Unlocking Regional Memory
Pastoral Station entry
Wallabadah Station (c. 1835 - )
|Location: Wallabadah, New South Wales, Australia|
The country originally taken up by George Loder in may have included this run. The frist settler was a Mr Peter Brodie.
Wallabadah then held by Merrrs. Martyn and Coombes who sold to Mr R Higgins in the 1850's. He in turn sold to Mr James V Parnell in 1861.
The property was then acquired by the Macdonald family who have remained owners.
[Source Wallabadah. Published by The Pastoral Review Sydney, Melbourne, London. Undated]
Wallabadah Station, situated about 60 kilometres south of Tamworth in the foothills of the Liverpool and New England Ranges, was first taken up by George Loder when he occupied nearby Quirindi Station sometime around 1830.|
The area’s original inhabitants, the Kimilaroi people, called the place ‘Thalabuburi’, which is thought to mean ‘many fierce warriors’. After European settlement, the region was for a period known as Mansfield’s Point, but took on its current name after the establishment of Wallabadah Station in the 1830s. Meanings for Wallabadah range from ‘wallaby rock’ to ‘land of plenty of snakes’. Yet another possible meaning is ‘stone’, derived from the area’s reputation as a popular destination with local Aborigines seeking suitable rock for grinding their stone axes.
Wallabadah Station itself remained unoccupied until 1835, when Peter Brodie laid claim to the Wallabadah Valley. He remained until 1840, then sold out to John Martyn and James Coombes, Sydney merchants who held the land for the next eighteen years. During that time, they were responsible for developing Wallabadah into a station proper. Their pioneering influence is reflected in the present-day use of their cattle and horse brand MC (Martyn and Coombes). The station at first concentrated on raising cattle, but by the beginning of the1850s Martyn and Coombes had changed direction and were running about 12,000 sheep on Wallabadah, which then consisted of 44,000 acres of leasehold land.
In 1858, Martyn and Coombes sold the depasturing license for Wallabadah Station to Robert George Higgins, who in turn sold it to James V Parnell in 1861. Purnell, like many pastoralists, feared the onset of ‘free selection’ after the passing of the Robertson Land Acts in 1861; he sought to meet the threat by purchasing 2,570 acres of freehold land along the station’s main waterways, which, it was hoped, would make the remaining land less attractive to budding selectors.
In 1869, the leasehold for Wallabadah Station again changed hands when John Mackenzie Lindsay Macdonald, a ‘dour, shrewd and somewhat irrascible’ Scotsman who had arrived in the colony several years earlier, bought the run from Purnell. Macdonald was the station’s first owner to identify Wallabadah as his permanent home, and over the next thirty years he went to great lengths to consolidate his hold on the property. Even more than Purnell, Macdonald engaged in an extensive and costly land-purchasing program to frustrate the aspirations of free selectors; through purchase at auctions, ‘dummying’, stockpiling Volunteer Land Orders and the acquisition of conditional leaseholds, he had increased the station’s freehold area to more than 30,000 acres by the end of the century.
At the same time, Macdonald invested large sums of money in improving the run, which was mostly undeveloped when he took up Wallabadah in 1869. There were almost no fences on the property, a rudimentary homestead which dated back to the 1840s, and a cemented brick water tank with a capacity of 4,000 gallons. Several shepherds’ huts dotted the property and an overseer’s cottage overlooked its ‘good’ stockyards. A rather primitive woolshed with equally primitive shearers’ quarters stood several kilometres up the creek. From the mid-1870s to the late-1890s, Macdonald spent about £1,000 a year on improvements. Two stables and two haysheds were erected in the decade after Macdonald’s occupation. An intensive fencing program began in 1876, and by the end of the century Wallabadah had been divided into about seventy enclosed paddocks. In 1884, a new roof was put on the old woolshed, only to be ‘considerably altered’ in 1889 to accommodate a ‘Ferrier’ woolpress which stood twenty feet high; several years later, Macdonald, convinced that the old structure was ‘not a good one anytime’, tore it down altogether and built a larger, more modern woolshed. The most impressive building on Wallabadah, however, was the new homestead, commenced in 1900. Built by Italian stone masons, the house in its dimensions and grandeur reflected Macdonald’s growing prosperity.
By this time, Wallabadah Station, which had been reduced in size by free selection (despite Macdonald’s best efforts) and resumption, was nevertheless carrying a total of 37,000 sheep. In 1871, Macdonald had married Marion Lindsay, a daughter of Thomas Lindsay of Rothbury Station. They had five children, three sons and two daughters, but Marion had died during childbirth early in 1884. By the end of the century, the children had moved back to Wallabadah Station after being educated in Scotland, and Macdonald now looked to handing responsibility for the property over to his sons. In 1911, they thus took charge of the station. Their father in the meantime enjoyed the fruits of his labour; he died in 1937 aged 95. The area of the station was reduced by some 23,000 acres in 1948 to provide twelve farms for soldier settlement, but Wallabadah remained a highly successful patoral property. In 1949, Macdonald’s grandson, John ML Macdonald, assumed responsibility for the station, where he started a Merino stud and implemented a major pasture improvement program. Several years later, he transformed the property into a family pastoral company – Wallabah Proprietry Limited – which he administered until 1982, when his eldest son, JA (Sandy) Macdonald, took over the business. Wallabadah Station today runs up to 15,000 Merino sheep and 1,200 head of Hereford cattle.
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Published by The Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, 5 April 2004
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 23 February 2010