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James Francis Guthrie (1872–1958)

The Australian sheep and wool industry lost a great champion and one of its most forceful personalities with the death on 25th August of Ex-Senator James Francis Guthrie, C.B.E., of Pigeon Bank, Kangaroo Ground, Victoria. A big man physically, mentally, and at heart, he lived a very full life for his 86 years, despite the fact that more than 50 of them were spent on crutches through the loss of a leg from anthrax disease contracted whilst working in sheep yards in New Zealand. This handicap was not reflected in his outlook, which was optimistic and cheerful at all times, even though he frequently suffered great pain.

Mr. Guthrie was the youngest son of the late Thomas Guthrie, a pioneer pastoralist and wool broker at Geelong, Vic., and was born at Rich Avon Station, Donald, Vic., which is still owned by his brother, Mr. T. O. Guthrie. Their mother, born Mary Rutherford, was also a pioneer pastoralist who, after her first husband, John Oliver, was killed by a bushranger, owned and managed stations near Penola, South Australia.

After completing his schooling at Geelong College Mr. Guthrie joined Dalgety and Co. Ltd. in 1891, and at the time of his death, 67 years later, was still on the company's staff as pastoral adviser for Australia. He went to Europe in 1897 to study wool, and upon his return was appointed head wool expert for Dalgety's in Australia and New Zealand. In 1915 he was made manager for the western half of Victoria, with headquarters at Geelong, and in 1928 became the company's pastoral adviser for Australia.

As a wool grower and sheep breeder he won world fame with his Corriedales. He originally established his stud at Coolongolong and Corriedale Park Estates, near Wagga Wagga, N.S.W., but later sold these properties and purchased Bulgawald Estate, north of Albury, N.S.W., and the Elcho and Coolangatta Estates, near Geelong, where he carried on the Guthrie Corriedale stud and formed a thoroughbred horse stud. His success as a studmaster was such that he sold his Corriedales to practically every sheep breeding country in the world, and when he dispersed his stud in 1951 the sale created record prices which still stand.

Mr. Guthrie was the founder and first elected president of the Australian Corriedale Association, and at the time of his death was an elected patron and life member of the association. He was also a past president of the Australian Sheep Breeders' Association, and a life councillor of the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria and the New South Wales Sheep Breeders' Association. At various times he occupied many other important positions associated with the rural industries and was owner or part owner of several other properties, including Barnoolut Station, Casterton, Vic., and chairman of Avon Downs (N.T.) Pastoral Co., which controlled the famous Northern Territory station of that name. He was also one of the founders and a director of Federal Woollen Mills Ltd.

In the political field Mr. Guthrie was a Victorian Senator from 1919 to 1938, and during this period was spokesman for the wool industry on many important matters. He was the first Federal Government representative on the Australian Wool Board (now the Australian Wool Bureau), and the only Australasian representative to the World Textile Conference in Paris in 1937. In both World Wars he was closely associated with the wool appraisal schemes and during World War I was first chairman of the Wool Expert Advisory Committee.

As a great patriot, he felt keenly the fact that, because of the loss of his leg, he could not serve in the forces. He devoted a considerable amount of time and energy to returned servicemen, particularly disabled men, and through his own efforts raised over £50,000 for limbless, partially blinded, and other ex-servicemen's organisations. He was chairman of the trustees of the Limbless Soldiers' Provident Fund and the Partially Blinded Soldiers' Association of Victoria. He was also a Fellow of the Navy League, member of the Victorian League, and a vice-president of the Royal Empire Society. He was responsible for introducing the first British films to Australia and formed the British-Dominion Film Co. For his outstanding public service he was honoured with a C.B.E. in 1946.

Most forms of sport interested Mr. Guthrie, and from the time he left school until a few years ago he was prominent with coursing dogs, race horses, and as a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club committee. He was a member of the Melbourne and Geelong Clubs, as well as the V.R.C., V.A.T.C., and Moonee Valley Racing Club.

In 1951, after disposing of his properties and studs in the Geelong district and retiring to his small stud farm at Kangaroo Ground, Mr. Guthrie compiled his book, A World History of Sheep and Wool, which was published last year. He also improved and beautified his property by introducing new grasses, trees, and shrubs, and until the last couple of years was a tireless worker for innumerable good causes. Even when failing health kept him confined to his home he continued to work for the wool industry, and visitors were invariably reminded that "good Australians wear wool."

In 1902 Mr. Guthrie married Mary, daughter of the late Mr J. T. Wright, founder of the firm of Wright, Stephenson and Co., and they had two children. The son, James Reginald, died as the result of a car accident in 1935, and the surviving daughter is Mrs. Graeme Taylor, of Pretty Hill, Kangaroo Ground, Vic.

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'Guthrie, James Francis (1872–1958)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 April 2024.

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