Sir Samuel McCaughey (1835 – 1919) pastoralist and philanthropist
It has be said that Sir Samuel McCaughey MLC, pastoralist and philanthropist, ‘deserves to be held in enduring honour among us, for the loyal-hearted zeal he uniformly displayed on behalf of our Presbyterian cause.’
Sir Samuel McCaughey, pastoralist and philanthropist, was born on 1 July 1835 at Tullyneuh, near Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland.
Strongly influenced by his strict Presbyterian upbringing, he was persuaded by his uncle, Charles Wilson, to try his luck in Australia and in April 1856 reached Melbourne in the Chamira. To save money he walked 200 miles (322 km) to the Wilson property near Horsham. McCaughey started as a general station hand but soon became overseer. His genial Irish humour and kindness helped him to get the best from his men and maintain their goodwill.
In 1860 McCaughey’s relations backed his purchase of a third share of Coonong, 42,000 acres (16,997 ha) near Urana in the Riverina, in partnership with David Wilson and John Cochrane. Although they suffered such initial setbacks as the lack of water, McCaughey remained optimistic and in 1864 became sole owner. He brought water to Coonong by deepening Yanco Creek and building dams.
McCaughey founded his stud in 1860 by buying from James Cochrane of Widegewa old ewes descended from Tasmanian pure Saxon merinos. He later experimented with Silesian merinos from the flock of Prince Lichnowski and in 1866 with two Ercildoune rams from his uncle, Samuel Wilson. In 1873-75 McCaughey bought over 3000 rams from N. P. Bayly of Havilah, and some from Ercildoune and other well-known studs.
To improve quality he spared no expense in fencing and subdividing his paddocks. By 1883 the Coonong stud was one of the best in the Riverina. In that year, anxious to increase the weight of his wool, he bought ten Californian merinos and was so satisfied with the results that he visited America in 1886 and secured 120 ewes and 92 of the finest rams in the state of Vermont; six months later he selected 310 more Vermonts. The weight of the wool increased dramatically and for years the greasy, wrinkled Vermont sheep were invincible in shows. For many years McCaughey was vice-president of the New South Wales Sheepbreeders’ Association.
One of the first to see the advantages of widespread irrigation, McCaughey brought out Irish labourers who did not mind wet and boggy conditions. His success persuaded the government to build the Burrinjuck dam which was completed in 1927. He built a magnificent mansion at North Yanco and was famed for his hospitality.
In 1899 (Sir) George Reid appointed McCaughey and eleven others to the Legislative Council to secure the passage of the Federation enabling bill. He had no strong political leanings but his experience and knowledge of land were valued and he advocated large-scale immigration.
He donated £10,000 to a fund for sending a bushmen’s contingent to the Boer war. In 1905 he was knighted and visited Europe. He visited Louis Pasteur and tried in vain to obtain an efficient means of exterminating plagues of rabbits. After the federal Land Tax Act was passed in 1910 McCaughey started to dispose of his properties.
A great philanthropist, McCaughey was always ready to help people in trouble on the land. He contributed £10,000 to the Dreadnought Fund and another £10,000 to Dr Barnardo’s Homes. In World War I he gave liberally to the Red Cross and other war charities besides insuring 500 soldiers at £200 each. After long suffering from nephritis he died from heart failure on 25 July 1919. Unmarried he was buried in the churchyard of St John’s Presbyterian Church, Narrandera.
His estate was sworn for probate at over £1,600,000. Apart from bequests of £200,000 and all his motor vehicles to his brother John and legacies to his station managers and employees, he left £10,000 to increase the stipends of Presbyterian clergy, £20,000 to the Burnside Orphan Homes at Parramatta, £20,000 to Scots College in Sydney, £10,000 each to five other independent schools, £5000 to the Salvation Army and £5000 each to seven hospitals. Half the residue of his estate went to the Universities of Sydney and Queensland; the other half went to the relief of members of the Australian Military and Naval Expeditionary Forces and their widows and children.
Complete article : http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A050152b.htm
Historical Sketches of Presbyterian Parishes within the Presbytery of the Murrumbidgee (from) Centenary History of the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales (1905). http://users.tpg.com.au/hayhist/RivPres.html
One of a number of references to Samuel McCaughey :
The name of Mr. McCaughey deserves to be held in enduring honour among us, for the loyal-hearted zeal he uniformly displayed on behalf of our Presbyterian cause.
The Yanco Agricultural High School (image above) was built in 1899 as mansion for irrigation pioneer Sir Samuel McCaughey : http://www.visitnsw.com/town/Yanco/Yanco_Agricultural_High_School/info.aspx
The McCaughey link with Australian aviation : http://www.qantas.com.au/info/about/history/details1
Obituary Samuel McCaughey : http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/mccaughey-sir-samuel-682
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