Few would have thought a farmer’s son who left school aged 14 would go on to create a piece of machinery so instrumental his work is still being praised more than 100 years later.
But Henty’s Headlie Taylor did just that.
On Wednesday, hundreds gathered to see Headlie’s legacy immortalised in bronze.
The larger than life sculpture along the Olympic Highway is designed to last an incredible 3000 years, according to great-nephew Bruce Taylor.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer said few developments since the header and later the autoheader have had such a sizeable impact on agriculture.
“It’s the harvester that took the world by storm,” he said.
“The invention by Headlie Taylor gave farmers more productivity in bad seasons.
“He had a flair for the construction of machinery, the design of machinery, the reciprocal cutting combs, so crops could be cut far more quicker than had been envisioned before and from that much has flowed.”
Mr Fischer said the header had singularly improved farm productivity.
“I got an education and to stand here this day after a certain career – and I can thank a 1200-acre farm and the improvements from the varieties of wheat and the harvesting techniques devised by Headlie Taylor for that because that really gave a leap forward to the Riverina,” he said.
But Headlie Taylor’s success was a hard-won battle.
After leaving school at 14, he taught himself engineering and began trying to turn junk metal into a machine that cut rather than stripped ripened crops.
While trying to bring his idea to fruition, Headlie Taylor went broke three times, but even then those around him knew what his tinkering could become, said Bruce Taylor.
“He’d borrow the money from his brother and used it up, so he’d borrow off the next brother, but they all supported him,” he said.
Taylor descendants, including Headlie’s only surviving son, John, 92, returned to their ancestral home for the unveiling, many finding familial resemblances in the statue – which took sculptor Paul Smits of Melbourne 13 months to complete.
After Headlie Taylor perfected the machine, he was determined to keep the patent in Australian hands, selling it to Hugh Victor McKay.
He continued designing alterations to the header, eventually creating the autoheader design, thought to be the first non-horsedrawn header in the world.
Bruce Taylor, who lives in Albury, said Headlie’s role in advancing agriculture internationally should not be forgotten.
He said the $85,000 statue would be followed by the creation of a Headlie Taylor Memorial Scholarship Fund.
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