Monday, November 10, 2008

The saga of the Rams

The above advertisement featured in several editions of the Perth Gazette and W.A Times in January and February of 1868 to alert the local pastoralists to Allan Hughan's shipment of sheep which he had imported from Victoria on board the schooner 'Stanley'. Surely it should have been a reasonably simple task to sell the livestock and return to Melbourne with his pockets lined, but as with many of Allan Hughan's undertakings, things did not go quite to plan.
The initial part of the scheme went well, with Allan's sheep selling for a high price. It was several months after he returned home to Victoria that a war of words erupted between Allan and one particular detractor in the Perth Gazette- Allan swore by the quality of his animals, while another declared them to be of inferior stock.
The initial letter was from a settler named Major Logue,an Irish-born settler who had purchased a property named 'Ellendale' in Greenough, W.A. His letter was published in the Perth Gazette & W.A Times on Friday, September 11, 1868, and read in part:'
" I happened to be in Perth when Mr. Hughan arrived last December, and he wrote to me immediately on his landing at Fremantle, wishing me to come and see his sheep, which I did...
.....My opinion of Mr Hughan's rams is: that about ten were really superior animals, the generality "ordinary" and some decidedly bad; they were most wanting in closeness of fleece."
Mr. Logue ended with " P.S. Most of the lambs were small and light in carcase."
On September 25, Mr S.E. Burges, of 'Tipperary', York. W.A., wrote in support of the Hughan rams, some of which he had purchased and was delighted with when shorn. Mr Logue replied on November 13, and then on November 13 Allan Hughan arrived back in Western Australia, this time accompanied by his wife, daughters and nephew Gilbert McCallum.
Of course the correspondence re. his rams was brought to his attention, and Allan was in his element as he put pen to paper and waded into the frey. His first letter carried a definite air of superiority, as typified by his 'Victorian rams are better' attitude from the very start of his venture. I think that this attitude is what prompted Mr Logue to criticize the Hughan rams in the first instance...the competition between colonies in all things was fierce in the mid to late 19th century, and the West Australian pastoralists would have very much resented Allan Hughan's almost smug attitude towards their sheep as compared to Victorian animals.
In Allan's first letter he wrote in part:
" I would not presume to offer advice in the face of such noble letters as appear in the periodicals of the other colonies, but with the Messrs Hughes and the generality of the Western Australian settlers themselves I would say improve the wool of your sheep- the frames are very good already, and in order to produce this desirable result, obtain rams from the neighbouring colonies, strong, sound, well-bred animals, in preference to the delicate pets, though indisputably fine sheep imported from Europe, which if placed in the same position regarding feeding and exposure to all weathers would be eclipsed by their far less favoured Australian brothers, as has long since been discovered in Victoria."
On December 4th Allan Hughan and his family departed on board his schooner 'Pilot' for Port Walcott, but Mr Logue had one final parting shot published on January 8, 1869, in which he used the words "impertinence" and "irrelevance" when referring to Allan Hughan's letter. He stated "Mr Hughan in conclusion expresses his diffidence about giving advice, but gives it never the less, but like his facts it is not altogether sound."
By this time the storm had blown over on Allan Hughan's part....he was many miles away up the Western Australian coast, dedicating himself to his latest money making venture....pearling!

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