Irrigation, in Togari. 

Here, Hugh had to monitor the level of the dam, maintain the track, fix broken pipes and blockages in the pumps – often caused by eels and lobsters – and mitigate water-related disputes between farmers. 

He has been on-call for more than half a century since. 

During this time Hugh enjoyed playing footy and cricket on the weekends for Marrawah and Togari. 

Owning the property that the cricket pitch resided on, it was always difficult for Hugh to escape playing honours for home games.

“Back then everyone played sport of a Saturday even if they weren’t very good. I was one of those bat low and don’t bowl type of blokes, but I still enjoyed myself,” he laughs. 

A man of marvellous work ethic, Hugh didn’t take a holiday until 1988 when he took the family for a trip on a houseboat down the Murray River. 

As time went on the farm required more and more attention and Hugh struggled to get it all done by himself, opting to put the property up for sale. 

“We had that farm for 49 years, my family,” he says. “I was sad to see it go. My dad went to war to get that farm for us. I’d have held onto it forever if I could’ve.” 

Hugh hung up his hat for the last time in July of last year having spent 58 years working hard for his bread and butter. 

Local Hugh Gillies is enjoying taking it easy after working to support his family for almost 60 years. Picture: Isaac Popowski. 


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