Origins of Wool Growing in Australia

(previous ... Mutiny of Convicts)

During Governor King's term of office, a start was made in what is now an industry of momentous importance to Australia, wool growing. In the New South Wales Corps there had been an officer named John Macarthur (1767 - 1834), who had become so disgusted with the service that, shortly after his arrival in Sydney on the 14th Feburary 1792, he resigned his commission and having obtained a grant of land, became a settler in the country. He quickly realized that wool growing , if properly carried out, would be a source of much wealth. Macarthur bought a number of sheep from the DUtch colony, at the Cape of Good Hope, with which to make a start. Unfortunately these sheep were not suitable and his first attempt failed. However in 1798 , when he was in England on a visit, he spoke so highly of New South Wales as a country adapted for wool growing, that King George III, was interested in the proposal and offered his assistance.

The sheep which were most suitable for Macarthur's purpose were merino sheep of Spain but could not be obtained because the Spaniards wanted to keep the lucrative trade of wool growing to themselves. To assure this they had made it a capital crime to export merino sheep from Spain. But as it so happened, as a special favour, a few had been given to King George, who was an enthusiastic farmer. So when the King heard of Macarthur's plight he sent a seven rams and two ewes from his flock to be carried out to New South Wales. When they safely landed in Sydney, Governor King made a grant of 10,000 acres to Mr Macarthur, at Camden. It was not long before success and in the course of a few years the meadows at Camden were covered with great flocks of sheep, whose wool yielded annually a handsome fortune to the enterprising owner, Macarthur. 

Trivia

By 1802, Macarthur's flock was exceeding 4,000.

John Macarthur was featured on the face of the $2 paper note, which was first issued in 1966.

(continues ... Governor William Bligh)

 

History of Australia