A tribute to...

Thomas Esmond Knox

Published: 14/3/2022

Thomas 'Tom' Esmond Knox was born on 12 July 1947 to Kathleen Gaffney and Neville Thomas Knox. Tom was the eldest son of eight children - Jenny, Timothy (dec'd), Michael, Rosie, Suzie (dec'd), Carolyn and Louise.

Tom attended primary school at St Columba's in Dalby and did well academically. An old report card written by one of his teacher's, Sister Conchessa, noted scores of greater than 90% on every subject - even though she remarked the homework was "often skipped".

His secondary education was at Nudgee College in Brisbane where he excelled in both study and sport. In his final year 1964, he was College Vice-Captain and won both the Maths and English Prizes. At sport he played in the backs for the 1st XV, was Captain of the 1st XI and won the Best Batsmen award. As Captain of the 1st X1, Nudgee College won the GPS Premiership for the first time in 25 years. Nudgee's next cricket premiership would be 27 years later with Tom coming back to coach the team. After leaving Nudgee, Tom played Inside Centre for the Queensland Under 18 Rugby team against NSW.

Tom went on to study Medicine at University of Queensland for several years and although he didn't graduate, he did meet his future wife Margaret Parker there who had recently migrated from England. Their courtship blossomed into marriage in September, 1971.

Nudgee 1st X1 Premiers – Captain (Centre – First Row)
Nudgee 1st X1 Premiers – Captain (Centre – First Row)

In his early 20's, Tom tried out many different things - he worked on the family property, established a Red Brahman cattle stud, planted Buffell grass, and worked in an Abattoir. In the 1970s Tom went on to become chief auctioneer of Tom Knox and Co, the family stock and station agency business.

Wanting to improve the business, Tom bought a Series 32 IBM Computer and taught himself to code software and impressively mapped out the full sale process to create efficiencies. This was perhaps the first time computers had been used in a Stock and Station Agency for this purpose. Tom's expertise meant cattle buyers and sellers received documents quickly as a result with payment being available to sellers on the same day as auction.

After personal computers were invented, Tom would carry a PC in his white van to all saleyard auctions - at Miles, Chinchilla, Wallumbilla, Jandowae and Dalby. These efficiencies helped the business sell large volumes of cattle for many years.

The family business, Knox & Co. had been in operation in Dalby since 1918. Tom's grandfather, Patrick James Knox established the agency business. Patrick's two sons Neville Thomas (commonly known as Tom) Knox and James Joseph Knox became business partners following Patrick's death in 1951. In 1967, the brothers split and established separate businesses. James Joseph Knox established Knox Henderson & Co. and Neville Thomas Knox established Tom Knox & Co. Following Neville Thomas death in 1975, his son, Thomas Esmond took over the reins.

Tom sold a majority of the business to his colleagues Marilyn Brazier and Maurie Smith in 1997 and the business continued until Marilyn's death in 2020.

Tom had an interest in many things. He was an avid reader and accumulated an incredible library of books. Biographies, poems, novels, and he especially enjoyed books on economics, business, philosophy and history. He was a true renaissance man. Tom was genuinely inquisitive in nature and would update us on the latest Nobel Prize winners. He had many letters to the editor published in The Australian and The Financial Review.

Tom's musical taste was wide and varied - from Beethoven to blues, country, rock and roll, and everywhere in between. He was particularly taken with Tina Turner. He was a regular attendee at the Dalby Cinema and enjoyed watching all the new releases. He appreciated many different movie genres, but his favourite was Last of the Mohicans - which he had read in his youth.

Tom had a wonderful sense of playfulness and humour. When he and Margaret went to Toowoomba to listen to Germaine Greer, a major voice in the feminist movement, a Journalist from the Chronicle asked Tom a simple question - Why did you attend?

Tom's response - "My wife made me".

A young Tom with Silver.
A young Tom with Silver.

His eldest son remembers being in the ute with his father one day on the property at Dulacca. After driving to a back paddock, he stopped the vehicle and got out. With no inkling on what his father was about to do, he walked up behind this big bull and wrapped a large piece of twine around a certain piece of the bull's anatomy. That wild bull, in time, became a timid steer.

Tom was involved in politics in Qld and was a life member of the Qld National Party. At one stage, he was Chairman of the Qld National Party Primary Industries and Fisheries policy setting committee.

Every year Tom would enjoy going to the Gabba Test Match where he would catch up with friends from his school and business life. He loved watching Test Cricket.

Tom coached Junior Cricket in Dalby for many years, and was given Life Membership of the Dalby Junior Cricket Association. Over decades, Dad's diary would be full of day trips to watch cricket or rugby matches of young sportsmen, often children he had previously coached. He was a mentor for many local youth. He truly cared about others and giving opportunities to young people.

Tom had a real interest in people. I found a letter Dad wrote to encourage the council to name local infrastructure after local unsung heroes. An excerpt from Dad's letter read as follows:

''there are no memorials to ordinary humble bush workers such as the bullockies, the shearers and shed workers, the drovers and saleyard workers, the yard builders and fencers, the horse breakers, the bush race jockeys and officials, the slaughterers and butchers …… I reckon it would be good to have a remembrance of such people…"

Following this letter and with the support of Council, I understand two bridges in Dalby have been named after local colourful characters.

Tom and Margaret both had a passion for European history, art, culture and food and when 50 years of age they flew to Europe - this was in fact Tom's first time in an aeroplane. They went on to have four trips over the next 16 years. They stayed in all the B&B's and drove around the major and backroads of Spain, France, Italy, Austria and Germany for 2 to 3 months at a time. They enjoyed visiting museums, galleries, churches and the famous landmarks of Europe. Upon their return, Tom would provide a full report of each trip to the whole family which made for wonderful reading.

Tom gave his time and energy supporting all of his children in their endeavours. He was always measured and thoughtful in any advice he gave and was proud of his children and their achievements, always setting a wonderful example to us as a family. He was very intelligent, pragmatic, a realist but also an optimist and was always sincere and humble.

In the last years of his life, Tom's health sadly declined due to Alzheimers - a difficult disease. We thank the staff at the Wynnum Regis who cared for Tom so well.

Tom is survived by his beloved wife, Margaret, five children, Tom, Cathy, Greg, Sarah and Sophie and nine grandchildren - with another one on the way. We loved him. We respect so much for all that he did for us as a family - and for others. We hope he is looking down on us today with a smile on his face.

Love you Dad.

Tom’s 70th birthday with family (Sarah, Cathy, Jiye [wife of Thomas Andrew], Thomas Andrew, Thomas Esmond (Dad), Margaret (Mum), Greg, Eleanor [daughter of Richard and Sophie], Richard [husband of Sophie], Sophie).
Tom’s 70th birthday with family (Sarah, Cathy, Jiye [wife of Thomas Andrew], Thomas Andrew, Thomas Esmond (Dad), Margaret (Mum), Greg, Eleanor [daughter of Richard and Sophie], Richard [husband of Sophie], Sophie).

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