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Ricketson, Henry (1830–1900)

Henry Ricketson, n.d.

Henry Ricketson, n.d.

from Australasian Pastoralists' Review, 15 January 1901

We regret to announce the death of Mr. Henry Ricketson, one of the Riverina pioneers, and one of the most remarkable personalities amongst Australian pastoralists, which took place at his residence, Glen Eira, Caulfield, near Melbourne, on the 29th ult, at the age of seventy-five years. Ever since an attack of influenza, some two and a-half years ago, his health had been failing, and his death, though sudden, was not altogether unexpected.

Mr. Ricketson was the third son of Mr. Henry Ricketson, of Annapolis, Nova Scotia, British North America. He was born on the estate which was granted to his grandfather by King George IV., in 1776, as a reward for that gentleman's loyalty at the time of the American War of Independence, when he was the only one of several brothers who would not take up arms against the Crown. He left America for Australia in 1852, and in 1853 he bought Baratta Station, near Deniliquin, N.S.W., from Messrs. Bell and Houston; he also, subsequently, purchased Bundyulumblah and Caroonboon Stations, which he afterwards disposed of. At the time of his death he owned Baratta, Cornalla, Aratula, Billabong, and Neuremerremang Stations in New South Wales, and Delatite and Buchan in Victoria, and Yarrowvale in Queensland.

Mr. Ricketson was above all else a strong man, physically and mentally. Over 6 ft. high, and weighing 18 stone in good condition, he looked less than his real height by reason of his breadth, but muscular and hard throughout. At over seventy years of age he retained greater strength than most well-built men of forty, and looked the impersonation of vigour. Many stories are told of his feats of strength. When a man of thirty he established a record for amateurs at Bendigo by clearing 6 ft. in a running high jump. Travelling stock then as now gave trouble, but he brought to reason a recalcitrant cow, which refused to face a stream, and was in danger of stampeding a mob, by seizing her by the tail and swinging her high off the bank into the water. She swam to the other side. The rest followed.

His energy was untiring, he was ever on the move, always ready for a deal and hard to get the better of, shrewd and enterprising, humorous, good tempered, genial, and never better pleased than when his hands were full of business, unless indeed it was when engaged in a law suit, his determination to maintain what he considered to be his rights being a feature in his character without mention of which no account of him is complete.

One story of his taking the law into his own hands is worth quoting. On one occasion he found that the cause of so little water coming down the Billabong Creek — running through one of his properties — was the damming up of the creek on Currabunganong, afterwards known as Hartwood. Without any more ado he took up a body of men and deliberately cut the dam. This the owners resented by building it up again. Shortly afterwards Mr. Ricketson and his men once more went up and repeated the performance. The distance from Currabunganong to Mr. Ricketson's station was over 40 miles. When the flow in the creek again slackened he learnt that a blockade house had been built on the repaired dam, and that his party would meet with a warm reception. This did not frighten him, for one night he took his men up the creek, this time armed with guns. Arrived at the dam his threat to dislodge the men in the blockhouse by firing at them had the effect he desired. This time the dam was cut in the centre, and the blockhouse followed the earth down the stream, and the "enemy" had enough of it.

Besides looking after his large business personally, he took an interest in all public movements for the benefit of his district, more particularly the first bridge over the Edwards at Deniliquin, the first telegraph to Deniliquin, the railway, and the freezing works, being an original promoter and director of the Riverina Frozen Meat Company. He was also a constant supporter of the Deniliquin P. and A. Society and Jockey Club, a constant exhibitor at the show, and took great interest in horsebreeding, which he carried on for years with considerable success. He was several times asked to stand for Parliament for the district, but his hands were too full with his private business to admit of his entering public life. He belonged to the Church of England, and supported it liberally, as well as the hospitals, having been one of the promoters of the Working Men's Hospital at Deniliquin.

Mr. Ricketson was a good horseman and a great driver, and no horse ever had the best of him. "Lana," in the Sydney Mail, quotes a story told him by one of the spectators at the scene, the stockyards on one of the old Yanko blocks, at that time the property of Mr. Forlonge. Mr. Ricketson was on his bridal tour, and had driven down to Yanko for breakfast. On arrival, he found that one of the leaders in his team was lame, and he asked the manager to lend him one to replace it. But it seems there were none available. Nothing daunted, Mr. Ricketson went up to the horseyard and pointed to a fine colt, which had, with others, just been brought in for breaking-in. Without more parley, he borrowed a rope, lassooed the horse, and when he had thrown him and securely fastened his legs, he, with some help, put the leading harness on, and, as soon as the colt was released, he let him career round the yard, holding him the while with the loose rope. The waggonette was brought to the yard, and as soon as the wheelers and the leader were yoked up, the colt was, after some trouble, harnessed also, and away he went on his journey. At that time there were no fences, and he had a clear run of miles in front of him. Although the colt plunged a good deal at first, he settled down to his work before the first 10 miles had been passed.

We must also give a story illustrating his love of a bargain. A would-be buyer of one of his mobs refused to pay Mr. Ricketson's price, as there was another big mob just due along the same road, and he would be able to choose. Late at night as it was, Mr. Ricketson rode back, met the second mob, bought them on his own terms, then, returning, asked the buyer if he still held out. The buyer did hold out until he learned that the man he was arguing with owned both mobs now—then he gave in.

He married in 1858, at Yass, Georgina Staniforth, youngest daughter of the late W. Staniforth, M.D., of Sheffield, Yorkshire, by whom he had four sons and one daughter; and a second time in 1884, Edith Alice Were, third daughter of J. B. Were, C.M.G., of Brighton, Victoria, by whom he leaves one son and one daughter. He was buried in the family vault at Deniliquin on 31st December, 1900.

Original publication

Citation details

'Ricketson, Henry (1830–1900)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 30 November 2021.

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