Soldier settler blows his cover

14 Jul, 2014 06:10 PM

ON February 14, 1985, "Diary of a Farmer" notched up its 1000th appearance in Stock & Land.

The articles had appeared "anonymously" in the paper since 1963, however author and Penshurst farmer Tom Johnson had "blown his cover" a number of times, according to former Stock & Land managing editor Chris Griffith.

Mr Johnson settled at Penshurst with his family after the Second World War and began his diaries when superphosphate was £7/8/6 a tonne, and fat bullocks were selling to £82/8/0.

Raised on Bendigo district farm Laanecoorie, he attended Melbourne High School and then Melbourne University, earning a history double major, with a diploma of education.

He returned to farming in 1928 where he made a living by growing tobacco and other irrigated crops along the Loddon River.

Enlisting in 1940, he was taken prisoner at the fall of Singapore in February 1942.

As a prisoner of war, he worked on the construction of the Burma-Siam Railway, 260 miles of track over mountains and jungles built almost entirely by human labour. There was enormous loss of life from disease, starvation and other hardships.

He then made a hazardous voyage to Japan, in which more lives were lost from attacks by US submarines, where they were set to work in coal mines for the remaining eight months of the war.

It was reported in Stock & Land that he witnessed the explosion of the second atom bomb over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, which brought an end to the Second World War.

In 1951, he was awarded a soldier settlement block at Minhamite, south of Penshurst, where he raised cattle and sheep.

A speaker at a talk in Melbourne in 1985 introduced Mr Johnson by saying: "For more than 30 years, he led a peaceful existence there, with a large family around him, the fortunes of which have been chronicled each week in Stock & Land's Diary of a Farmer".

Some of the frequent mentions were Minhamite Shire Council, as he had been a councillor for 22 years at that stage, and the struggles of the local high school.

"His respect for other farmers, for the land, for history, for literature and good writing, and above all, for people, have illuminated his articles over the years," Mr Griffith wrote about his 1000th appearance.

His long innings as a writer closed later that year.



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Sorry did i get it wrong..? Rankins Springs is still open..?!
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No doubt a few frosted Freddies out there who will wish they had taken a closer look at the AGC
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Matthew, I was wondering if you had followed up this story with the farmer after the whole