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Chirnside, Andrew Spencer (1818–1890)

Andrew Chirnside, by John Horsburgh, 1881

Andrew Chirnside, by John Horsburgh, 1881

State Library of Victoria, H99.101/1

It is with regret we record the death of Mr. Andrew Chirnside, which occurred at the residence of his daughter, Mrs John Calvert, Irrewarra, Colac, at a little past 1 o'clock yesterday morning. The deceased gentleman had been in poor health for some time, and suffered chiefly from an affection of the heart. Not long ago he visited Queensland, and afterwards took a trip to Tasmania for a change, but he was eventually obliged to take to his bed, with the result that he died as stated.

By the death of Mr. Chirnside the colony of Victoria has lost another of its pioneers. From the very earliest days of settlement in the southern portion of Australia the name of the Chirnside family has been widely known as associated with pastoral prosperity and the ownership of vast tracts of land. Mr. Andrew Chirnside was born in Berwickshire, Scotland, about the year 1817, and was, therefore, 73 years of age at the time of his decease. His brother, the late Mr. Thomas Chirnside, came to Port Phillip in 1839, or over 50 years ago, and took up an extensive tract of country on the western shore of Port Phillip, between Melbourne and Geelong, the greater part of which has since been known as the Werribee-park Estate. Mr. Andrew Chirnside was not long in following his brother to the new land, arriving here in 1840, and after a time he acquired the Carramballac Estate, a magnificent grazing property of over 50,000 acres near Skipton, in the Western district. As opportunity offered, Mr. Chirnside purchased other valuable station properties, not only in this colony, but also in New South Wales and Queensland. The principal estates in Victoria which came into his hands, besides Carranballac, were the Mount Elephant Station, comprising 33,900 acres of fine grazing land in the shire of Hampden, and Koort-Koornong, near Camperdown, comprising 23,800 acres, whilst in conjunction with his nephew, Mr James Forbes, he owned the Mount William Estate, of about 50,000 acres, near Ararat, and the Balintore Station, which consists of some 4,000 acres of splendid land near Colac. Mr. Andrew Chirnside resided for some time at Carramballac, but about 20 years ago he entered into a partnership arrangement with his brother Thomas in regard to the Werribee property, and took up his residence there. Early in the fifties Mr. Thomas Chirnside had acquired the fee-simple of the entire estate, which, after a number of blocks had been cut up and sold for farming purposes, still contained upwards of 80,000 acres. The land is well watered by the Werribee River and the Cocoroc Creek, and consists of level and open plains, but its great value arises from its proximity to the chief markets of the colony, the estate being but 20 miles from Melbourne.

In 1853, two years after the discovery of gold, a land "boom" was experienced, which, while it lasted, caused a good deal of ferment, and gave rise to many bold projects. Among these was the attempted creation of a new township a little to the south of Mr. Chirnside’s property at Werribee, almost within sight of the bay, and one of the original plans and conditions of sale is now in the possession of Mr. J. G. W. Wilmot, the well known surveyor, of William street. The township was to have been known by a no less auspicious name than that of Glasgow, and an entire block of 320 acres, owned by a Mr. A. G. Gilbert, was cut up into building lots. Several streets 50ft. in width were provided, and the plan showed a fine circular park in the centre of the township, a market square, two acres "reserved for an hotel presentation" - people at that time had no idea of prohibition - and reserves for the erection of half-a-dozen churches. The sale took place at the mart of Messrs. W. M. Tennent and Co, in Elizabeth street, on the 24th day of October, 1853. The bidding was animated, and a large number of the lots were sold. The memorandum of agreement attached to the plan before us records the purchase by a Mr. George Sweetland of half a dozen lots, for which he paid in all £103. Champagne luncheons had not then become an established feature of land sales, but an excursion of a different kind to the site of the new township seems to have been organised, for on the back of the "plan and conditions of sale" are printed, "Rules to be observed on day of picnic". "Each purchaser," it is announced, "shall receive a card admitting himself and two friends, which must be produced on starting; it is expected that each party will bring at least one female friend." Evidently the society of Melbourne in 1853 was not all of it too select, and it is significant that even the auctioneers do not insist on any qualifications in the "friend" beyond that of sex. What auctioneer in our last "boom" would have dared to speak of the ladies as "females?" After such a barbarism the next announcement comes with no surprise. "It is expected that the ordinary rules of society be observed, and that no unseemly language or rudeness be permitted." There were to be dancing and sports on the ground, and the surveyor, Mr. George Woodward, was appointed master of ceremonies. It is a pity that he has not left us a description of that day's outing. As for Glasgow, it is numbered among the things that might have been. Not a single house was ever built, the expected population found habitations elsewhere, and the greater part if not the whole of the site is now included in the Werribee sheep runs.

