It is not often two very special milestones are reached in the same year. This year we raise our glasses to celebrate two birthdays; Tahbilk turning 160 and John Purbrick (3rd generation) turning 90! While we have many stories to share on reaching 160 years, reaching 90 years old for any individual is a magnificent feat.
Have you ever sat and wondered about walking in the footsteps of the people who came before you? As humans we often sit and contemplate past generations on days of memorial yet rarely do we sit and ask ourselves how we got here.
As John turns 90, a milestone by any account, we’ve been thinking about the lessons learnt from him. His contribution to Tahbilk is in our minds admirable, and has shaped where we are today. Not everyone has had the opportunity to work side-by-side with John but it has been the little pieces of advice over the years which have really stuck.
Looking back into history, John, like all of the Purbrick family, found his way behind the cellar door despite having other career plans. After finishing up his schooling he followed his interest in agriculture and went jackarooing in Dunkeld and Deniliquin. He made the decision to return home to manage the farm-side of the winery in 1955 at the age of 25.
For 24 years he dedicated his life to furthering the fortunes of Tahbilk side-by-side with his father Eric. Until at the age of 49 when he decided it was time to move on and hand the future of the operations management to his son Alister, who was then 24 years old. While now-a-days it might seem odd to hand the business on to a person under the age of 30, it was a family tradition to start them young; Eric having also taken on the challenge of running Tahbilk at age 28.
When speaking to John about why he chose to leave the Estate in 1979 to further Tahbilk’s distribution in Sydney, leaving Alister in charge, he simply said (and we paraphrase) ‘Alister had far more experience than me in business, wine and winemaking at the equivalent age. I could see he would be the one to take the winery forward with his knowledge, not me. You can’t have too many cooks in a kitchen’.
We have pondered this statement many times. Those who know the story of John’s hand over to Alister have their own version of events, but for us on reflection we can’t imagine where we would be if John had chosen to continue on. We believe it takes great courage to challenge the expectations which are beholden on us all from a young age. Similarly, it takes great forgiveness to be able to abandon your ego to enable yourself to accept, let go, and move forward to new challenges which lie ahead.
While most of us never worked side-by-side with John we are so thankful for his contribution to Tahbilk and the lessons he has taught us all. Through his choices Tahbilk continues as the spiritual home and sanctuary for the Purbrick family and the community. We are where we are because of his and all other family and community members who have been before.
And no doubt we are sure he will continue to impart more nuggets of gold past his 90 years.
Happy birthday to a great man!