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Webb, F. Aubrey (1876–1953)

by W. R. Glasson

Mr. F. Aubrey Webb, who died on 29th December 1953 at 78 years of age, was born at Springfield, near Orange, N.S.W., and there learned the value of Merino sheep. Although built in 1850 this beautiful old Georgian mansion is still in a state of splendid preservation. Here Australia's first gold miner's cradle was made, here Hargraves, the Toms, and Lister held frequent consultations, and from this home two men set out on 12th April 1852 to discover that week Australia's first payable gold.

During the last half century few men among western pastoralists were better known than the subject of this tribute. Has anyone judged sheep at leading country shows or at our Sydney Sheep Show more frequently than he? I can recall only one instance when his services as judge failed to give complete satisfaction. This was at a sheep shearing competition in Sydney, when, in all seriousness, Aubrey took his stand directly in front of the pair of competitors, watching closely the quality of their work—he objected particularly to "second cuts." Usually his well proportioned figure did much to conceal his generous weight, but on this occasion there arose from the interested spectators angry cries of expostulation: "We can't see." Most obligingly Aubrey changed his position and stood side on, but even then the gain in visibility was only slight. He was not invited to judge the shearing of sheep at the Sydney show again.

As a wool classer, sheep classer, stud sheep breeder, and then grazier on his own account Aubrey developed early. His first important wool classing job was at a big shed out from Longreach, Queensland, and when the station manager set his eyes on Aubrey he seriously doubted the qualifications of the youth before him. Strange to say in the sheep yard where they stood was a group of newly purchased flock rams, and pointing to them, quite confidently, Aubrey said: "I can tell you the counts of their wool, the name and numbers on their ear tags. They were bred at Springfield, my home, and I selected them to fill your order!"

When it was proposed to convey to Aubrey Webb an expression of the regard in which he was held by his fellow sheep breeders and the numerous show societies he had assisted as judge, money flowed in so readily as to embarrass those who had planned the suitable emblem decided upon. This took the form of a handsome writing stand for his office desk, with appropriate inscription. Mounted upon this was the burly figure, with deep neck and body folds and large horns, of the great "Burwell," Aubrey's favourite stud ram. To absorb the money which kept coming in the ram was finally of pure gold. The presentation took place at a special meeting on the Sydney showground and was made by the Sheepbreeders' Association president, Mr. E. I. Body. Aubrey's office was filled with trophies, ribbons, photos, and award cards gathered from near and far at many sheep shows over the years, indicating successes to be proud of.

Aubrey witnessed the establishment of four major changes in pastoral work and outback living. These were the almost complete replacement of the "blades" by the shearing machine, the motor car, telephone, and air travel. He was a man of tireless energy, a recognised authority among sheep, manly, respected, young in spirit, and popular. One who enjoyed for almost four years his happy school companionship, followed by a life long friendship, realises how much he has lost.

Original publication

Citation details

W. R. Glasson, 'Webb, F. Aubrey (1876–1953)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/webb-f-aubrey-1016/text1017, accessed 22 April 2019.

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