Ivan C Heazlewood AM, one of Australia’s great sheep-men, historian, author and gentleman passed away recently. Ivan will be sorely missed by all of those who had the good fortune to know him and his loss amongst the sheep-breeding fraternity will be profound.

Over 400 hundred people from all parts of Australia attended Ivan’s funeral service. The eulogy was provided by the current Tasmanian Chairman of the Australian Stud Sheep Breeders Association, Steven French.                                                                                          

Ivan C Heazlewood A.M.

26th June 1924 – 23 March 2015

Where to start when talking about the life of Ivan Heazlewood? To say that Ivan had a full life is quite an understatement.

Over the last few years a lot has been said about Ivan. Whether it was at a book launch, at his 90th birthday celebrations or when he received his AM. Ivan commented more than once after listening to someone wax lyrical about him that it was ‘like listening to your own eulogy’. And I guess that it was. The difficulty with talking about Ivan is that there are just so many facets to him. It has been difficult to decide what to bring up and what to leave out.

Born in 1924 Ivan spent his entire life at the place where he was born, Melton Vale at Whitemore. However, this did not make Ivan a yokel, far from it, Ivan was well travelled, well read and turned out to be a talented historian and prolific author.  Ivan was a great believer in the importance of family, community and sheep – in no particular order - the history of all of these was of great interest to Ivan and he embraced the researching and recording of these subjects in later life. Ivan said that it wasn’t until he retired from farming full-time that he had the opportunity to indulge his interest in history and writing.

We are certainly extraordinarily lucky that Ivan did find the time to follow these interests as his writings are important. They will be referred to and become reference works for generations to come. While researching some information for today I went to the Wikipedia listing for Whitemore which turned out to be quite extensive.  It was very detailed and accurate. Scrolling down to the list of references I found that the vast majority were attributed to Ivan C Heazlewood which should have come as no surprise.

Earlier this year Ivan was made a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to primary industry, particularly sheep breeding, showing and judging. Although his other achievements included roles with many agricultural organisations, Ivan’s involvement and mentoring of the small seeds industry in Tasmania must be mentioned. In 1993 the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science awarded Ivan the Tasmanian Medal of Agriculture for his involvement in agriculture, particularly his contribution to the Australian seed industry. Ivan’s interest in small seed production eventually led to the development of the magnificent Heazlewood Seeds complex run by Brenton, Anne and Duncan.

When talking about Ivan, the subject usually comes back to sheep. Ivan is a Life Member of the Tasmanian Branch of the Australian Stud Sheep Breeders Association and over the years he has judged sheep at many national and international shows, including at the 2005 Maryland Sheep and Wool Show in the United States. After the Australian Sheep and Wool Congress, which was held in Tasmania in 1989, Ivan was asked by the Williamsberg Foundation in Virginia to source and export to the USA a select group of English Leicester ewes and rams to reestablish the breed in the USA. Not many years ago Ivan and Brenton went back to Virginia to check on how the sheep were doing. Brenton says that Ivan seemed to be almost revered by the American sheep breeders that they met.

Evidence of the high regard in which Ivan is held in the United States is that his sheep books continue to enjoy good sales. Only a couple of weeks ago Brenton shipped off 50 of Ivan’s books to the United States following a request from the Williamsberg Foundation for new stock.

Yesterday I rang a Victorian stud sheep breeder, Marilyn Stevens, who knew Ivan well - to let her know of his passing. I asked Marilyn what it was that she most remembered about Ivan and I expected something profound regarding stud sheep breeding or showing. Without hesitation she answered, ‘His laugh, it was infectious and it made me feel happy just to hear Ivan laugh.’

We can all remember Ivan’s wonderful, drawback laugh.

I think it is what drew Ivan to my attention growing up around the sheep pens at agricultural shows in the 50’s and 60’s. To me, at that age, Ivan was of a different generation – as indeed he was. His contemporaries were, along with my father Alan, people like Lyell Stuart, Bruce Heazlewood, Dick Hughes, Jim Lyon, Lewis Lee, Vern Badcock and Norm Badcock.

In later years, thanks to a shared interest in local history, I got to know Ivan very well and I like to think that we became good friends. For you see Ivan was a Man for All Seasons. He could mix with all generations and people at all levels of society. He was witty, fiercely intelligent and widely read on a vast range of topics.

There is no doubt that Beverley was the love of Ivan’s life, they were extraordinarily close and it certainly took the wind out of Ivan’s sails when she passed away 5 years ago. However, Ivan was determined to make the best of things and coped reasonably well on his own until he was lucky enough to have his daughter, Merrilyn, move in with him 18 months later. Merrilyn did a fantastic job looking after Ivan and most importantly she provided him, twice a day, with a meal that always included dessert. Ivan was convinced that a meal was not a meal unless it was followed by desert.

Although Ivan missed Beverley terribly he certainly remained active with his historic research, his writings and pottering around on the farm.

On my way to Launceston I would often see Ivan zooming around on his farm bike, no matter the weather or time of day. He graduated from a two wheeler to a quad bike some time ago. His ailing quad bike had certainly seen better days and Ivan used to muse as to who would expire first, him or the bike. Well, I am pretty sure it was the bike because in recent months Ivan had graduated to a pretty fancy buggy that Bramwell bought for him.

