Newry Station, Victoria River Region, NT

A tribute to Rod and Alison McCombe

Rod and Alison McCombe arrived at Argyle Downs in the East Kimberley in 1980, shifting from Mountain Valley, East of Katherine, NT. They managed Argyle for 20 years, and then transferred to Newry. Newry and Argyle Downs are both Consolidated Pastoral Company stations and Newry has been their home since 2000.

At the end of 2007, Rod and Alison retired from Newry, and in 2008 they will begin another stage of their life, which they are determined will be active and useful.

Rod is a softly spoken man; his words are measured and thoughtful. He has a wealth of experience in, and knowledge about the cattle industry, and the land surrounding Newry and Argyle Downs. Rod appreciates the beauty of the country, and its suitability for cattle breeding. Newry covers an area of 2000 square kilometres and the balance of soil types includes blacksoil, escarpments, springs, and sandy soils. This, and the higher rainfall, according to Rod, is what makes it such a good breeding station.

Rod recalls the change of ownership from the Vestys to CPC, the reliance on the Royal Flying Doctors Service, and the change from telegrams to STD telephones. He has been part of a huge shift from the days of large stockcamps of aboriginal stockmen, to the smaller camps consisting mainly of young men and women. He’s been subject to the change in managerial duties from outdoor and practical tasks, to more office/administrative type of work. Rod enjoys horse work, and has always promoted the use of horses with stock, alongside helicopters.

He is somewhat regretful that, “for me to go mustering on horseback in now almost a luxury”

Alison, with her lovely Scottish accent, has enjoyed the years spent at Newry. After 20 years of relative isolation at Argyle Downs, she has appreciated Newry, right on the highway and which she describes as “in the suburbs of Kununurra, with people dropping in all the time”. Although the homestead is “the worst place in the world for dust” – with the drift from the nearby cattle yards, Alison has been very happy at Newry, with the house and attractive gardens. Their children were all enrolled at boarding schools when they first arrived in 2000, and all three wanted to return to Newry for one last Christmas in 2007, for ‘old time sake’.

Rod and Alison have gained a lot of satisfaction from seeing young people come to work at Newry as kids just out of school, and mature and progress within a year or two of training to being confident and skilled young men and women. Rod and Alison have been very proactive in providing employment opportunities for indigenous workers, and have had a positive impact in the lives of numbers of young people. Their concern goes beyond the work place, and Newry provides a home environment of care and acceptance extended to all employees.

Kent Saddlery has valued Rod’s support for, and interest in our business, and Alison’s constant friendship and hospitality. Apart from the fact that its one of the easiest cattle stations to access, its always a delight to drive into Newry and be assured of a warm welcome. We are privileged to know this couple, and hope that the years beyond Newry are fulfilling and satisfying, with opportunities to share their knowledge, experience and hospitality with many more people.