Remembering Doug Bishop – a giant of the fruit industry

Doug Bishop sadly passed away on the 9th October 2017 at the age of 94. Doug was a significant contributor to the fruit industries in South Australia, and indeed, Australia, as well as to the community within the Adelaide Hills.

Douglas Alan Bishop was born on March 30, 1923 in Basket Range to William and Lulu Bishop. He was educated at the Basket Range Primary School and then went on to be Head Prefect and Dux of the school at Urrbrae in 1938.

He joined the Australian Imperial Force in 1942 and was a Darwin Defender with the 10/48th from 1942 to 1945. After the war he returned to work on the orchard at Basket Range with his father, where he was in charge of mowing, marketing, pruning, planting and planning. In 1947, WJ Bishop Pty Ltd was formed, with Doug, cousin Murray and brother Bill, being equal one third partners.

In 1951 he married Isabel Wilson and they went on to have 4 children, MaryLou, Patricia, Julie and Douglas.

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Doug, with children Julie, Douglas, MaryLou and Patricia

Doug was a significant contributor to the community. He was a member of the Uraidla RSL until it closed, serving as President and Treasurer in that time. He was also a founding member of the Basket Range EFS (later the CFS), Chairman of the Basket Range School Committee in the 1960s and a Member of Freemasons, Producers’ Fellowship Lodge in Ashton, acting as Worshipful Master in 1959-60.

Doug was a leader in South Australia’s Fruit Industries. He was chair of the Apple & Pear section of the SA Fruit Growers and Market Gardeners Association and was instrumental in leading the formation in 1977 of the Apple & Pear Growers Association of South Australia – an organisation with the primary aim of representing the interests of apple and pear growers within SA. He was inaugural President of the Apple and Pear Growers Association of SA and was awarded Life Membership in 2002. He was also instrumental in setting up SA Crate Pty Ltd, which provided growers access to returnable plastic crates and supported the industry association for many years.

In the 1970’s, Doug became the South Australian representative on the Australian Apple & Pear Board, which was replaced by the Australian Apple & Pear Corporation in 1982. He was President of the Australian Apple & Pear Growers Association and in 1982 became the first South Australian representative of the Australian Apple & Pear Corporation; later becoming Deputy Chairman. In 1987 he received an OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) for services to the Apple & Pear industry at State and National levels.

Doug was also a significant influence within the cherry industry, as one of the early producers of cherries within the Adelaide Hills and a passionate grower. In the day, Basket Range was the major cherry producing hub of South Australia and Bishops were one of the larger growers.

After retirement from industry politics, Doug was on the National Parks of SA Advisory Board and was a founding member of the Playford Trust. Up until recent years, Doug would recite the Ode for the Anzac Day Service at Norton Summit and march on Anzac Day with the 10/48th.

To capture some more insight into Doug’s life, we share with you excerpts of an interview with Doug by Gregory Cramond in 2012.

“Doug celebrated his 89th birthday on the 30th of March this year and I was fortunate to catch up with him that morning: Fortunate because, Doug still leads an active life and had already been up early feeding the cows and taking some measurements in the packing shed.

Doug has spent all his working life on the orchard at Basket Range, starting out, according to Doug, “working for my Dad for nothing, and now working for my son for nothing”. Doug ran through some of the Bishop Orchards history, but it seems that the disastrous fires of Black Sunday (2nd Jan 1955) are central to a lot of the changes that occurred. Like so many in Basket Range, the Bishops were to lose most of their orchard to the 1955 fire. Post the fire, the family made many changes to lessen the risk of another catastrophic fire happening again:

Timber was cleared to make a fire buffer, but also to provide much needed income; irrigation was installed; and Doug wanted to mow the grass short rather than use cultivation (which they realised was poor practice on steep slopes) and a new “Whirlwind” slasher was mounted behind their grey Fergie tractor. Doug said the combination of the Fergie and Whirlwind was a revelation, but he quickly learnt, “not to bunt the thing front first down a steep hill” (this leads to an immediate loss of traction and a quick ride to the bottom, Ed.). Because of this the Bishops also adopted contour planting, which left the Fergie happy to mow and spray in safety.

Doug said the effects of the fire was financially far-reaching and all these changes took time as money allowed. They also planted more apple trees post the fire after losing so many cherry trees in the fire. Apples were more management intensive, but at this time were proving more profitable.

Doug, quite early in his working life took an interest in industry politics. Nationally, Doug had been involved with the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association and had to do an awful lot of leg work to see a national apple and pear levy be enacted. “I had to meet with a lot of angry growers, who would say, we’re not paying any bloody levy, for any bloody thing”, said Doug. Doug sees it as one of his best achievements to have the institution of the levy be a success. “Promotion is important as ever, but even more so now with imports.

He continued, “I can now see a need to promote heavily local product, but also to identify and define that local product. The industry has faced many challenges over the years, such as the loss of an export market in the 60’s, but innovation and doing things smarter have always seen us through.”

The Apple & Pear Growers Association of South Australia Inc and the fruit growing communities within South Australia, and in particular the Adelaide Hills, are incredibly grateful for the contributions that Doug made to the sector; as an industry leader, as a grower and as a person. We are appreciative for the vision and leadership shown by Doug and other growers of his era in recognising the need to work together and to lead and rebuild the industry through challenging times, both at a state and national level.

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Acknowlegements:

Thanks to Gregory Cramond and the Bishop family for supplying information and images

Sincere condolences to MaryLou, Patricia, Julie, Douglas and the extended Bishop family.