Last bale for Peppin stalwart

Bob GarnantThe West Australian

Since the early 1950s, 90-year-old farmer David Franklin has stuck by his beloved Peppin sheep through thick and thin.

"Wool was a pound for a pound during the Korean War days and this was putting money into everyone's pockets, even after paying a hefty 25 per cent wool tax," he said.

"After the collapse of the wool reserve price scheme, our exported commodity became more of a by-product of the sheep meat industry."

Mr Franklin witnessed his last Yabba Downs clip offered for sale recently at the Western Wool Centre.

All 34 bales sold, with a 12-bale line of 18.9-micron wool sold for a top price of 1021c/kg greasy through the Wool Agency catalogue.

"In peak times, we ran 14,000 sheep and produced 450 bales of wool," Mr Franklin said.

"But before all my farming began, I did my service in the navy (1943 to 1945) with the late George Shenton, founder of Wool Agency.

"George had big ideas as a wool broker, some of which were adopted into the industry."

Mr Franklin's sheep farming career began on a more romantic twist. "After my parents walked off their farm during the Depression, we lived in East Fremantle," he said.

"It was there on my return from service that my girlfriend, Joan, said she would marry me - not for my football skills, but rather if I bought a house."

Mr Franklin set out on his BSA motorcycle and found a property, Robin Park, at Popanyinning.

"I remember having a flat tyre on the gravel road journey and fixing it in a nearby shearing shed," he said.

"They sold me the house for £3000 and the 800-acre farmland was thrown in on the deal - we had our start.

"Most essentials at the time were rationed out because of the war, Joan and I had to make do with a milking cow, chooks, vegetable garden and being thrifty. We were typical settlers of the land."

Mr Franklin's daughter, Christine, remembers well when the wool cheque arrived.

"Dad would take us to Narrogin in his Chevy ute for fish and chips and ice cream," she said. "He was also very proud of his new Ferguson tractor - a grey TE-20."

Mr Franklin was keen to run more sheep and the family bought a larger property, Twyata Pool, at Badgingarra in 1964.

"It was easy to clear and was preceded by another property, Yabba Downs, at Dandaragan," he said.

"While I looked after the sheep, my son Craig was overseeing the cropping.

"We continued with hardy Peppin sheep, using Colvin and Cranmore bloodlines and then in recent years using local Challara rams."

After many years of "farming the good life", tragedy struck with Craig's death in 1988, followed by Joan's seven years ago.

Her granddaughter, Peta, said Joan was gracious and always put wholesome food on the table.

Recently, the Franklins' last 2500 breeding ewes were sold and the remaining bales of wool sent to Fremantle - where it all began.

"Farming included some tough years, but I have no regrets - we have to remain optimistic in our trade, there is no room to be otherwise," Mr Franklin said.

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