END OF AN ERA: After 25 years at Swan Creek carrying on the Britannia name, Marg and Stuart McPhee have sold their property.
END OF AN ERA: After 25 years at Swan Creek carrying on the Britannia name, Marg and Stuart McPhee have sold their property. Jarrard Potter

End of an era for Britannia cattle farm

FOR MORE than a hundred years, the Britannia name in the Clarence Valley has come to epitomise quality cattle.

Their motto was "good better best, never let it rest until good becomes better and better best", and for the past 20 years Stuart and Marg McPhee embodied their own words, taking out every major prize in shows across the Northern Rivers, NSW and Queensland for their poll hereford cattle.

However after three generations of the Britannia name in their family, first at Lower Southgate and then in Swan Creek, the couple have made the difficult decision to sell their Swan Creek property.

Stuart said the Britannia name was established in 1903 by his grandfather Alexander, and continued under his father Athol, and while Stuart was keen to continue a life on the land, however it was a two-year waiting time for a bursary to attend Hawkesbury Agricultural College, so Stuart picked up an apprenticeship in printing, an industry where he worked for 49 years with Marg.

The couple couldn't stay off the land forever, and in 1993 they carried on the Britannia name at Swan Creek.

"Britannia on this river has been strong and when we started off the name here with the poll herefords and we travelled, and we were very successful," Marg said.

"We would be in Rockhampton one weekend and Goulburn the next with our cattle. We didn't think much of it back then and we were running the print shop as well, and most of our work was done at night here at the farm."

Stuart said he loved spending time with the cattle, and taking part in competitions in shows was a way of life for the couple.

"We used to go to around 22 or 23 shows a year, and that's lot of shows across northern NSW and Queensland," he said.

"In our heyday we had probably some of the best poll herefords in all of northern NSW and we took them to Sydney and Brisbane as well."

A highlight for the couple was their Sydney Royal Show champion Northfield Bundaberg, which took out the supreme exhibitor award and sold for $130,000.

"We started with good ones and kept the bloodlines going and we won virtually every show in the Northern Rivers really," Stuart said.

Marg said family legend of the Britannia name is that Alexander chose it after the brand name for high quality silverware.

However ill health has forced the couple to re-evaluate their future, after Stuart, 70, was diagnosed with lung cancer.

"If I didn't have that we would still be kicking but it got that way where through radiation and chemotherapy come 2pm I've got to find somewhere to crash," Stuart said.

"The worst part about it is I've lost a lot of my strength."

Since the property was sold the pair have been packing their belongings, and sifting through their numerous awards and ribbons has brought back a lot of memories.

"Life has been good, we've had a few knocks and bumps like everybody else but it probably won't hit home, leaving here, until we get away from it," Stuart said.

"I can accept the fact that we're going away from the farm and the cattle, it's been our life really, and you've just got to accept the times. We've got terrific memories of people that you meet and the shows, that's when you catch up with old mates from last year and it's just a terrific way of life really."