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1 correction by LesleyThorpe - Show corrections

JOHN MACARTHUR. .

 

Centenary of Death.

(BY "WOOL AWAY.")  

Now that the price of wool has definitely taken an upward trend to the extreme grati- fication of woolgrowers in particular and the   community in general, the time is most op-   portune to review the marvellous growth of the Australian wool industry. In the year 1807 our total wool export ammounted to 524lb   worth approximately £100, compared with the   huge total of 1,338,900 bales exported from     New South Wales alone m 1933. Australia's     grand total of wool exported last year was   valued at £50,562,112, according to figures ob-     tained fr0m th e Sydney Morning Herald's     annual Finance and Commerce Supplement   of Febiuary 13 last. No reference to this hlghly gratifying increase would be quite   complete without grateful recognition of the all important part played in the foundation of the wool industry by John Macarthur, the centenary of whose death occurs on April 10.

Macarthur laid the solid foundation of the trade which means so much to us as a   nation, and to the Empire. It was a desire to assist in making the British Empire inde-     pendent of foreign nations for wool supplies   that urged Macarthur to expend time and money freely in hs experiments even in the   face of harsh and unsympathetic treatment     from Governor Bligh.

How clear-sighted and sure was his vision   is plainly evidenced by results as we see   them to-day. From the nucleus of his small stud has been built up world famous merino flocks with the industry surely and firmly es-  

tablished.

It may be argued that his work has been of   benefit to but one section of the community,   but analysis reveals the contrary to be the case With better prices assured, graziers will naturally increase the number of stock on their holdings, with the resultant increase of pastoral employment. To that must be   added the extra money earned by the army of shearers and shed hands, and the greater earning power of carriers and teamsters en- gaged in transporting wool to the various rail- way stations. Greater earning power naturally means greater spending power, which in turn benefits the whole country.

FULNESS UNFORESEEN

Thus, when Macarthur founded his small but select stud, he builded better than he knew, for not even he with his clear fore-   sight could adequately foresee to what mag-

nitude the industiy would develop.

It may not be generally known how nar- rowly Macarthur was lost to Australia. His father was the only one of several brothers   to escape alive from the red field of Cullo- den and was forced to flee from the heather clad hills of Scotland for taking an active   part in the cause of the Pretender. He stayed some time in the West Indies, re-

turning at last to England, where he settled  

in Plymouth. There John was born, beinng educated at a private school. He entered the army at the age of 15, being placed on half-pay in the following year, whereupon he   devoted himself to the studv of agriculture. When the 102nd Regiment was formed for ser- vice in New South Wales Macarthur was given his commission, and, before sailing with his regiment, known as the "Condemned Regi- ment," he married Miss Elizabeth Veale. The couple arrived with the troops in June 1790, and after three years' service Macarthur ob- tained a grant of 200 acres near Parramatta, which he named "Elizabeth Farm", in honour of his wife. Here he began his first experi- ments in improving wool growth by crossing hair-bearing ewes witn English-bred rams.

Then a most fortunate series of circum- stances arose, which not only meant much to Macarthur, but proved of inestimable value to Australia, and laid the foundation-stone of the industry which is now of paramount im- portance to us as a nation. In 1796 two ships were sent from Sydney to the Cape of Good Hope to obtain supplies for the colony. The two commanders, being friends of Macar- thur, were requested by him to procure any good class sheep which they could buy. By a happy coincidence the two captains were enabled to execute Macarthur's commission far better than the latter hoped. The King of Spain had presented to the Dutch Govern- ment some pure merino sheep from the jeal- ously-guarded Escurial flocks. These sheep were sent to the Dutch Cape Colony under the care of a Scotch gentleman, who died shortly afterwards. His widow had endless disputes with the Dutch Government, and, to end dissension, the sheep were ordered to be sol.d A number of them were purchased by the captains and were duly delivered to Mac- arthur, much to his satisfaction. In 1803 he was in England with samples of wool both merino and crossbred, and appeared before a commission of the Privy Council. The latter body was so impressed by Macarthur's evi- dence concerning the possibilities of the in- dustry and by his eagerness to devote his time and money to the project, that the Col- onial Secretary, Lord Camden, ordered a grant of 10,000 acres to be given to Macarthur,   giving the latter the right to choose the grant's location. Macarthur promptly chose the area known as "The Cowuastures," where later on the town of Camden was established, named in honour of the Secretary of State.

A STORMY INTERLUDE

Macarthur then purchased a ship which he appropriatelv renamed the Argo and on his return to Sydney in 1805 he brought with him two ewes and three rams from the merino stud flock of King Geoige III, as well as seeds and plants. Governor King gave Macarthur every assistance, but when Bligh arrived, all Government interest in the woolgrowing in- dustry promptly lapsed. An open breach soon occurred between the two men, owing to Bligh enforcing the forfeiture of a bond entered into by Macarthur as a shipowner, on the grounds that a prisoner had escaped from the colony in one of his ships. Macarthur elected to abandon his vessel, whereupon Bligh issued a warrant for Macarthur's arrest. The deposition of Bligh followed Macarthur's   successful objection to the Judge Advocate. The armv supported Macarthur, and the whole business was duly inquired into in England,   with the result that Macarthur was not allowed to return to the colony for some years. He spent some time on the Continent making

inquires into the vine-growing and other in-   dustries. He could have obtained permission  

to return by acknowledging that he had acted in a wrongful manner, but this he steadfastly refused to do, holding that Bligh's deposition   was a righteous act and essential to the safety  

and well-being of the colony. His resolution won the day, for the Secretary of State

eventually withdrew his opposition to Mac-   arthur's return, and even placed at his dis-   posal considerable cargo space in a ship sail-   ing for New South Wales. In 1825 he was   appointed member of the Legislative Council,  

but on the death in .England of his second

son, John, in 1831, he retired to his Camden  

estate, where he lived quietly until his death on April 10, 1834.

Before he died, however, Macarthur had  

the supreme satisfaction of knowing that the industry in which he had taken such a promi- nent part was firmly established, and would go forward indomitably, in spite of droughts, floods, diseases, and depressions.

In 1822 he was presented by the Duke of Sussex with two large gold medals bestowed on him at a meeting of the Society of Arts, for importing into England "wool of equal qual- ity with the finest product of Saxony." Eng- land even then recognised Macarthur's worth, but how much greater value has he proved to Australia? I have seen the last mobs of a tally of 100,000 sheep being put through a big Queensland shearing shed in pre-war days, and I was moved to wonder if Macarthur had ever visioned such a huge number of sheep being shorn on one station alone. I am in- clined to doubt it, for shearing machines were not then thought of, nor the big tallies put up later on by famous "ringers."

Looking back on all these things, I repeat: Let all unite in honouring the memory of John Macarthur, father of the colony.

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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