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Brisbane, William Peter (1866–1925)

by L. Lomas

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

William Peter Brisbane (1866-1925), breeder and judge of dairy cattle, was born on 7 June 1866 at Berwick, Victoria, son of James Grimmond Brisbane, cattle-breeder, and his wife Elizabeth, née Brisbane, both from Perthshire, Scotland. From the age of 12 William took cattle to the National Agricultural Society's Melbourne show unaided and returned with trophies to present to his father.

Brisbane's career reflects the progress of the Victorian dairying and butter industries. At 19 he took charge of Richard Gibson's Ayrshire stud at Tullamarine. When Gibson died and the best of the herd was purchased by W. B. Cumming, Brisbane went with them as manager to the grazing property of Mount Fyans, near Camperdown. Depressed wool prices in the early 1890s and the foundation of local butter factories induced many graziers to establish dairy herds on portions of their runs. Through Brisbane's judicious importations from Scotland and skill in selection, Cummings Ayrshires won six consecutive championships at the Royal Agricultural Society's show in Melbourne.

Aspiring to a property of his own, Brisbane approached Edward Manifold who in 1896 offered him leasehold of a farm of 300 acres (121 ha) at Weerite east of Camperdown. The association with Cumming was retained—he received the benefit of Brisbane's knowledge of the breeder's art and Brisbane initiated his own herd with blood lines which originated at the Duke of Buccleuch's famous Scottish stud. Pressure of land taxation in 1911 provoked Manifold to sell his land to his tenants; Brisbane bought his farm, eventually named Gowrie Park, on generous terms.

In 1906, when dairying was still at a pioneering stage, and when farmers cared little about selection of breeding animals, Brisbane purchased a sire, Lessnessock, imported from the Scottish stud of A. Montgomery of Ochiltree. As well as winning the champion's ribbon four times at the Melbourne show, and once at the Sydney show, Lessnessock stock lifted the quality of dairy cattle throughout Australasia and the Pacific islands. Scottish Queen, a three-year-old Lessnessock descendant, topped the Victorian government herd test in 1913-14, and next year Linda of Gowrie Park won again. In 1913-14 thirty-five Gowrie Park Ayrshires easily doubled the average butter-fat figure for Victorian dairy cows. Brisbane's grasp of dairy husbandry went beyond breeding: he was an early advocate of better feeding through pasture improvement, recognizing, in particular, the advantages of subterranean clover before many farmers could even identify it.

A big, bluff, cheerful and outspoken man, Brisbane was well known at show rings throughout Australia as a cattle judge. He was also a councillor of the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, taking an active part in organizing the annual exhibitions. He served the Camperdown community as a justice of the peace and a master of the Masonic lodge. His concern for dairymen of the future is illustrated by the advice and gifts of valuable stock to the Geelong Calf Clubs from which the Young Farmer movement developed. Brisbane died suddenly of heart failure on his property on 26 June 1925 and was buried in Camperdown cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £26,652. On 23 December 1895 at the Portarlington Presbyterian manse he had married Mary Campbell. She survived him, together with their two sons who for many years maintained the reputation of the Ayrshire cattle of Gowrie Park.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 2 (Melb, 1904)
  • Camperdown Chronicle, 12 Oct 1922, 30 June 1925
  • Terang Express, 7 Dec 1923
  • Colac Herald, 29 June 1925
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 4 July 1925
  • closer settlement files, Leslie Manor estate (Lands Dept, Victoria,)
  • private information.

Citation details

L. Lomas, 'Brisbane, William Peter (1866–1925)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brisbane-william-peter-5361/text9067, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 13 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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