When Beaudesert’s milko hangs up his boots, it will end a century-old family dynasty

A lot has changed in the small southeast Queensland town of Beaudesert over the past 103 years, but in all that time the Fisher family’s milk run has remained a constant.

Sep 22, 2020, updated Sep 22, 2020
The Fisher family used a horse and cart as early as 1917 to deliver milk to the Beaudesert community.(Supplied)

The Fisher family used a horse and cart as early as 1917 to deliver milk to the Beaudesert community.(Supplied)

This month will mark the end of an era when fourth generation milkman John Fisher hands over the reigns to a new owner outside the family — ending a century-long dairy dynasty.

“I won’t miss the early starts,” Fisher said.

“The best part is the rapport with the customers, the rest is just work.”

John Fisher’s great-grandparents Charles and Victoria started the milk run on horse and cart in 1917.

The pair delivered milk fresh from their dairy to most homes across town.

In 1946, the couple handed the business to their son Clive, before John Fisher’s parents Colin and Shirley took over in 1966, delivering to Beaudesert homes twice a day until they were both in their 70s.

“We had about 40 cows and two dairies,” Colin Fisher said. “We used to milk at midnight and milk at 11:00am in the morning before delivering in the afternoon to the whole town.

“Sometimes I’d go into [someone’s] house and find something to put the milk in and they’d yell, ‘Is that you Colin?’, and I’d say, ‘Yes’ and shut the door behind me.”

“People didn’t lock up in those days,” Shirley said. “A lot has changed but John has definitely earned a break.”

Without the morning run to do, former milkman John Fisher is enjoying his retirement onboard his sailboat. (Photo: ABC News: Anna Hartley)

Home delivery stopped when John Fisher took over in 2002.

Since then, he has been the solo milkman, working six days a week delivering Norco milk to businesses, cafes and grocery stores across town.

One of his loyal customers, Maree Ward, owns a fuel station in Beaudesert and has been getting milk delivered to the shop since her father founded the business decades ago. “The Fisher family were putting the milk on my front step since I was about six or seven years old,” Ward said.

“I remember going out and picking the milk up off the front step and taking it in and putting it in the fridge inside.

“It was Colin delivering to us, or Mr Fisher as he was back then.”

Ward said one thing that hadn’t changed was the “old fashioned” service provided by the family.

“I wouldn’t imagine if you were in the city there would be many milkman who would fill your fridge and transfer your bottles around like John does,” she said.

“Most would drop it at your door but John packs it and is friendly, always up for a chat.”

‘Part of the local folklore’

For Jamie Pryer, owner of Beaudesert’s SPAR grocery store, the change in ownership is hard to comprehend.

He said the move would have a big affect on Beaudesert, with many depending on the Fisher family’s reliability, service and friendship.

“It’s going to be a big adjustment for the town,” he said.

“It’s part of almost the local folk lore with milk in this town you had the Fishers. They’ve provided to generations.

“It’s the end of an era.

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“It’s just like the sun coming up, you know it’s going to happen. You know every day that John is going to trundle on in, have a bit of a chat and bring in the milk.

“John is a character — very easy going, the word ‘larrikin’ comes to mind straight away, but he’s also very conscientious.

Beaudesert Bakehouse manager Victoria Panitz said she would miss seeing John Fisher every morning.

“He’s always very friendly and he knows a lot around the town and what’s happening so I’m going to miss all the gossip,” Panitz said.

“They deserve a break now, they’ve done the town a great service over all these years and I hope they have a great retirement.”

Fisher has spent the past week training new owner and former signwriter Travis Pettit, who moved his family from Brisbane to Beaudesert for the job.

“My philosophy is we all sell milk, we are all roughly the same price, so what can you do better? And to me, that’s service,” Fisher said.

“So we give them service and that’s what has kept us strong here in Beaudesert.

“Our customers [have] stuck with us through thick and thin and I appreciate it.”

“It’s big shoes to fill. It’s refreshing for me, I love it. The town is awesome, very welcoming,” Pettit said.

John Fisher and his wife Sharon have been keen sailors for seven years but have never had enough time to leave Moreton Bay.

In leaving behind the morning milk run, they plan to sail along the Queensland coast, and eventually around Australia.

“It’s progression and it’s another step in life and we wanted to get out on to the boat while we still can,” Fisher said.

“I want to go sailing and see my granddaughters in Western Australia. Life will be a lot easier and a lot cruiser.”

– ABC / Anna Hartley

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