By Ken J. Stubbs
first published in the Vegetable Growers Digest, Dept. Ag. Victoria, Autumn 1961
Our Pioneer Growers:
CORRIGAN BROTHERS – BRAESIDE 1934-1961
On a hot February day in 1934, nineteen year old Tom Corrigan and his elder brother Ralph turned the first sods on the block from which they hoped to earn a living. Gazing across some 35 acres of flat, dry, couch choked sand, they could be forgiven if their thoughts then were despairing ones.
Their other brother, George, was to join them within months and it is a tribute to the perseverance and labours of all three that Corrigan Bros, today rank among the most efficient producers of high quality vegetables in Victoria.
Starting on their own after a few years experience working for a leading market gardener, their late father, a local business man, assisted them with the purchase of land. With his encouragement, and help, in what spare time he had, he proved a tower of strength in their first hard years.
Possessing only a four wheeled wagon and a pair of horses they turned over 12 acres in the first year with a Gibbins 2 furrow disc plough, hired out for five shillings an acre. They borrowed a single furrow Oliver plough, a set of harrows, and a spring toothed cultivator.
Headlands were shoveled up with old coal shovels and an ancient wattle and daub homestead housed their implements and horses.
Four acres of the original twelve fell victim to the couch which they found was 10 inches thick in parts and sometimes wore out three points of the Oliver in a day.
Some wise old timers shook their heads and said they would never make a go on that land, others had attempted to grow chicory in it for three years and failed.
The first crop produced only half an acre of Irish Cabbage and could not be sold, one load in memory netted 2 pound 10 shillings.
Eight acres of potatoes following, sold better, and they purchased an old 1924 model Chev. truck, a second hand scoop, harrows, spring toothed cultivator and dutch hoes.
The only water on the property was brackish water from a well beside the old homestead they batched in. Fresh water for drinking and washing had to be carted two miles.
In the floods of November 1935, they had too much water, and despite strenuous sandbagging of the main drain, they, like many others, lost most of their spring crops.
By the end of the second year the homestead was fitted with spouting to a tank and windlass installed over the well.
With the well water they successfully grew two acres of parsnips and an acre of carrots by walking down the rows, a watering can in each hand.
For three years they struggled; fences had to be erected, windbreaks planted, five acres was still uncleared and lack of water limited their crops. They worked from daylight to dark.
With the coming of Board of Works water in 1938, two crops a year were possible. For the first time the Corrigan brothers began to make progress and they employed two men.
Then came the war and Tom tried to carry on with an elderly laborer when Ralph, George and their two men went into the army. Their property slipped back.
Later, when released from the army to grow vegetables under government contract, their progress continued.
During these years they worked five horses and employed eight men, but much of the capital gain was ploughed back in sheds, underground drains and irrigation systems.
All three brothers had married by this time and had built homes.
After the war they bought their first tractor, a secondhand International A. Another 7 acres were brought into production. They were then working 42 acres.
Today (1961), water is piped to every corner of the property and 24,000 agricultural drain pipes have been laid in the last fifteen years. Four tractors have replaced the horses.
General layout of blocks, care and maintenance of windbreak hedges and fences, commonsense manure and fertilizer use and regular pest and disease control, all reflect their efficiency in a minimum of crop failures.
It was during the war years that Agricultural Department officers were first associated with the Corrigan Brothers, with vegetable variety trials.
This association has continued and their co-operation and assistance has proved invaluable to our vegetable research program as has the assistance of many other vegetable growers in the metropolitan and country areas.
Vegetable variety trials, fertilizer and weed control trials have been conducted on the Corrigan Bros. property for many years. At present, chemical weed control trials are in progress on a variety of vegetables. Results of these will be published in the Vegetable Growers Digest when available. K.J.S. 1961