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Mills, Andrew Agnew Neilson (1881–1967)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Andrew Agnew Neilson Mills (1881-1967), grazier and studmaster, was born on 1 May 1881 at Uardry station, near Carrathool, New South Wales, fifth child of Scottish-born parents Charles Mills, squatter, and his wife Margaret, née Ainslie. Neilson was educated privately, save for a final year (1896) at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore). On the death of his eldest brother Ainslie in 1908, he took charge of the property, then mortgaged for £100,000 due to the depression, the 'long drought' and a rabbit plague. He improved the stud flock by judicious infusions of Boonoke, Haddon Rig and Wanganella blood, and soon discharged the debt.

After his father died in 1916, Mills became chairman of Charles Mills (Uardry) Ltd, and in 1919 bought part of Old Burrabogie station. He renamed it Pembelgong and in February 1921 formed the Uardry-Pembelgong stud, based on Wanganella rams. In 1926 the company acquired the adjacent Burrabogie station (21,000 acres, 8498 ha) for £60,000, enabling Mills to develop Uardry as a major parent stud. During this time he popularized the term 'Peppin' for sheep with Boonoke or Wanganella blood. At the Presbyterian Church, Hay, on 6 April 1921 he had married 20-year-old Frances Mary ('Toby') Gleeson.

Mills soon had outstanding success at the Sydney Sheep Show: he won grand championship ram (1923, 1925), ewe (1927) and in 1932 'Uardry 0.1' was champion strong wool and grand champion ram. This famous merino's effigy adorned (1938-66) the reverse of the Australian one-shilling coin. In 1932, using Uardry merinos, Mills founded Wahwoon Nos 1 and 2 studs which traded as A. A. Neilson Mills & Son from 1936 and bred the 1946 grand champion ram. Although he studied genetics, he depended in part on the advice of such friends and notable classers as J. C. Darke, W. J. McCarthy and Harold Watson.

Separation of the family interests in Charles Mills (Uardry) Ltd took place in 1938. Neilson received 56 per cent of the company's assets. Moving to Burrabogie, he established Burrabogie (Flock No.844) and Mulbogie (Flock No.859) studs, respectively from the division of the Uardry and Pembelgong stud flocks. He continued to breed Uardry-type sheep and his studs were influential well into the 1950s. In 1961 he was appointed O.B.E. His ill health forced the dispersal and deregistration of the Wahwoon-Burrabogie studs in October 1966 when the stock grossed $280,000: the top price ($1300) for a ram was paid by Charles Mills (Uardry) Ltd.

Tall, handsome and athletic, Mills played cricket and polo in his youth. He was an early member of the Waradgery Club, Hay, and a founder (1900) of the Riverina Picnic Race Club. As a member (1911-34) and president (1912-15 and 1922-23) of Carrathool Shire Council and president of the Pastures Protection Board, Hay district, he successfully opposed moves to carve up the strategic Booligal-Deniliquin stock route. He also opposed the ban on the export of merino rams. Survived by his wife and son, he died on 16 January 1967 at Hay and was buried in the local cemetery. Mills bequeathed to woolgrowers a valuable source of Peppin genes that produced high quality, dense wool.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Massy, The Australian Merino (Melb, 1990)
  • G. Walsh, Pioneering Days (Syd, 1993)
  • New South Wales Sheepbreeders' Assn, The Australian Merino (Syd, 1955) and Australian Stud Merino Flock Register, 33, 1956
  • Pastoral Review, 16 Oct 1923, 15 Dec 1928, 16 June 1944, 18 July 1962, 15 Sept, 18 Oct 1966, 24 Feb 1967
  • Australasian, 15 June 1912, 19 Apr 1919, 23 Oct 1920, 28 June 1924, 20 June 1925
  • Land (Sydney), 19 Jan 1967, 21 May 1992, 16 Mar 1995.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Mills, Andrew Agnew Neilson (1881–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mills-andrew-agnew-neilson-11129/text19819, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 25 March 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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