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Tyson, James (1819–1898)

The death of Mr. James Tyson, the richest pastoralist in Australasia, has excited an extraordinary amount of newspaper curiosity about the details of his life. Perhaps this is partly because in his lifetime he so greatly disliked publicity, but the fact remains that the daily, and weekly, and metropolitan, and provincial papers are so full of Mr. Tyson and anecdotes about him that it would be difficult for us to write any long notice of his career which would secure many readers.

He was a man of notable character, as the fact that starting in life as the son of a small farmer without any means he died worth over five millions sufficiently shows. Parsimonious in his personal expenditure, like the late Mr. W. J. T. Clarke and many other founders of huge pastoral fortunes, he was capable of generous public expenditure at times, as his purchase of £250,000 of Queensland Treasury bills during the financial crisis, his offer of £500,000 towards a Queensland transcontinental railway, and his £2000 subscription to the Soudan contingent testify; and he is said also to have been generous in private oases where he felt satisfied that assistance would be really useful. Ready to undergo hardships himself, he expected them of others, and he was called eccentric because he was a law unto himself and conformed reluctantly to conventions. Such attempts to escape from the ordinary conditions of life involve a certain neglect of responsibilities, as is shown by his dying without making a will. But he made his millions honestly, at the expense of no-one but Nature, and has added enormously to the prosperity of Australia. He had a wonderful eye for stock, great determination of character, and that business instinct which sees money where others fear to tread. His best epitaph would be the old saying as to the greatest public benefactor being the man who "makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before."

The main facts of his career are as follows :—He was born on his father's farm at the Cowpasture, near Sydney, in 1823, picked up some of his knowledge of stock there as a lad, and took his first billet as overseer at £30 a year. At that time much of the back country of New South Wales was unoccupied, and Mr. Tyson soon found his way out back, accompanied by his brother William, both intent on taking up new country. On the northern bank of the Lachlan River they blazed their boundaries and formed the Coonong, Tuppel, Deniliquin, Baratta, Conamble, Tarwong, and other stations, which still remain in the hands of members of the family. This was in 1846, and five years later, when the gold discoveries were attracting population to Victoria, James Tyson commenced cattle droving to Bendigo, where he opened a wholesale and retail butchering business. If more prosaic than gold mining, the butchering business was certainly as profitable, and great success attended this venture. In 1855 Mr. Tyson entered again, and more largely, into the pastoral business and purchased a number of stations in New South Wales, where his present holding includes Tupra, Bringhurst, Mannor, and Goondibline, as well as the famous Heyfield Estate in Gippsland, about 14,000 acres worth about £8 an acre, and used entirely for fattening. In Queensland he also secured properties on the Darling Downs and in the Warrego district, and in later years bought other properties further north, the present list comprising Felton Estate, including Mounts Russell and Wylie, 120,000 sheep, 1000 cattle, 400 horses; Meteor Downs, 100,000 sheep, 2000 cattle, 600 horses; Carnarvon and Baliolora, 800 cattle, 300 horses; Glenormiston, West from Boulia, on South Australian border, 5000 cattle, 120 horses ; Tinnenboorra, partly in New South Wales and partly in Queensland, 250,000 sheep, 50,000 cattle, 2250 horses.

Hie total wealth before the 1893 crisis was estimated at between £8,000,000 and £9,000,000, and at the time of his death the best estimates exceed five millions sterling.


T. Y. S. O. N.

by " THE BANJO."

( Copyright.)

Across the Queensland border line
The mobs of cattle go,
They travel down in sun and, shine
On dusty stage, and slow.
The drovers, riding slowly on
To let the cattle spread,
Will say : "Here's one old landmark gone,
For old man Tyson's dead."

What tales there'll be in every camp
By men that Tyson knew;
The swagmen, meeting on the tramp,
Will yarn the long day through,
And tell of how he passed as "Brown,"
And fooled the local men. 
"But not for me—I struck the town,
And passed the message further down;
That's T. Y. S. O. N !"

There stands a little country town
Beyond the border line,
Where dusty roads go up and down,
And banks with pubs combine.
A stranger came to cash a cheque,
Few were the words he said;
A handkerchief about his neck,
An old hat on his head.

A long, grey stranger, eagle-eyed,
"You know me? Of course you do ? "
"It's not my work," the boss replied,
"To know such tramps as you."
"Well, look here, Mister, don't be flash,"
Replied the stranger then,
"I never care to make a splash,
I'm simple —but I've got the cash,
I'm T. Y. S. O. N."

But in that last great drafting-yard,
Where Peter keeps the gate,
And souls of sinners find it barred,
And go to meet their fate;
There's one who ought to enter in,
For good deeds done on earth;
Such deeds as merit ought to win,
Kind deeds of sterling worth.

Not by the straight and narrow gate,
Reserved for wealthy men,
But through the big gate, opened wide,
The grizzled figure, eagle-eyed,
Will travel through—and then Old Peter'll say:
"We pass him through,
There's many a thing he used to do,
Good-hearted things that no one knew;
That's T. Y. S. O. N."

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Tyson, James (1819–1898)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/tyson-james-985/text986, accessed 20 August 2017.

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