Monday, September 26, 2011

Talgai on the Darling Downs

In my PhD thesis on John Douglas, I covered his purchase of the Talgai property in Queensland in 1854. Here are the relevant extracts from my thesis.
In late 1853 John Douglas resigned his government appointments, after a relatively brief tenure, to pursue his dreams of becoming a landholder.  It appears that following his resignation Douglas joined his brother Edward at the latter’s Boree property.[1]  The two brothers and Thomas Hood then moved to Talgai in the Warwick district on the Darling Downs (then in New South Wales but today in Queensland) around March 1854.[2]  The 64,000 acre station lease was purchased by them for the princely sum of £112,000 from the Gammie brothers, George and John.[3]  In addition to purchasing the Talgai lease, Hood and Douglas also purchased the adjacent 48,000-acre Toolburra lease.[4]
Douglas was now free to pursue his pastoral dream.  The Darling Downs was the home of what were known as the ‘pure merinos’, a powerful and exclusive squatting oligarchy that by the 1850s dominated every phase of human endeavour in the district.[5]  Douglas would have been at home here for, as the historian Duncan Waterson has observed, “the pure merinos were not Australians but transplanted Britishers who had come to the Downs to make money,” attempting to re-create a society similar to that they had left behind in Great Britain.[6]
However, Douglas had little idea of what was required to run a successful sheep property.  Writing in 1920, Bernays observed that:
In his early days he was engaged in squatting, but he was possessed of neither the capital nor stamina to make success of an occupation which in his time was more strenuous than it is in modern times.[7] 

