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Matthew Sawyer (1864–1941)

from Cootamundra Herald

The death occurred in the District Hospital on Wednesday night of one of the district's best known and beloved identities, Mr. Matthew Sawyer.

Deceased is survived by his widow, Mrs. Matt. Sawyer, O.B.E., two sons, Malcolm ("Mac"), of Sydney, and Wallace, of "Erringoarrah," Wagga; two daughters, Mrs. C. Inglis (Marie) and Mrs. H. M. Hinder (Nell), both of Sydney; and there are two brothers, Basil and George, of "Eulomo," and one sister, Mrs. James Little, of Vaucluse.

Mr. Sawyer was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Sawyer, and was born at "Eulomo," which has always been one of the district's best known grazing properties, and one justly renowned for its hospitality.

In 1890 he married Miss Jessie Beveridge, daughter of the late John Beveridge, of "Dollarvale," Junee. The wedding took place at "Dollarvale."

Mr. Sawyer enjoyed excellent health until the last nine months. He was then admitted to the District Hospital, but subsequently discharged. Later he was forced to enter hospital again, and he remained there until the end on Wednesday night. His condition was often very low, but he would rally amazingly, and the courageous fight he put up for life was typical of the man.

Deep and sincere sympathy is extended to the widow, who is known far and wide for her work as a leader of the Country Women's Association, and the family.

Country racing will suffer its greatest loss in Mr. Matt. Sawyer's death. He started racing his own horses when he was sixteen, and he continued to race them in his own name right up to the last few months. It could be safely said that he raced horses longer than any other man in Australia. Although he did not win any of the big races at Randwick or Flemington, on several occasions he won more races in the year than any other owner in the Commonwealth. One of the first good horses to carry his colors was Lux. Then there was the first Mafootta, who subsequently went to India. With Ulandra, Hymeneal, and Pike, the last-named being called after the famous Australan jockey, Jim Pike, he won 130 races. Ulandra won two Wagga Gold Cups, the first in 1920 and the second in 1924. Vauntress was another fine mare that he raced with success. She was the dam of Cungegong, a fine grey mare, who was the dam of the second Mafoota, a great favorite with southern race-goers and a winner at Randwick. Other good horses that come to mind are Frampton and Lightress, while in more recent years there were Abbott's Lad, Kagal, Juanbung, Collins, Generosity, Maranta, and Lottery.

During his long career as an owner Mr. Sawyer carried out countless successful betting plunges, but whether he won or lost he was always the same.

A fellow racing man said of him yesterday, "Matt. Sawyer won a lot of races in his time, but what I liked most about him was the way he lost."

Possessing a generous disposition, he quietly did many acts of kindness to others in need. One story is told of an occasion when he was leaving the Junee races. He met a drover who used to work for him. Although Mr. Sawyer had won £75 in prize money he had lost heavily in his betting transactions. In response to an inquiry, the drover told Mr. Sawyer that his wife had been ill for some time. Mr. Sawyer promptly handed over the cheque for the prize money as a present for the drover's ailing wife.

A keen man on politics, there was no more generous supporter, with his purse at election time when the committees were financing the incidental expenses of a selected candidate.

In connection with church or charitable causes, too, the cheque book was ever open.

The Cootamundra District Hospital had in Mr. Sawyer one of its biggest helpers, both when the institution was up on the hill, and since it has been on the present site. The late Mr. J. T. Stratton, who was so prominently connected with the removal into the town, often spoke to his son, the president of today, as to the generous donations of Matt. Sawyer towards establishing the institution where it is today; and, as an inmate therein over the last several months, the nurses learned to know what a kindly and thoughtful and grateful patient he was all through the trying ordeal of his illness.

Between the "boss" and the men on "Eulomo," especially old and trusted employees, a remarkably fine bond of friendship was ever in evidence; and he seemed to never forget their birthdays. For instance, here was a greeting one morning to one of them: "I don't think we will stick to the work we programmed for today. I have changed my mind. Put your Sunday togs on, and come along with me." And they would have a day out in the car together by way of celebrating the event.

Back in the earlier of his days, "Young Matt," who, like most of the young fellows engaged in pastoral work, dearly loved a good hack with a bit of pace, and specially one who could "take the fences in his stride," liked to issue a challenge to a mate or mates in the saddle; and it is recalled that in the days when Cootamundra's saleyards were in Wallendoon street, near the railway, Matt. enjoyed a very willing race with the Albion as winning post.

As a boy 12 years old, young Matt. was sent on frequent trips with stock to Blowering, where the father had a property; and during one of these visits races were being held at Tumut. He raced a horse there, and did a bit of betting too, with the result that he had to sell some of the horses to square up with the bookies! He rode at Bethungra, out at The Reefs, and at other bush meetings around, and weighed only 9 stone.

Another incident we recall was in connection with the dam built near Bethungra to gravitate a water supply to Junee. Mr. Sawyer claimed to know that the suitability of the catchment was of a very doubtful nature, and he ventured to bet a suit of clothes with the then Mayor of Junee, the late T. C. Humphreys, that the dam would not fill within the first five years of its completion. "T.C." lost the bet!

"Eulomo" dates back over a hundred years in the family name. Mr. Matt. Sawyer, sen., the founder of the property, held about 60,000 acres, a lot of it being on lease. Though somewhat squeezed up today, it is still one of the extensive pastoral holdings in this part of the State.

The senior Matt. reached the ripe old age of 93. He was born in Bathurst, and died in Sydney; his wife was born in Sydney, and died at ''Eulomo." In the big flood at Gundagai she was washed away on a haystack, and spent two days and one night theron before she was rescued by blacks.

When Kiandra goldfields broke out, the two neighbours, Matt. Sawyer, sen. and Steve White, sen., the original of "Merrinbindinyah," took flour up to the golden city, which then had a population of 30,000. Kiandra is not so big today! On the way to and fro they camped at Yarrangobilly Caves. The name M. Sawyer is chipped on the rocks there, with the date along-side, 1873.

The father of Mr. Matt. Sawyer, sen., was a British army officer, repatriated after Waterloo, and who, in the primitive days of the Bethungra district, when doctors were scarce, was taken by bullock waggon to Wagga as a very sick patient.

He too lived at "Eulomo," so that James Matthew ("Bidger") Sawyer, deceased's grandson, is the fifth generation of Sawyers to have lived at "Eulomo."

The funeral which left the Church of England this morning at 11 o'clock, was very largely attended.

A feature of the gathering was the presence of so many of the old life-long friends. Another was the remarkable array of wreaths. Every town around, near and far, seemed to be represented, whilst many came from Sydney.

Mrs. Crowe was at the organ, and the hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light!" was sung.

The Rev. Canon Done conducted the services at the church and at the grave.

Original publication

Other Obituaries for Matthew Sawyer

Citation details

'Sawyer, Matthew (1864–1941)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


9 November, 1864
Gundagai, New South Wales, Australia


12 February, 1941 (aged 76)
Cootamundra, New South Wales, Australia

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