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Robert Chirnside (1853–1900)

Robert Chirnside, n.d.

Robert Chirnside, n.d.

from Australasian Pastoralists' Review, 15 February 1900

The death of Mr. Robert Chirnside, whose portrait we give on another page, leaves a gap in the ranks of the pastoralists of Western Victoria. The name of Chirnside is known all over Australasia and beyond it, as that of one of the leading families of landowners on the continent, and the late squire of Carranballac was a typical representative of the second generation of Australian squatters who carry on the work their fathers began, but with more leisure for sport, and wider interests than were possible to those hard-worked men who pioneered the country, and founded families to hold a leading position in it.

Mr. Robert Chirnside, who inherited a full share of his father's energy, was the eldest son of the late Mr. Andrew Chirnside and his wife, who is still living, and was born at Mokanger Station, Cavendish, Victoria, on 11th April, 1853, so that he was forty-six years of age at the time of his decease on the 4th ultimo. He was educated at Geelong College, and then in Scotland at the well-known Merchiston Castle school, and subsequently at the Melbourne University. Together with his brother Andrew he began his work as a pastoralist at Mt. William Station, Victoria, which they leased from their father and uncle in the seventies. In 1878 he visited England, and on his marriage in 1880 to Miss Ware, of Minjah, Caramut, he went to live at Yeo, Colac. There he began to take an interest in public matters, and became a councillor of the shire of Ararat, and subsequently its president. In 1885 his father made over to him the Carranballac Estate, near Skipton, where he established his home for the rest of his life.

On taking over Carranballac he immediately set to work to improve it, and took a pride in making it one of the best managed and best kept places in the Western District, where there are, perhaps, more well-kept places than in any other part of Australia. Visits to the old country had given him the idea of what a country gentleman's place could be, and he was always working up to this ideal, with the result that so good a judge as Lord Hopetoun is said to have pronounced that Carranballac carried off the palm of the Western District. The homestead, pleasantly situated on Emu Creek, is one of the most complete residences in Australia, supplied with gas and water, and surrounded by a beautiful garden and extensive plantations. In every detail the management of the household was carried out in the style of an English country magnate, and Lord and Lady Hopetoun were frequent visitors there during their stay in the Western District. The same attention to detail which characterised the household at Carranballac was carried by Mr. Chirnside into the management of the whole estate. There was no work on the place, however hard, that he would not undertake. When he took the place over rabbits were a great pest, but by destroying their harbours he brought them down to within very small limits. The excellence of the roads on the estate is proverbial; the gates of Carranballac homestead are on a patent system by which they can be opened by the driver of a four-in-hand without leaving his seat. The shearing shed is one of the most complete in the colonies, being so arranged that the shearing, pressing, dumping, and loading are all carried on by steam power. This was one of the first sheds in Victoria to be fitted with Wolseley machines, which have been used ever since. The buildings on the estate are all excellent, and it was Mr. Chirnside's special care that the accommodation for shearers and all other employees should be of the best. He was one of the first pastoralists to look after the well-being of his men, and saw to the details himself. When he first went to Carranballac the stock were of indifferent quality, and he made up his mind to go in solely for Merinos. With the aid of Mr. Alexander Stewart, the well-known sheepclasser, who was given carte blanche at the Tasmanian stud sheep sales, Mr. Chirnside succeeded in forming one of the best Merino flocks in the Western District, as may be judged from the following returns of his 1899 shearing:—30,351 grown sheep returned 719 bales, average 9¼ lbs.; 9556 lambs returned 113 bales, average 4 lbs. 12 ozs.

Under his father's will Mr. Robert Chirnside held an interest in Retro, Vindex, and Donor's Hill Stations, in Queensland, and Mt. William in Victoria, and he was also a partner in Billilla Station, New South Wales.

All matters affecting the district in which he lived interested Mr. Chirnside, and he was a liberal supporter of any public movement connected with it. For some years he was councillor of the shire of Hampden. From his earliest youth he was a keen sportsman, and his reputation as an amateur rider, and subsequently as an owner of racehorses, especially "leppers," was well known. He won the Caulfield Grand National with Dondi, and was the first to take an Australian horse (Sailor) to England. He was an original member of the V.A.T.C., which club sent a wreath to his grave—a compliment also paid to his remains by Lord Brassey, the Governor of Victoria. In the early days of hunting he and his brother kept the hounds in the Geelong district, which afterwards formed the nucleus of the Ballarat pack, and he did a good deal of hunting during his visits to England, especially in Berwickshire. He was also fond of polo, and played frequently with the Colac team, and for a long time he was a liberal supporter of coursing, and succeeded in winning the Waterloo Cup with Melfort, a dog he imported from England at a cost of £400.

Mr. Chirnside had been ill for upwards of three years past. His illness started with a bad cold, which eventually led to trouble to the lungs, on which account he lived in Deniliquin the last three winters. He leaves a widow and five children—three boys and two girls.

A man of kindly heart and generous disposition, keenly interested in pastoral management and everything connected with country life, and taking a pride in having everything of the best around him, Mr. Robert Chirnside will be missed by a large circle of friends.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Chirnside, Robert (1853–1900)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 31 May 2024.

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