It didn’t seem to matter what the weather was, Ivan would be out in it. I remember visiting Ivan last year on a shockingly cold winter’s day. Sleet was blowing and Merrilyn made me a coffee while we waited. Ivan was out looking around the lambing ewes. When Ivan came in he seemed to be just about frozen solid. He appeared to have no feeling left in his face as his eyes were watering enough to have tears running right down his cheeks and there was a big drip on the end of his nose. Ivan’s fingers were none too supple in recent years, but on that day they were so cold that he could not move them, so Merrilyn had to unbutton his coat for him. He backed up to the fire for a while, thawed out and was soon as right as rain.

In recent years, when praise was being heaped on Ivan for some achievement or other, he commented that he wished Beverley had been there as she could always keep his ego in check. But I don’t think that having a big ego was ever really a problem to Ivan as he was genuinely embarrassed about what was being said of him - but he had the good grace to accept it.

A gregarious person, Ivan seemed to have the knack of charming ladies of a certain age (some of who are probably here today) with his stories, wit and personality. Apparently only five weeks ago Ivan kept a group of ladies entertained while on a bus trip around Evandale. The ladies had a wonderful day and it was mentioned that Ivan was flirting with them – and I bet he was.

There are many other things that could be said of Ivan and there are large segments of his life that I have little or no knowledge of. For example, his involvement with the church, Ivan was a man of faith. He also enjoyed his involvement with Rotary and was recognised as a Paul Harris Fellow. Apparently at Westbury Rotary Ivan was famous for his amusing verbal jousts with a previous President, Robert Dent. Ivan was known to recite poetry by way of replying to one of Rob’s comments.

Apparently as a young man Ivan was a very good horseman and it seems that he used to, well, to put it bluntly, Show Off, particularly to his city cousins Gwen, Jean and Doris. On horseback Ivan would throw his hat to the ground, get the horse to rear up, trot to the end of the paddock then hurtle back, retrieving his hat from the ground at full gallop. Quite an impressive feat.

In his teens, Ivan would ride his pony to the Westbury Show where he would compete and then ride home at the end of the day. Ivan was proud of his horses and ponies and would sometimes talk about his early experiences with draft horses on the farm.

Ivan was a prolific writer and he wrote everything out longhand, all of which was duly interpreted and typed up by Sharon Heazlewood.  I won’t say that it was a chore to Sharon, because I know that it wasn’t. Sharon was extraordinarily fond of Ivan and she had developed a knack of interpreting his handwriting as well as knowing where to place all the asides, references and additions that Ivan had scribbled in the margins and between lines. The only problem with working with Ivan on an article or book was that it was never really finished. He would always find some new information which just had to go in - so we sometimes invented deadlines – not that it did any good, he always ignored them anyway.

Ivan never used a computer, but he was familiar with the way they worked and would regularly ask people to research something or other for him.

In the most recent edition of Muster magazine Ivan contributed a piece entitled Sheep Magic. In this amusing article he reflects on the moments of magic that sheep-men experience. He writes:

The good shepherd, in his daily experience, is constantly exposed to moments of sheep magic. Those moments are his reward. Do we stop to savor and enjoy them? Have we ever attempted to record them?

Well, luckily for us Ivan did record many of these moments.

In a yet to be published article Ivan’s dog Pip takes the right of reply,  as Ivan mentions his dogs in the Sheep Magic story.  Pip seems to be quite a fan of The Boss, as she calls Ivan. She says:

When checking farm activities we travel together on a quad bike. In that situation my maternal urges often find myself wanting to check that he has washed behind his ears. Initially ‘The Boss’ was inclined to wince at the touch of my cold, wet nose, which a proper inspection requires, but now it is seen as evidence of the deep understanding between us that he now takes pleasure in describing it in ‘proper’ company.

Bramwell, Brenton and Merrilyn all asked me to mention Ivan’s affection for his dogs. Ivan loved his dogs and enjoyed breaking-in new ones. Only three weeks ago Bramwell bought a Kelpie pup. He had only had the dog a few days when he went out and found Ivan’s buggy abandoned in the yard - with no sign of Ivan.

After an hour or so Bramwell began to get a little concerned, so he went looking for Father. Bramwell walked back up the track and found Ivan at home - with the new pup tied up at his back door.

Ivan had reckoned that the new pup needed some training so he found a collar and lead, confiscated the little dog and walked home with her rather than carrying her on the buggy. Apparently he had started training the pup and had taught her to sit by the time he passed away.

It seems that every sheep dog that Ivan owned was Marvelous. Brenton said that it could have been the most useless dog in Australian but with Ivan it was still Marvelous.

At the end of one of Ivan’s articles he has this to say - so to conclude and will leave you with his words:

Oh dear, what tripe, what sentimental rubbish have I written.

Should I burn it?

Pardon me please dear reader.

My only excuse is found in Acts - Chapter 2 - Verse 17.

Young men shall see visions

Old men shall dream dreams