Legend of the mountains

Legend of the mountains

Chasing a brumby at breakneck speed across the mountains, reciting the Man From Snowy River poem, spinning a yarn or playing polo for the Geebung Polo Club at Easter, Ken Connley, was larger than life, competitive and cheeky.

Born in Omeo on March 30, 1946, Kenneth John Connley, ‘McKinnons’, Benambra, died last week, June 10, 2020.

He was a household name locally and further afield after appearing on screen in the movie Man From Snowy River, doubling for Jack Thompson as Clancy, as well as in The Lighthorseman, Quigley Downunder, Red Hill and the documentary, The Mountain Man.

Ken was ill with bone cancer for the last seven months of his life, and cared for at ‘Rosevale’, Benambra, by his wife Joan Connley, his partner Heather and close family friend, Evan.

“He passed away peacefully,” Joan said.

“He was very cared for and loved and had caring people and family around him.”

She said Ken had a good eye for Angus cattle, was a wool classer and also ran Merino and crossbred sheep.

“He was a brilliant and determined horseman and he loved his dogs and racing.

“He’ll be remembered for his love of the bush and his horsemanship. He knew every inch of the bush out here, every ridge, every gully and spring.”

Ken married Joan Irish in 1972 and Joan says she fell for him “right there and then” while working in the Bairnsale Hospital, nursing him after a car crash in 1971, in which he injured his back.

Ken and Joan had four children, Angela Shoemark, now of Albury, Tarina Pendergast, Benambra, Sharlee Cavill, of Alexandra and Christopher Connley, of Benambra.

Ken won the Mountain Cattleman’s Cup seven times and in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2012, is quoted as saying he caught 364 brumbies off Ace, as well as winning his first four cups on him.

His other winning horses were Glider and Top Points.

Ken had the head of the legendary Ace taxidermied and hung on the wall, and his favourite dog Husky is also taxidermied and stands inside the house at McKinnon’s.

His son, Chris Connley, has been running the farm for the past five years and is grateful for all his teaching.

“He always made us real determined,” Chris said. “There was no such thing as second place.

“He pushed us to do our best and he was proud of us and our achievements.”

“We had to get on and ride and if we had a fall he told us to get back on and go harder.”

Chris said Ken had passed on his sense of direction in the bush and also how to read the bush.

“He’s gone knowing that I’ve taken on the farm and the legacy of the Connley name and will keep things going,” Chris said.

“He was extremely proud that Xavier was born and the Connley name lived on.”

Ken Connley’s funeral is a private ceremony with family and close friends this Friday.

IMAGE: Ken Connley