Longstanding Toowoomba icon celebrates massive milestone

Greg Johnson - The Chronicle

ALONE they stand, thousands across the nation, nurturing and protecting — they are windmills.

And this year marks the 150th birthday of the most famous windmill of all, the Southern Cross, which started its life as a Toowoomba Foundry brand name in 1871.

It wasn’t until 1903 that the foundry manufactured its first commercial windmill, possibly because the business was focused on other endeavours including steam locomotives and aeroplanes.
Windmills, in one form or another, have been around for 1500 years with the earliest known dating back to Persia (nowadays Iran) used to power grain mills and water pumps.
By the 9th century the con- cept had spread to other coun- tries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, where windmills were used to pump water from deep underground.
Soon this efficient method of powering made its way to Europe and Asia primarily for milling grain and in low lying countries, like Great Britain and the Netherlands, they were used to pump water out of flooded areas.
The Griffiths brothers, of Toowoomba Foundry fame, constructed four prototype windmills in the late nineteenth century which they named Griffiths Mills.
In time the name was changed to the now famous Southern Cross.
I had discussions with Southern Cross’ rural sales and service consultant and logistics co-ordinator Justin Downey following a recent Clive Berghofer inspired Johno’s Say in which Clive rued the fact that Australia can’t even manufacture a wheelbarrow.
Justin was about to prove me wrong so I headed down the hill to Withcott to find out more about the iconie name and why it has survived.
Image that, not only does Southern Cross manufacture windmills but they manufacture them right here.
Southern Cross has been through quite a few corporate hands since it departed Too- woomba Foundry and now, thankfully, it is a division of a proud fifth generation South Australian family company, Ahrens Group.
While Southern Cross’ main Withcott manufacturing activities relate to tanks, using quality Australian-made steel, there is a soft spot for and an increasing demand for the Southern Cross windmill.
As a man who has been associated with windmills all his life Justin’s ambition is for the iconic brand to one day be the number one unit output from Withcott.
Happy birthday Southern Cross, you’ve made us proud
– Greg Johnson
This article was originally published in The Chronicle on April 29, 2021 and has been reproduced with permission.

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