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Falkiner, George Brereton Sadleir (1907–1961)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

George Brereton Sadleir Falkiner (1907-1961), by Sam Hood

George Brereton Sadleir Falkiner (1907-1961), by Sam Hood

State Library of New South Wales, Home and Away - 3174

George Brereton Sadleir Falkiner (1907-1961), sheep breeder, was born on 12 February 1907 at Royal Park, Melbourne, third child and elder son of Victorian-born parents Franc Brereton Sadleir Falkiner, sheep breeder, and his wife Ethel Elizabeth, née Howat. George was educated at Geelong Church of England Grammar School and at St Paul's College, University of Sydney (B.E., 1931), where he specialized in engineering technology and was a member of the rifle team that won two intervarsity competitions and the Imperial Universities' Rifle Match in 1929. When his father died that year, Falkiner took over Haddon Rig, an 82,000-acre (33,185 ha) property near Warren. In 1930 he gained a pilot's licence. After experiencing drought, debt and the Depression, when he brought dead wool home 'at about three bob a time', by the late 1930s he had spent £45,000 on improvements, including an airstrip, and Haddon Rig was operating profitably.

Returning from the United States of America after the outbreak of World War II, Falkiner set up and was chairman of Turner Parachute Pty Ltd which made 25,000 parachutes for dropping supplies in New Guinea. He was also chairman of York Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (Australasia) Pty Ltd which delivered defence equipment worth nearly £1 million. Twice rejected in 1941 for the Royal Australian Air Force because of deafness, he voluntarily flew for the Allied Works Council and in connection with the anti-aircraft defences of Sydney.

A ready innovator who was fascinated by technology, Falkiner took a keen, practical interest in a wide range of activities, including rain-making experiments, fire-fighting equipment, soil conservation, artificial stock-insemination and the scientific measurement of wool. He was one of the first studmasters to employ a resident veterinarian. An expert pilot and winner of numerous flying-trophies, he was a pioneer of rural air transport and from 1946 sent his rams by air to the Sydney sales. He had an office in O'Connell Street, Sydney: in addition to six company directorships, among them the clothing firm Scamp Pty Ltd, he ran an import-export business in partnership with his friend Clive Caldwell, a wartime flying-ace. On 2 June 1949 at the King's Chapel of St John the Baptist, Savoy, London, Falkiner married Pauline Arnold Weir (1922-1977), a well-known equestrienne from Bowning.

In 1954 he gave £50,000 to the University of Sydney to establish a nuclear research laboratory in memory of his father. George Falkiner was governor of the university's Nuclear Research Foundation. In 1955 he received an honorary D.Sc.

An indefatigable spokesman, writer and publicist for the wool industry, Falkiner travelled throughout the world studying the latest developments; he gave money to support wool research and promotion, strongly opposed the ban on the export of merino rams and advocated that Australian wool should be marketed abroad under a distinctive trade name. He was a council-member (from 1932), president (1958-61) and a life-member of the New South Wales Sheepbreeders' Association; in 1959 he helped to found and was first president of the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders. That year he gave seventy stud rams to soldier settlers. Falkiner's enterprise and progressive thinking, backed by the skills of his general manager A. B. Ramsay and sheepclasser Malcolm McLeod, made Haddon Rig a cornerstone of the Australian wool industry and the most famous medium-strong wool merino stud in the world. In 1960 Haddon Rig topped the aggregate at the Sydney ram sales for the twentieth successive year and two rams, sold for £7350 and £8715, set world record prices. By the 1960s Haddon Rig blood accounted for 35 per cent of Australian merinos.

Short and stocky, outwardly serious, but with a good sense of humour, 'G.B.S.' enjoyed a flamboyant social life. In addition to the Australian Jockey, Sydney Turf and sundry picnic race clubs, he belonged to the Australian, University and Royal Sydney Golf clubs, and to the Royal Aero Club of New South Wales. Survived by his wife, two daughters and 6-year-old son, Falkiner died of cancer on 15 October 1961 in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney; following a service at St Mark's Anglican Church, Darling Point, he was cremated and his ashes were scattered at Haddon Rig. His estate was sworn for probate at £766,629. As he willed, his pastoral interests were carried on by his executors as a company, with his wife as 'general supervisor' until their son attained the age of 23. A dispute over death duties was resolved in November 1972 when the Privy Council found against the executors.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Falkiner, Haddon Rig, the First Hundred Years (Syd, 1981)
  • C. Massy, The Australian Merino (Melb, 1990)
  • Pastoral Review, 16 Feb 1933, 16 Aug 1934, 17 Feb, 18 Nov 1961
  • Australian Quarterly, 22, June 1960, p 17
  • Corian, Dec 1961, p 260
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23, 29 May 1936, 13 July 1939, 27 July 1940, 7, 8 Apr 1943, 6, 8 Feb 1945, 10 June 1947, 31 May 1949, 2 June 1950, 4 Dec 1953, 6, 14 Mar 1954, 6, 19, 20, 28 May, 3 June 1955, 6, 24 Jan, 10 June, 7 July 1959, 4 Jan, 2, 3, 9 Mar, 16 Apr, 30 May, 18, 23 Aug 1960, 11, 15, 22, 25 Feb, 23, 30, 31 May, 2 June, 18, 30 Sept, 16, 17 Oct 1961, 6 Mar 1969, 12, 15 July, 9 Nov 1972, 4 Sept 1977.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Falkiner, George Brereton Sadleir (1907–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/falkiner-george-brereton-sadleir-10148/text17921, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 31 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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