The legend of Tandora

Written by Kim Harris

Fraser Coast cattle farmer Lindsay ‘Butch’ Titmarsh looks like your average farmer but it only takes a few minutes talking with Butch to realise that he is like no other.

75-year-old Butch is energetic – really energetic.

His mind works quickly – enthusiasm evident in everything he talks about.

His body moves swifty – Butch bounces around understanding that time waits for no one.

Butch talks fast – almost like he is worried there won’t be enough time in this life to do and say all that he wants, but Butch has lived a life that is fuller than most people could even imagine, achieving distinction in multiple fields of the agricultural sector as well as the arts.

Not your average farmer.

Butch is an explorer of the Australian bushland, with endless thirst to learn and teach all that he discovers. He documents everything through photos and his massive body of writing.

Butch is not one dimensional – published author, talented nature photographer, researcher, historian, botanists, native plant nurseryman, builder, tour operator, column writer, agricultural teacher, and farm stay host… but his day job is grazing 2000 head of Brahman cattle on rugged riverbank environment situated on the junction of the Mary and Susan River’s between Maryborough and Hervey Bay. Mangrove scrub- First Nations Badtjala country.

The third-generation farmer has lived most of this life at Tandora Cattle Station, first as a child of Pioneers, then as a kid running around the paddocks shooting and fishing, later marrying Noela, the couple having 2 daughters and a son. These days Butch’s children are grown – his grandchildren roam and experiencing the adventure of life on the banks of the river like he did.

The same but so different. 75 years changes not only people but also the environment.

Titmarsh highlights the changes he has seen to the landscape of the riverbanks in his second book ‘Mary and Susan – Sister Rivers of the Fraser Coast’ published in 2014.

“South bank erosion nowadays can be attributed to the fact that river bed silting and mid-stream island growth has forced tidal currents, as well as flood waters, across to that southern bank where previously it did not flow as fast. Massive sand banks now occupy much of the centre of this mighty watercourse”.

Butch tells how his grandchildren run around the land more cautiously than he did as a boy, explaining freedom to explore and the sense of independence that builds courage. “Kids are different these days – technology plays a part in shaping their world both good and bad”. Butch isn’t against technology and knows it is vital to move with the times and tells that he uses his computer and phone everyday for business, research, and writing.

“75 articles published in the Maryborough Sun”. Butch is a legend round these parts.

Young Lindsay started St Helens Primary School with his sister – they were boarding away from home during the school week. It was a big change leaving the autonomy of the station to go sit in a classroom. Butch explains that it was difficult at first to find his way outside Tandora. “I would have preferred go fishing”.

Butch didn’t try that hard in school, he always knew he would end up working at the farm – without effort his grades were at the top end of his class in primary school. In High school all the focus was on an Industrial Course – he liked to build and work with Diesel machinery. In 1966 Tandora got its first Diesel motor, with around 33 today. A team of horses did all the heavy lifting when Butch was a child. “It was hard life for Mum and Dad” Butch explains.

“Mum worked harder than most men you will ever meet, and Dad was the same. Dad was a horseman”.

“Mum’s lineage was West African; our three times great Grandmother was a black slave on a coffee plantation back in 1803. Mum was built tough, it was in her veins”. Butch is undoubtedly proud.

Butch does make farming look fun – but the 75 year old says he gets frustrated when people say he is ‘lucky’ to have it all {Tandora}. “Not luck, but hard work”. There is no secret to the success of Lindsay Titmarsh it all comes from substantial, enduring effort.

In 1963 Butch left school and returned fulltime to the station where he meets his sweetheart. 1972 Butch marries his wife of 50 years Noela. They always have plenty to do and work 7 days a week at Tandora, continuing the family legacy together.

They are smart farmers who choose to work with the land – “you don’t over farm to exhaustion” We know drought will come and tough times – it’s part of the job. We work and prepare in the good periods of weather to protect us in the bad” Stupid to think some farmers aren’t prepared, they run the paddocks down, then the grass cannot hold any moisture”. Butch explained how on Tandora they understand the land and make sure it’s protected so it protects them.

“Out here we do things a bit different”

Butch knows that at Tandora they aren’t just cattle farmers, there is a responsibility and appreciation of the land which goes beyond business.

The creatively and explorative nature is evident in everything at the homestead – a fallen tree trunk becomes a dramatic centrepiece in the living room, tyres constructed into a 11 metre tall flagpole in memorial of fallen police officers, the old water tank doubles as a star gazing platform.

Butch checks his GPS koala tracker and points… “They are over in that scrub” Tondara homes a colony of relocated rescue Koala; which have successfully bred.

Meticulously curated collections of Tandora photos dating back over 100 years line the walls of the cottage. Seeds, butterflies, bugs, and machinery serve as a time capsule – beautifully presented like a piece of fine art. Tandora’s story is part of Fraser Coast history, the Titmarsh family have captured the journey. Butch shares the collection with enthusiasm: he speaks of the highs and lows of the farm with respect, knowing that with his family they have overcome much and created something unique and industrious. Butch has many side projects, countless stories of almost unbelievable adventures and a mind busting with new ideas to manifest.

Butch’s drive and enthusiasm for everything on Tandora even include the termites which he fondly explains that he has studied extensively and written about.

Butch loves to learn – Butch loves to teach.

When talking with Butch he seems interested in looking at a new face, trying to understand the mystery of what makes the person – he recognises everything and everyone has an interesting story that builds and changes with time, much like the river and Tandora.

Butch shows no signs of slowing down, continuing to work with the land- Son Glenn, and his grandsons do most of the cattle farming and heavy lifting these days…change is the only constant. Butch hopes to make a documentary series about Tandora sharing all the wonders he has discovered during a lifetime on this incredible living wonderland which he calls home.