Perry Reid, the 27-year-old schoolteacher from Dungannon who, as a member of Castlecaulfield Young Farmers’ Club won the 1968 P&O “Canberra” Award, returned yesterday from an eight months’ tour in Australia.
During his stay “Down Under” Petty spent most of his time in the states of Victoria and Western Australia as guest of the Young Farmers’ and the Rural Youth Clubs.
In travelling thousands of miles he became accustomed to the contrasts of the vast country, moving from 50,000 acre sheep or cattle stations to small – by Australian standards – mixed farms of 300 acres.
But Western Australia brought many surprises – having spent Christmas in the sunbaked territory with the temperature at 109 degrees, he moved 200 miles south for New Year to a region where the maximum temperature only reached 60 degrees.
One morning he was picking tropical fruit and in the afternoon was visiting a whaling station.
One surprise he didn’t bargain for was the advent of earthquakes – while he was in a region where the shocks were comparatively minor he, nevertheless, found the experience unnerving.
As a schoolteacher, Perry was interested in the number of agricultural high schools in Western Australia, where students from the age of 14 do a full-time residential course.
There is, however, one general high school where the pupils, all day-students, may take agricultural science as an optional subject in the first two years of their three year course.
As well as studying the theory they have an opportunity to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom by working on the school’s 400 acre farm.
The school farm is run on commercial lines with a herd of 50 Hereford AIS breeding cows, the calves being suckled and sold as baby beef between nine and 12 months old.
The farm also runs 1,000 Merino sheep, about 100 acres of barley and oats are harvested each year, and last year 3,000 bales of hay were saved.