The Dispersal of the Halls Heeler
In 1836, George Hall, then aged seventy-two, made a new Will. In the climate of the times, it was just. George sought to reward his sons, William, John, Thomas Simpson, Matthew, Henry and Ebenezer, for the dedication and support they had given him in the name of expansion. Daughters didn’t count for much but the sons had been George’s mainstays. George created a Trust for them, to exist for ten years after his death. The Trust included all of George’s real estate, apart from individual bequests. The profits from the Trust were to be used for acquiring more land and stock and its administration would demand the same sort of cooperation that had existed during George’s lifetime. William and Thomas and the Rev. John McGarvie were to be George’s executors.
George died in 1840. The existence of the Trust was apparently unknown to government and depasturing licences continued to be taken out in the name of George Hall. The Governor of New South Wales, Sir George Gipps, complained :
“A single squatter (Mr Hall) holds one thousand square miles of land or 640,000 acres and by the Commissioner’s Returns, I find he holds in one district (New England) and under a single licence, runs which are estimated by the Commissioners at 820 square miles or 524,800 acres. He has another station in the district of Liverpool Plains, but for it he pays a separate licence”.
Because of the Trust, George Hall’s death in 1840 made little difference to the Hall family. William and Thomas managed the George Hall Estate and the younger generation, their nephews, were beginning to move northward, working for their uncles. These younger men became increasingly important to the operations of the “Firm”. The abolition of convict transportation in 1841 and the lure of gold, after rich discoveries in New South Wales and Victoria, both resulted in labour shortages.
The Trust was intended to expire in 1850 but the five brothers evidently agreed to allow it to continue; a grave error of judgement, as it turned out. After William’s death in 1871 only two of the original five brothers named in the Trust were alive. The resulting legal actions were complex. At least one family member was left close to destitution and Anne, Thomas Simpson Hall’s widow, paid rent to remain at Dartbrook until she was later able to purchase the property at auction. Court proceeding dragged on for twelve years at the end of which all Hall properties were in non-Hall ownership except for Dartbrook (Anne Hall) and Gundebri (Matthew Hall).
Most of the New South Wales stations were auctioned in 1873. The Sydney Morning Herald for 29 March 1873 reported:
“The sale of the Messrs. Hall’s stations, at the Exchange, on the 26th instant, attracted a very large number of buyers, nearly 200 being present, before the commencement of the sale, all the different lots offered met with keen competition, and the prices realised were very satisfactory. The stations sold as follows.—Lot 1. Weebolabola and Bullerrue, in the Gwydir district, together with about 3600 cattle (1000 of which are to be paid for at £3 15s a head), at £6 1s 6d — Messrs. A. and W. Munro, purchasers. Lot 2. Bingera, in the Gwydir district, together with about 2500 head of cattle, at £3 7s 6d — Mr. G. McDonell purchaser. Lot 3. Cuerindi and Mundowey, in the district of Liverpool Plains, together with about 2000 head of cattle, (and about 5000 sheep to be taken at 8s 6d per head) at £4 12s 6d, Mr. J. Scroggie, purchaser ; Lot 4 : Stoney Batters in the New England district, together with about 8000 head of cattle, at £5 3s, Messrs. J. and T. Cooper purchasers ; Lot 5: Wallamumbi Station in the New England district, together with about 4000 head of cattle, (and about 5000 sheep to be taken at valuation) at £3 10s 6d, Mr. J. Fletcher purchaser; Lot 6: Mount Mitchell in the New England district, together with about 2500 head of cattle, at £3 9s 6d, Messrs A. and R. Amoss purchasers . . .”
The Hall family faded from the rural scene and so did the Halls Heeler, but in name and ownership only. Given that stock and land were sold together it is probable that some, at least, of the station hands and stockmen stayed on the stations under new ownership and with them, their dogs. However, some men would have moved on, taking their dogs with them. The dogs became freely available and some became associated, in name, with particular stockmen such as John Timmins and his “Timmins Biters”.
No descriptions of Halls Heelers exist but photos of cattle dogs, thought to be of Halls Heeler descent suggest type.
Railway tracks began to thread their way through New South Wales and Queensland in the later decades of the nineteenth century and large agricultural shows, particularly those organised by the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales (R.A.S.) and the Royal Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland (R.N.A.I.A)., became an important part of rural life. Classes for exhibition, and sale, of Cattle Dogs were scheduled from the 1870s. Intending exhibitors took advantage of the railway, the motor car, and improved roads, to travel long distances to show their dogs.
Not surprisingly, the Liverpool Range presented a topographic barrier, then as now. (There have been moves to declare a new state, the State of New England, from the Liverpool Range to the Queensland border.) Cattle dog owners living north of the Liverpool Range exhibited in Brisbane. Those to the south took the road to Sydney.
Kaleski credited the wholesale butcher, Alexander Davis, with having brought Halls Heelers to Sydney, from the Hunter Valley during the 1870s, to work in his cattle yards and move cattle from yards to abattoir. Davis may have done so but Halls Heelers were in Sydney much earlier, working stock on the Halls’ Auburn Farms and driving stock from Windsor to Auburn.
The Liverpool Range may have divided the Halls Heeler population, itself, much earlier – as early as the 1850s when Halls Heeler breeding became increasingly decentralised. The greater part of the George Hall Estate holdings was in leased runs in northern New South Wales, north of the Liverpool Range, and in Queensland. Proportionally the greater number of dogs was in these northern runs and there ceased to be any need for reliance on Dartbrook for Halls Heelers.
If this scenario is correct, then the bench breeders that exhibited in Brisbane obtained their foundation stock from the northern Halls Heeler population and the Sydney breeders, from the southern population: Hunter Valley and further south. Extended pedigree data is wanting but Gibson Lady Betty maybe representative of the early Queensland cattle dogs derived from northern Halls Heelers.
The most significant difference between the two populations was breeder acceptance of stumpy tails and litters that included both long-tailed and short-tailed pups. The breeders in northern New South Wales and Queensland took the presence/absence of tail for granted. In Sydney, bob-tailed pups may have been (correctly) culled as defective.
© Noreen Clark 2019.
Clark, N .R. A DOG CALLED BLUE: the Australian Cattle Dog and the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog 1840–2000. WriteLight for N.R. Clark, Sydney, 2003. http://www.adcb.com.au/
Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales and Royal Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland show catalogues.
Scott, J.C. The Hall Estate or “Firm”, in Warner, R.M. OVER-HALLING THE COLONY, pp. 79-108. Australian Documents Library, Sydney. 1990.
Trove. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/13317765. The Sydney Morning Herald Sat. 29 March 1873 p. 5.
Photos 1, 4-6. Bert Howard, first published in A Dog Called Blue.
Photo 2. N.S.W. Department of Agriculture.
Photo 3. Iris Heale.