REV HEAD: A young Garth Llewellyn in his Triumph TR 2.
REV HEAD: A young Garth Llewellyn in his Triumph TR 2.

Ipswich's truest gentleman feels the need for speed

REAL estate icon Garth Llewellyn is a country boy at heart.

He spent the first 12 years of his life living in a house built onto the back of an old general store in the tiny town of Milbong, which mainly consisted of a school and a church.

His parents had sold their house in Eastern Heights after Garth's father, a coal miner, was laid off during the economic downturn of the Great Depression.

They bought four acres at Milbong and moved the shop there, rebuilding it on site stick by stick.

Every Sunday afternoon Garth's parents would close the shop, determined to spend the time relaxing with Garth and his brother Ross, owner of Llewellyn Motors, but things rarely went to plan.

Each Sunday afternoon someone would turn up to buy groceries and Garth's parents never turned anyone away.

 

Garth Llewellyn.
Garth Llewellyn. Rob Williams

"They'd probably ridden a horse four or five miles to the shop and my dad would say we'd have to serve them because the kids might go hungry if we didn't," Garth said. "So he would and then they would say 'can you put that on the account' which meant my parents would often wait a month to be paid.

"Times were tough for everyone, but that was something that always stuck with me; goodwill is your main factor in every business. It's the little things you do that people remember."

There's one woman who stands out in Garth's memory; Sarah was the first customer the little shop ever served and the last some 14 years later when the family moved back into town.

 

Garth (left) and his racing team bash out a panel after rolling the car end over end during a race in the 1950s.
Garth (left) and his racing team bash out a panel after rolling the car end over end during a race in the 1950s.

Sarah would ride a semi-draft horse named Dolly into town to buy her groceries.

One day Dolly pulled up outside the store but Sarah wasn't with her.

"The pin that held the cart together had fallen out and Dolly hadn't realised so she carried on until she got to the shop," Garth said.

 

The shop at Milbong that Garth called home until he was 12 years old.
The shop at Milbong that Garth called home until he was 12 years old.

"My dad jumped in the car and went up the road to find Sarah sitting on the road side with the rest of the cart. He put it back together and away they went.

"I always admired mum and dad for what they did, to start in the country like that during depression times. There was a chap who used to go around door to door selling jams and such, so it's not like they didn't have competition."

Garth Llewellyn was born on September 9, 1933.

 

A newspaper article about Garth and his return to racing after a three-year break, published in 1964.
A newspaper article about Garth and his return to racing after a three-year break, published in 1964.

He was 12 when he went off to boarding school at Ipswich Grammar and was the most homesick student there.

Finally his parents moved back into town and Garth no longer had to board to finish out the rest of his schooling days.

His first job was as an electrician with R.T Edwards, where he worked for about seven years while fuelling his love of cars and competing in races, which took him around Australia twice.

 

Garth and his wife Margaret.
Garth and his wife Margaret.

One day he decided to combine his love of driving with his work ethic and applied for a taxi licence.

His was car 23 and Garth quickly gained a reputation that saw him become the most popular taxi driver in Ipswich.

"Many of the customers were older people and I would make sure the service I offered them was the best; giving them a hand with the groceries, that sort of thing," Garth said.

"People began ringing up and requesting car 23; which goes back to that idea of goodwill in business.

"Then all of a sudden the taxi company stopped taking requests and the wheels fell off my wagon."

One evening in 1959 Garth was sitting at the old taxi rank when Peter Meyers, of Jackson and Meyers - one of the oldest and most respected real estate agencies in town - came over to talk.

He offered Garth his first job in real estate and he worked for the agency for about five years but continued to drive the cab at night.

"One night I dropped a woman off in the cab and asked her; do you own your own home? She was renting but interested in buying. I ended up putting a sale together and it was my first," Garth said.

"Jackson and Meyers were sincere as the day is long.

"I decided to start my own agency because we had different ideas - I wanted to put photos of the houses in the paper and they wanted to stick to a text description."

Garth's business took off and grew to include a residential and commercial building arm.

At the height of it all, his supervisor was managing a team of 16 gangs of carpenters and because there were no mobile phones in those days that meant the red phone box outside the office was often in use.

"Eric would come into the office and talk with Faye then get a bucket of coins and use the phone box outside to organise everything. People would pull up to use the phone then all of a sudden you'd hear a screech of tyres as someone got frustrated waiting and took off to find another phone.

"We were quite successful, the team I had working for me was wonderful and you're only ever as good as the people around you."

The residential arm has been credited with creating a new trend in homes, replacing timber chamfer boards with brick veneer and the homes they built then have become popular with buyers again now.

Today Garth's office is out the back of the original Action Realty office on Brisbane St and has a historic feature; the original set of stairs leading into the Queen's Arms Hotel.

The grooves where staff used trolleys to push the kegs in are still intact.

It's a constant reminder of the city's origins and one that Garth would never move away from.

"I live here and I will die here," he said.

"I've never thought about moving away. The people here are amazing and the families are intertwined which gives Ipswich a good family feel.

"I've travelled a lot but there's no place like home and Ipswich is home."



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