Former Mudgee District Horticulturist Clarence Ronald Beckingham sadly passed away in January 2020 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was buried in the Lue cemetery on January 9th.
Graduating from Wagga Agricultural College in 1968 he was first stationed at the Viticultural Research Station at Griffith thus beginning his long career as an advisor in horticulture with NSW Dept of Agriculture.
His next move by the Department was to Bathurst then followed Mudgee in 1975 as the District Horticulturist. He pioneered that role being the first departmental horticulturist stationed in Mudgee.
As an advisory officer he covered all aspects of production - variety evaluations, soil management, nutrition, pests, diseases and marketing. Not long after being appointed to Mudgee his role expanded from viticulture and other fruit species to also include vegetables.
His district was not only Mudgee and surrounding shires but as far west as Bourke. Some of the industries besides viticulture that he became heavily involved with included - olives, processing tomatoes, brassicas (particularly broccoli), sweet corn, peas and potatoes. With his role having expanded to include vegetables his responsibility also expanded to the Macquarie Valley and as far west as Bourke.
Viticulture though always remained his special interest. He was held in enormous regard in all aspects of his advisory work but especially in grape growing and subsequent wine production. A grower once offered this praise - "Clarrie would never leave a stone unturned in following up a curly question".
The Department of Agriculture office back in the 70's at 100 Church St. was small and narrow accommodating the District Horticulturist, the District Agronomist and two office staff. Two other Departments shared the small building - Forestry, a room at the rear and Soil Conservation upstairs. This early interaction stood him in good stead as his work often involved working with other government departments throughout his career.
When Clarrie arrived in 1975, Mudgee was experiencing a hobby farm boom which generated enormous enquiry. This led to many discussions in the Mudgee office on how best to handle these. With the support of local Mudgee staff, Dubbo staff and Mudgee Beef Promotion Society it was decided that the best way to get information out was to hold a Small Farms Field Day. This was successful and Clarrie's legacy lives on to this day with it now being an annual event.
In 1985 he was appointed to Maitland to carry on his advisory work in the Hunter region. His career continued to advance which saw him travel throughout much of NSW advising and presenting reports to growers and industry. He was a prolific writer of technical papers that were widely distributed to growers and related industries. Many of these today can be found in national and state libraries.
Clarrie returned to Mudgee in the 90's to enjoy working back in his old district. His battle with Parkinson's disease no doubt influenced his early decision to retire from flying and a few years later from NSW Agriculture. After being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease he formed a local support group which was welcomed by many in the community suffering the debilitating disease.
Clarrie attributed his dedication and application to his work to his training as a pilot and his 26 years of flying. To quote his own words "flying was my absolute passion - a great training ground not only for airmanship but discipline,punctuality, and attention to detail".
He called himself a 'weekend warrior' as much of his 648 hours of flying was recreational at weekends. He was however able to pilot himself on official Agricultural business if head office deemed it cost effective. This was often the case as his expertise led him all over NSW and sometimes interstate.
Clarrie Beckinghams' contribution to the horticultural industry in this region - Mudgee and beyond will always be remembered.