The property, “Dunlop”, is the 881-hectare (2177 acres) homestead block of the former eponymous station which, in its heyday a century ago, sprawled over nearly 400,000 hectares (one million acres).
That was when “Dunlop” was one of the Bourke district holdings – along with “Toorale” and “Nocoleche” – of Sir Samuel McCaughey and his brothers.
Today, the Darling River station is owned by the Chandler family, who are working to preserve and restore the property to its original state.
McCaughey, best remembered for his pioneering of irrigation in the Riverina, acquired the lease of “Dunlop” (and also “Toorale”) from his wealthy squatter uncle, Sir Samuel Wilson, in 1880.
Eight years later, “Dunlop” would enter the history books as the site of the first full station shearing using the new (and initially controversial) Wolseley machines.
The 45-stand woolshed where this epic event took place is still standing, as is the sturdy homestead erected on “Dunlop” by McCaughey in 1886 using locally quarried red sandstone.
In 1912, McCaughey transferred the leases of “Dunlop”, “Toorale” and “Nocoleche” on generous terms to his trusted managers, Matthew Robinson and Thomas Vincent,
who held them (minus areas resumed for closer settlement) until 1924, when they were bought by an English company, Australian Sheep Farms.
That owner soon ran into financial problems, and by 1928, Hubert Murray – whose family had been steadily building up its Louth landholdings since 1866 – annexed just under half of “Dunlop”.
The balance, comprising about 107,000ha (including
the homestead), was bought by a partnership involving W.W. Killen and his nephew, E.L. Killen, and others, trading as Dunlop Pty Ltd.
The homestead block which retained the “Dunlop” name was itself a substantial holding of some 24,000ha until 1993, when most of the land was sold to the Le Lievre family, leaving just the area now for sale.
Situated 15 kilometres downriver from Louth, and 115km from Bourke, “Dunlop” is a freehold property held in four blocks ranging in size from 163ha to 259ha, but to be offered as one.
The property has about 5.5km of Darling River frontage, including long straight stretches and deep bends, backing up from a weir located just upstream from the southern boundary.
Riverbanks are lined by majestic red gums and backed by cowals and billabongs opening onto heavily-grassed alluvial plains.
The original 1880s sandstone homestead, which is structurally sound and still in use, has interior walls of plaster, carpeted and polished timber floors, and high, pressed-metal ceilings.
A wide entrance foyer leads off the front verandah to the formal lounge and dining rooms and six bedrooms, most with open fires (some with cedar surrounds), while a rear section houses the kitchen, bathroom and staff quarters.
The original 45-stand woolshed – scene of the first full-scale machine shearing of 184,000 sheep in 1888 – was last used for a station shearing in 1993 and stands today as a rich historical relic of the boom years of pastoralism.
Other original buildings still standing, and in various states of repair, including the station store (built of sandstone and still with its original counters and shelving), shearers’ quarters, schoolhouse, worker’s hut, meathouse and feed shed. Article by Peter Austin6 Jun 2011, for Farm Online National