Tributes for orchard legend

Bill Montague OAM, pictured in 2006, was known as a legend in the fruit industry. 390487_02 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

One of the region’s great horticulturalists William ‘Bill’ Montague OAM has died at the age of 97.

The founder of Montague Orchards – who started his company at age 22 – passed away at home on 6 February.

His family described him on social media as having an “unwavering passion for quality fruit production”, planting his first orchard in Narre Warren North.

He acquired orchards and built cold-storage facilities, steering a thriving business that’s spanned three generations of family.

Among his innovations was being the first to introduce controlled atmosphere storage in Australia in 1967 as well as the first to wax supplied fruit in 1977.

The business has also famously created many new varieties of apple.

When he started out, Montague supplied fruit to hospitals across Melbourne. He was also a member of Dandenong Hospital Board for 10 years .

He was also an honorary member of Rotary Club of Dandenong, as well as a patron and supporter of the arts and charities.

In 2007, Montague was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for his services to the fruit industry.

He was also inducted in the Australian Fresh Fruit Company Hall of Fame and named a Friend of the International Dwarf Treefruit Association of America.

Montague was described by his family as a keen Collingwood fan and “self-proclaimed best fisherman of the Bay”.

Ray, Tim, Hamish and Scott Montague continue to run the enduring family business.