Prior to Hood and the Douglas brothers purchasing Talgai it had been managed by James Morgan, father of Sir Arthur Morgan, later the premier of Queensland.[8]  Douglas found working the property a challenge.  As the Sydney Morning Herald perceptively observed, most gentlemen who come to be landlords, hoping to devote their time to leisurely pursuits, soon found that they would have to abandon their learning and elegance in a country where the desire for freehold, and thus the absence of tenants, forced everyone to work for himself.[9]
Fortunately for the youthful and inexperienced Douglas, the property appears to have been ably and progressively managed by Thomas Hood, who had already shown at Boree that he was experienced in running a successful sheep station.[10]  However, Douglas and Hood were not merely content to run the property in the same manner as their predecessors and it was one of the first on the Darling Downs to import wool-washing machinery from England, leading to an increase in the price of the wool by 2d. or 3d. per lb.[11]
Hood and Douglas, along with many other Darling Downs squatters, enthusiastically availed themselves of the regulations granting them a pre-emptive right to convert part of their properties from leasehold land to freehold land at the cost of £1 per acre.[12]  Judicious pre-emptive purchases enabled squatters to capture the best waterholes and streams while restricting road access, thus protecting their improvements and ensuring that their remaining leasehold land was rendered useless to others, as without road access or available water, viable farming was impossible.[13]
Douglas subsequently represented the Darling Downs in the New South Wales parliament and by 1860 was no longer living at Talgai, having moved to Sydney after having commenced selling his share of the property.[14]
[1] Kevin J Mason, The Honourable John Douglas.  BA Hons thesis.  University of Queensland, 1969,  p. 24.  However a letter written by John Douglas in December 1853 gives his address as the Brymadura property in the Molong district of Central New South Wales.  (State Records New South Wales, Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence, 1853,11552)
[2] Mason, p. 24; New South Wales Government Gazette, no 122, 23 September 1854, p. 2083.  The Douglas brothers were in residence at Talgai by 25 April 1854.  (Benjamin Glennie.  Australian Diary of the Rev. Benjamin Glennie, January 16th, 1848 to September 30th, 1860.  John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OM 67-25/1, p. 18)
[3] “Mr Gammie’s Stations.” Moreton Bay Courier, 25 March 1854, p. 4; Eve Douglas, p. 5.  As the Douglas brothers came to the colony with a reputed £2,000 left them by their aunt, Catherine Heron Douglas, the question has to be asked how they were able to buy the property.  While the relevant documents no longer exist, either Hood put up most of the money, or, more likely, the money was borrowed, in the form of a mortgage, from Gilchrist, Watt and Co. There were actually three Talgai properties.  The original property, purchased by Douglas and Hood, was later known as Old Talgai, being originally taken up by Ernest Elphinstone Dalrymple in about 1840.  He died in November 1844 and the property was purchased by George Gammie in the late 1840s, although the first public tender for the property only occurred in August 1848.  (McKey, p. 99.)  At this time, the property consisted of 60,000 acres and the estimated grazing capacity was 16,000 sheep.  (Kay Cohen.  Talgai.  Brisbane, Royal Historical Society of Queensland, 1994, p. 3; McKey, p. 101.)  The second Talgai was known as East Talgai, settled by George Clark in 1867 and the Third Talgai was known as West Talgai, where Charles Clark built his house, Ellinthorpe Hall, in 1877.  (Cohen, pp. 10 & 15.)  The present day Talgai is actually East Talgai, and comprises some 750 acres.  (Cohen, p. 16)
[4] Toolburra was directly to the south of Talgai.  At the time of its purchase by Douglas and Hood, it was known as Tulburra.  They subsequently divided it into North Toolburra (which was transferred to Robert Fesq, Massie and Sydney Walker on 1 September 1856) and South Toolburra (which was taken over by the North British Australasian Loan and Investment Company, the Aberdeen Company.)  (Register of Payment of Rent for Runs, 1847-57.  State Records New South Wales, Reel 184; Cohen, p. 10)
[5] Waterson (1968), p. 9
[6] Ibid., pp. 11-12
[7] Bernays, p. 41
[8] Cohen, pp. 5-6.  For more information on James Morgan, see Richard Morgan.  “The Life and Career of Sir Arthur Morgan.”  Royal Historical Society of Queensland Journal, vol 19 no 11, October 2004, pp. 555-74
[9] Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 1849, quoted in Nadel, p. 43.  However there was an Aboriginal presence on the Talgai property, because it was reported that smallpox had broken out amongst them, with several dying.  (“Domestic Intelligence:  Drayton.”  Moreton Bay Courier, 8 November 1856, p. 2)
[10] Mason, p. 26
[11] Mr Douglas.  “Claim of the Hon. Louis Hope.“  Queensland Parliamentary Debates, vol 2, 1865, p. 596.  As Reverend Benjamin Glennie, of Drayton, the clergyman charged with ministering to Drayton and Warwick, observed on 26 July 1854, “Found both Douglases at Talgai and a total change came over the place.”  (Glennie, p. 19.)  In 1860, the property had grown to 64,000 acres, assessed as being able to run 18,000 sheep and the annual rent was £45 as well as an assessment of £7-10 per 1,000 sheep.  (Moreton Bay Courier, 26 April 1860; French (1990), p. 277)
[12] Waterson (1968), p. 29.  This was made possible by the New South Wales Orders-in-Council of March 1847.
[13] French (1992), p. 161
[14] Eve Douglas, p. 7.  The sale of Talgai was a complex one, affected in stages over two years.  On 2 April 1860 Edward Douglas and Thomas Hood sold part of their equity in the property to Charles Clark for £39,000.  (Book of Stock Mortgages no 35, 2 April 1860.  Queensland State Archives, quoted in Mason, p. 43; McKey, p. 102.)  By September of that year Edward Douglas had entered into a private arrangement with Hood to relinquish his share in Talgai and on 13 September Hood sold a quarter of Talgai, including a share in the stock, to Clark’s partner, Thomas Hamner, for a further £9,000.  (Book of Stock Mortgages no 106, 13 September 1860, quoted in Mason, p. 44; McKey, p. 102.)  The final settlement for the sale of Talgai to Clark and Hamner took place on 26 November 1862 for £72,000, and was preceded by John Douglas transferring his share of the run to Hood. (Mason, p. 44; Queensland Government Gazette, vol 4 no 2, 3 January 1863, p. 10; McKey, p. 99 & 102; R. C. Sharman, Queensland State Archives, to R. B. Joyce, 26 May 1969.  Joyce Papers, National Library of Australia, MS 7691, Box
133, Douglas folder.)  Despite having sold his share of the property, Douglas was still on the Eastern Downs Electorate Roll in 1864 with his place of residence listed as Talgai.  (“Roll of Electors in the Eastern Downs Electorate for 1864-5 no 29.”  Queensland State Archives Electoral Rolls Microfiche no 3.)  Edward Douglas, having sold his share in the property, returned to Scotland with his cousin, Hannah Charlotte Scott-Douglas, whom he subsequently married, the couple settling at Killiechassie, near Aberfeldy in Perthshire.  (Eve Douglas, p. 7; Mason, p. 43; Burke’s, pp. 2053-54)