Some 12 or 15 years ago the Messrs. Chirnside built a mansion at Werribee park, which is among the finest country houses in Victoria, and it has since, on numerous occasions, witnessed the liberal hospitality of its owners. The annual picnic which was given to the tenants was always attended also by many visitors from Melbourne, and the leading coursing clubs in the colony were glad to avail themselves of the advantages for sport which the estate offered. It is in connection with sport, indeed, that the Chirnside family has become best known to the general public. Mr Thomas Chirnside was an ardent lover of racing, and began the importation of thoroughbred horses over 30 years ago. As early as 1858 he owned a mare called Alice Hawthorn, who ran a celebrated match with Veno at Flemington. Of late years the horses of the Messrs. Chirnside have been run in the name of Mr Andrew Chirnside, their studs have furnished many animals whose names have been familiar on the turf. In 1874 Mr Chirnside won the Melbourne Cup with Haricot; and in the following year the famous Newminster, the best two-year-old of his season, won the Maribyrnong Plate and the Ascotvale Stakes, being also the winner, three years later, of the Geelong Cup. In 1876 Mr. Chirnside owned Sultan, who won the Midsummer Handicap and the Newmarket Handicap, and in 1880 Zambesi, another representative of his stable, won the Geelong Cup and several other races. Of more recent years he has had few racehorses of any prominence running, though Linburn won for him the Maiden Plate at the last Spring Meeting at Flemington. Mr. Andrew Chirnside was also president of the Wyndham Racing Club, and a steward of the Geelong Racing Club. The tragic death of his brother occurred three years ago, and the entire property at the Werribee was then left in his hands. Mr Thomas Chirnside, some years ago, established a deer park on the estate, and it is still maintained, and has afforded the means, of many delightful days’ sport.

Mr. Andrew Chirnside was for many years president of the Wyndham Shire Council, but beyond that took little part in public affairs. There is one act, however, for which the whole colony is indebted to him, and for which he has received well merited praise, and that is the patriotic offer which resulted in the creation last year of a half-battery of horse artillery, equipped and maintained entirely at his expense. Sir William Clarke had set the example several years before in the formation of the Rupertswood battery, and Mr Chirnside's public spirited action gave much gratification both to the military authorities and to the public at large. Thirty horses were purchased and placed at the disposal of the new troop, an orderly room was erected at a cost of about £690, and a fund was provided for uniforms and equipment, and the salary of a drill sergeant, the cost of maintenance being not less than £1000 a year. Mr Percy Chirnside is lieutenant in command of the battery, and he has a fine group of horsemen under his control. 

The deceased gentleman leaves a wife and six grown up children, four sons and two daughters. To Mr Robert Chirnside, his eldest son, he some time ago transferred the Carranballac property, Mr Andrew S. Chirnside owns the Mount Elephant Station and Koori Koortnong, and the two younger sons, George and Percy, were last year given an interest in Werribee park. One of the daughters is married to Mr John Calvert of Colac. The funeral will take place at Geelong tomorrow.

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'Chirnside, Andrew Spencer (1818–1890)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/chirnside-andrew-spencer-1087/text1083, accessed 14 December 2018.

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