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Munro, Hugh Robert (1862–1958)

Hugh Munro, n.d.

Hugh Munro, n.d.

from Pastoral Review and Graziers' Record, 17 March 1958

Hugh Robert Munro, who was born at Keera Station, Bingara, on 14th February 1862, died 14th February 1958, his 96th birthday. He was the youngest son of Donald and Mrs. Munro (nee McPherson), of Dingwall, Scotland, and Keera, New South Wales, and is survived by his wife, Grace Emily Munro (nee Gordon, of Gragin, Warialda), M.B.E., his sons Hugh Gordon Munro and Douglas Gordon Munro, and daughter Nancy (Mrs. A. S. Nivison), of Mirani, Walcha, N.S.W. One son, Jack Kenneth Munro, died in 1910, when an infant.

Donald Munro and his family of 10 children emigrated from Scotland in 1848 to Tariaro, near Narrabri. From there they moved to Moree and then to Keera, which property they purchased from Messrs. Single and Adams in 1858. In 1864, as a result of a big flood, the family were taken to Ardullie, near Tamworth, where they resided while the new two-storied brick homestead was erected out of flood reach at Keera. About that time Donald Munro built a flour mill, believed to be the first in the Tamworth district.

Hugh Robert Munro was educated at Newington College, then situated on the Parramatta River, and to get there he rode to catch coaches and the train to Morpeth or Newcastle, thence by steamer to Sydney. Before his death he regularly used his own air strip at Keera to fly by small chartered plane to connect with the larger planes at Tamworth, Armidale, Gunnedah or Inverell. On the day before his death he used the small plane to take him to his daughter's home at Mirani to attend the Walcha Cup race meeting and for his birthday.

Incidentally, on the day he died his horse Elysign won, breaking a course record that another horse of his, Elysure, had created. Mr. Munro was keenly interested in racing and raced successfully in New South Wales and Queensland for 76 years. He bred most of the horses he raced, and in one year won more races than any other racehorse owner in Australia. The most important races he won were probably the A.J.C. Metropolitan with Laddie Blue, the A.J.C. Doncaster Handicap and All Aged Stakes with Sir Christopher, and the Widden Stakes with White Lightning. The two horses with whom he won most races were Black Prince (48), and his full sister Bonnie Princess with 47. He always claimed that Red Thespian was the best horse he ever bred.

Mr. Munro was chairman of the Northern and North Western Racing Association Committee for a number of years and was a member for many years of the Australian Jockey Club, Sydney Tattersall's Club, the Australian Club, the Royal Sydney Golf Club, the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales and an elected honorary life member of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, the Aberdeen Angus Society of Australia, and the Poll Shorthorn Society of Australia. He was patron of many racing clubs and picnic race clubs at various times and president of many others during his life time.

Mr. Munro was for many years a member and chairman of the Warialda Pastures Protection Board and also served for a considerable time as a councillor of the Graziers' Association of New South Wales. He was a former director of the Australian Chilling and Freezing Company at Aberdeen and was a pioneer supplier of chilled beef in the first successful shipment from Australia which was arranged by the A.C. and F. Company at Aberdeen to the United Kingdom. He was also a director of Dark's Ice and Cold Storage Ltd., Newcastle, and of Pitt Son and Badgery Ltd.

During his life Mr. Munro owned and controlled many grazing properties in New South Wales and Queensland. In the latter part of the last century he became a partner in the firm of Thomas Cook and Co. and took over the management of all its properties. On the death of the senior partner, Mr. Thomas Cook, of Turanville, Scone, in 1910, he was given the opportunity to purchase Mr. Cook's interest, and it was then that he acquired Gundibri, at Merriwa; Cubbaroo, Burren Junction; Oakhurst, Boggabilla; Wyaga, Goondiwindi, and Moogoon, Goondiwindi, Q.; and Keera, where he resided until his death. At his death, Mr. Munro was chairman of directors of Gundibri Estate Co. Pty. Ltd., Dingwall Pastoral Co., and Keera Pastoral Co., and was a member of the H. R. Munro Partnership, comprising himself and his two sons.

He was intensely interested in the breeding of all forms of livestock. He founded Poll Shorthorn studs at Gundibri and Oakhurst and a Poll and horned Shorthorn stud at Wyaga, Goondiwindi. He was the first man to bring Aberdeen Angus into the Bingara district (in 1912) and had successfully crossed Shorthorns and Aberdeen Angus at Keera since then. He founded the Wyaga Merino stud and the Oakhurst Poll Merino stud. He imported to Gundibri Shorthorns from Scotland and Poll and horned Shorthorns from the United States, as well as Aberdeen Angus cattle from Scotland and New Zealand. He imported from New Zealand the thoroughbred stallion Thespian—one of the few horses that ever beat the famous Gloaming in a race. It is of interest, too, that he bred Canadian Berkshire pigs at Keera and from time to time took great pride in the drafts he forwarded to various markets.

One of the features of his management was his selection and the loyalty of his employees. He maintained the idea of training young men to go on the land and numbers of jackeroos were trained at Keera and on other properties. His responsibility to soldier settlement was exemplified in the fact that 20-odd thousand acres of Keera were made available for soldier settlers of the 1914-18 war and he donated to the settlers the improvements that he could have claimed provided the settlers resided five years on their blocks. After the 1939-45 war he voluntarily made available an excellent property, Cubbaroo, near Burren Junction, for soldier settlement under the Group Promotion Scheme. The Government accepted his design for sub-division and the acreages recommended, and the settlers on Cubbaroo have done very well. Recently part of Gundibri Estate, near Merriwa, was offered for soldier settlement and finally sub-divided and sold by tender with returned soldier preferences.

Mr. Munro was a staunch adherent of the Presbyterian faith and helped to build the first Presbyterian Church in Bingara. He was christened by the first Presbyterian Minister in the Inverell district, the Rev. Cameron and was married by the Rev. Dr. Stirton. He was a keen supporter of the work of the Flying Doctor Service and was a great admirer of the Rev. John Flynn.

He was indeed a true pioneer in all of the aspects implied in that honourable title. A feature of his mentality was that he always thought of the future and never dwelt, even in his latter years, very much in the past. He made friends easily and lived and enjoyed social gatherings, particularly balls and dancing. Right up to the end he was always prepared to dance till daylight should the occasion allow it. He was passionately fond of exercise and daily completed his set task prior to his early morning shower.

Until the day before his death he adhered to his fixed belief that if he could ride a horse he would get well. He loved riding and no ride seemed too far or any day too long. In his younger days he was a keen tennis player and cricketer, an excellent rifle and gun shot, and an enthusiastic polo player. He was an ardent lover of poetry and the folk songs of Scotland and could recite lengthy extracts from the poems of Sir Walter Scott. His pleasures were simple and the work that he undertook possibly was his joy. His mentality and constitution were such that he was able to offset the effects of the worries and problems of his life by being able to sleep soundly when the opportunity occurred, be it in a buggy, a car, a train, an aeroplane, or at home. The life he led was such that his conscience never worried him. He dealt with the larger issues as easily as the minor details. He was respected, honoured, admired, and, by his family in particular, loved to such an extent as is not often the lot of mortal man.

Original publication

  • Pastoral Review and Graziers' Record, 17 March 1958, pp 257 & 259 (view original)

Citation details

'Munro, Hugh Robert (1862–1958)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/munro-hugh-robert-754/text755, accessed 16 November 2018.

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