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Brain, Brian Winter (1910–1990)

by A. Rand

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Brian Winter Brain (1910-1990), farmer, was born on 20 January 1910 at Battery Point, Hobart, only child of Tasmanian-born parents Charles Winter Brain, farmer of Risdon and later of Richmond, and his wife, Catherine Taylor, née McPhee. After ill health led to his father’s early retirement, his mother took employment as a postmistress, at Richmond, at Kempton and at Sandy Bay, Hobart. Educated at Albuera Street State School and Hobart Technical School, Brian learned about farm machinery, irrigation equipment and electrical appliances while working for A. G. Webster & Sons Ltd, Hobart. He became a jackeroo on a property at Parattah and met Lorna Isobel Jessie Hyland (d.1988), whom he married on 31 March 1933 at St Peter’s Church of England, Oatlands. They settled on a small farm at Andover.

Having been commissioned as a lieutenant in the Citizen Military Forces on 24 January 1939, Brain transferred to the Australian Imperial Force on 1 May 1940. In June he was posted as officer commanding the 7th Division Salvage Unit, which arrived in the Middle East in November. The unit reconditioned enemy equipment captured during the campaigns in North Africa and Syria. Appointed salvage control officer at I Corps headquarters in October 1941, Captain Brain returned to Australia in March 1942. Next month he was made deputy assistant controller of salvage at First Army headquarters as a temporary major; he served in Queensland and the Torres Strait. In August 1944 he was promoted to temporary lieutenant colonel (substantive 27 September 1945) and appointed director of salvage at Land Headquarters, Melbourne. He transferred to the Reserve of Officers on 31 May 1946. His continued concern for the men of the salvage service led him to help arrange annual reunions over the next forty years.

On his return to Tasmania, Brain was appointed by the Closer Settlement Board as manager of Lawrenny estate, Ouse, which had been acquired for subdivision from Henry Brock and his brothers, under the war service land settlement scheme. Later, he bought part of Rotherwood, on the River Ouse, and some of nearby Shawfield, forming a 2501-acre (1012 ha) property that retained the name Rotherwood. Installing pumps to irrigate the run-down farm, he planted improved pastures. He co-operated with the Department of Agriculture in sheep-breeding trials and in 1961 started breeding Angus cattle. In 1963 he was one of the first producers in Australia to begin performance recording of livestock. With others in the district he formed the Angus Development Group in 1972; they achieved impressive genetic improvement in local herds.

Intent on optimising production in all aspects of rural enterprise, Brain made land and equipment available to the Department of Agriculture, and later to the University of Tasmania’s faculty of agricultural science, for experimental work. Pasture improvement, corbie control, animal husbandry and trace elements were all subjects for trials at Rotherwood. In 1970, experiencing low wool prices and finding it difficult to sell hops, local farmers formed the Derwent Valley Development Association. Brain was active on the committee. His enthusiasm, careful research and analysis of the commercial potential of other crops suited to the district encouraged local farmers to undertake new initiatives such as growing poppies and pyrethrum, and producing essential oils. With the faculty of agricultural science, he conducted trials on peppermint and other essential oils at Rotherwood. Three of his sons had joined him on the farm; they grew peppermint and other specialty crops, including blackcurrants, dill, fennel and parsley. The mix of crops helped to maximise use of their harvesting machinery and the distillation equipment installed on the farm in 1975. Brain used his expertise to help other farmers to design and set up irrigation systems so that they too could grow high-yielding crops.

Brain was a member (1958-80) and chairman (1961-80) of the Ouse District Hospital board; he lobbied for a new hospital building in the 1970s. A volunteer fire-fighter (1947-87), and group captain (1968-87) of the Hamilton municipality’s brigades, he was responsible for introducing two-way radios to co-ordinate fire crews in district emergencies. He was a member (1968-79) of the Rural Fires Board and deputy-chairman (1975-80) of its equipment and technical sub-committee. In 1974-80 he served on the Tasmanian Grain Elevators Board, and in 1984-90 he was one of the university council’s appointees on the faculty of agricultural science. He was appointed MBE in 1983, and next year received the Tasmanian rural promotions committee’s award for outstanding service to Tasmanian agriculture. Survived by his four sons, he died on 19 April 1990 at Rotherwood and was buried in the cemetery of St John the Baptist Anglican Church, Ouse.

Select Bibliography

  • R. V. McNeice, Knapsack Heroes (1991)
  • Mercury (Hobart), 29 Jan 1964, p 19, 28 Oct 1982, p 20, 27 Apr 1990, p 6
  • Tasmanian Country, 14 Sept 1984, p 3
  • Derwent Valley Gazette, 18 Mar 1987, p 5, 2 May 1990, p 6
  • personal information.

Citation details

A. Rand, 'Brain, Brian Winter (1910–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brain-brian-winter-12247/text21973, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 18 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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