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Falkiner, Ralph Sadleir (1877–1946)

By the death in Melbourne on Saturday of Mr. Ralph Sadleir Falkiner, Australia loses a member of one of its leading pastoral firms and of a family which has unquestionably played a greater part than any other in the stud merino sheep and wool growing industry in the Commonwealth.

Mr. Falkiner's health had not been satisfactory for a considerable time, but his final illness was of short duration. He was highly esteemed among representatives of commercial interests in the southern capital as well as being a prominent figure for many years in pastoral circles.

Mr. Falkiner was the fourth of five sons of the late Mr. and Mrs. Franc Sadleir Falkiner, of Boonoke Station, Conargo.

Mr. Falkiner was educated at Geelong Grammar School and following the father's custom soon after leaving school he was placed in a position of responsibility as manager of Moonbria station, which then comprised over 100,000 acres. It was no small task for a young man, yet he accomplished all that was asked of him. Another responsibility he had to shoulder was the first secretaryship of the family organisation which was launched under the name of F. S. Falkiner and Sons Ltd., which has been carrying on the stud sheep business for well over 30 vears. All the members of the family were embraced in the firm, with the father at the head of affairs and Messrs. F. B. S. Falkiner, Otway R. Falkiner, N. F. Falkiner, R. S. Falkiner and L. S. Falkiner, as directors. As is well known Messrs. F. B. and N. Falkiner died some years ago and Mr. Ralph S. Falkiner is the third son to pass on after being actively associated with the management of the firm as a shareholder and director for many years. Back in his boyhood days, Mr. Ralph Falkiner developed a penchant for engineering, and often gave a hand at blacksmith's work on the firm's stations. Later, he became associated with Mr. Paul Boll in the invention of the first electric shearing machines produced in Australia which bore the joint name of Falkiner-Boll. Mr. Falkiner conceived the idea of the adaptation of electric power to shearing machines, and he discussed the subject with Mr. Boll (who was an electrician) so im pressively that he finally induced him to visit Germany and obtain the requisite type of small, independent motors now used in shearing sheds in all parts of the Commonwealth.

There are probably few who are aware that Mr. Ralph and Mr. Leigh Falkiner were mainly instrumental in maintaining the electric light service in Deniliquin, forming the Town Lighting and Power Co. They bought the franchise of another weak concern which threatened to collapse and leave Deniliquin in the dark. The T. L. and P. Company's franchise ran out and Deniliquin Council substituted its own under taking.

Another invention of Mr. Falkiner was a cane-cutting machine. He spent years in perfecting this harvester and visited every part of the world where sugar-cane is extensively grown to both improve the machine and sell the manufacturing rights. It was a huge task involving much time and costly travelling, but he lived to see the machine used in many countries.

In days when cars were novel, scarce and costly, Mr. Falkiner bought and drove his own vehicle. There were no competent mechanics or garages, and Mr. Falkiner applied his own intimate knowledge of ma chinery to his motor, with the result that minor adjustments or the major services which the early cars needed, he could always cope with. Later he became a partner with the late Mr. C. B. Kellow in establishing the highly successful car sales and service organisation bearing the name of Kellow-Falkiner Co. After a few years he disposed of his interests to his partner, leaving only the original firm name to denote his association with it.

Mr. Falkiner gave up the active management of the family station some years ago, and he speculated in pastoral properties. He acquired Melville Forest, in south-west Victoria, which he held for some years, and then sold it to the Victorian Government. He purchased the well known Groongal Station, near Carrathool, which was held by the Learmonth family for a long period. Then he became associated with Mr. Ben Chaffey in controlling the out-size Western leases known as Manfred and Kilfera. It is understood he was also a partner with Mr. Chaffey in some very big transactions in sheep during the lifetime of the late Mr. Frank Lavender, of Hay, who was a great friend of both principals.

After the usual ups and downs of stock and land investors in Australia's broad open spaces, Mr. Falkiner finally disposed of his interests (apart from those in the firm) and went to England to live for years. When he returned his headquarters were in William Street, Melbourne, and he usually lived in that city.

Only those who knew the deceased gentleman will recognise him as a great humanitarian, and could thoroughly appreciate his kindly disposition, and his keen regard for old friendships. Deniliquin and district had a very high place in his esteem as the town where his boyhood days were spent, and in the later years of a busy life he always enjoyed his visits here.

The deceased was twice married.

He is survived by his wife, five sons and three daughters. His fifth son, Mr. Fraser Falkiner, was for years a prisoner-of-war in Germany, after his Spitfire was shot down over northern France. On his liberation he returned to Australia last year and is now at Boonoke Station.

The funeral of the late Mr. Falkiner took place on Monday. The body was brought from Melbourne by motor and the casket placed in St. Paul's Church, where a brief service was held. There was a representative attendance at the grave side of relatives, Melbourne and local business men and district graziers.

The services at the church and graveside were read by Rev. C. Kirkpatrick. — 'Pastoral Times.'

Original publication

Citation details

'Falkiner, Ralph Sadleir (1877–1946)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/falkiner-ralph-sadleir-19534/text30899, accessed 25 April 2018.

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