PHOTO: Half a century in real estate: Retired real estate agent Neville Lewis has written a book about changes in the industry. He’s donating the profits to the 3BA Christmas Appeal. Picture: Lachlan Bence

Armed with shorthand and typing skills, the school-leaver headed to The Courier for a cadetship as a young reporter.

But it was not to be. Knocked back at Ballarat’s newspaper, young Neville was left looking for work when fate came knocking, in the shape of an estate agent’s gavel.

Now 70, and retired for sometime, Mr Lewis said he saw an ad in the paper for another job.

“I saw an ad in The Courier for a real estate, reception, and office work-type job, and as I had the skills of shorthand and typing, the agent – PV Sullivan and Company – did a background check on me… there were 49 girls and I was the only bloke applying for the job, and I got it!

“They were in Lydiard Street South, just down a bit from Her Majesty’s, number 27. I was with them for 10 years, until I left in 1978 and joined Dalgety’s, the stock and station agency.”

Dalgety and Company (later Dalgety Ltd and Dalgety Plc) was Australia’s most powerful stock and station agency for most of the 20th Century, and Mr Lewis stayed with them for the rest of his career, retiring in 2015.

“I was their real estate man there, they had blokes selling, stock and merchandise and insurance, but for the first five years I was doing houses in Ballarat plus small acreages, up to 100 acres,” he says.

“In 1973 they said to me, ‘It’s all open slather to you now, you can do everything,’ and I got out of the houses and concentrated on the farms, on the bigger properties.”

Massive properties: Neville Lewis at Snizort, outside Creswick.

 Massive properties: Neville Lewis at Snizort, outside Creswick.