John Drinan - Sense of place

NO PLACE LIKE HOME:  John Drinan in the garden of his beloved “Wahgunyah”.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME: John Drinan in the garden of his beloved “Wahgunyah”.

THE search for a sense of place can take many of us on a long and sometimes tortuous journey but the search is essential nevertheless and vital for our wellbeing.

If you should be lucky enough to gain that sense of place then you never ever want to lose it or throw it away lightly or without a fight and so it is for John Drinan.

For him his sense of place is his beloved farm “Wahgunyah” at Glendonbrook – a place he has been coming back to since childhood and one he hopes he never has to leave.

“I identify with this land and completely understand what the Aborigines mean by their attachment to their land and their sense of place,” he said.

“The farm is located in a beautiful part of Singleton and I love the place it is deeply imbued in me and it is my place in the world.”

Dr Drinan said he completely understood the trauma people went through when they are forced to move from their “sense of place” due, to in our area, for example to coal mine development or expansion.

The dislocation associated with loss of place is very difficult for so many people, he said.

“Luckily for me and my family our particular part of the district remains untouched by large mine development and we have been able to maintain our special place,” he said.

After a career shaped greatly by life on the farm Dr Drinan and his wife Anne returned to live fulltime at “Wahgunyah” in 1987.

The Drinan family had been in the district since the mid 1850s and built the landmark Glendonbrook homestead “Manresa” in 1902.

Dr Drinan’s father Bernie and his sister Margaret Boyce jointly shared “lifetime stewardship of “Wahgunyah” and it was time spent helping his aunt Mrs Boyce that shaped his future career.

“My aunt was my mentor and whenever I could I would come out to the farm and work alongside her - she was a marvellous woman who was incredibly hard working, ” he said.

“It was her influence that led to my career in agriculture.”

After studying Rural Science at the University of New England Dr Drinan returned to the farm to work before embarking on his New South Wales Department of Agriculture career first at Trangie Research Station then undertaking a PhD at Macquarie University eventually finding his way to Tocal Agricultural College where he was principal.

After teaching at Newcastle University, Dr Drinan operated a consultancy business, involving agricultural industries as well as heading the Australian Dairy Research and Development Corporation.

Agriculture has been part of his entire career due in a large part to his time on the farm and although his four children have not inherited his passion for rural industries he is more than happy with their career choices.

How about moving to the coast – well according to Dr Drinan he and Anne love to visit the coast.

“But after the first week we are looking for things to do and thinking about getting back to the farm – we could not live there full time it’s not for us,” he said.

Dr Drinan and his wife both say they belong in Singleton as they have become part of its social fabric.

The social and community support we have in Singleton is far better than an ocean view, they both agreed.

Neither wants to uproot and start a new life in another community – they truly feel they belong here and love their place.