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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Brunskill, Anthony (1859–1936)

by John Atchison

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

Anthony Brunskill, by Creelman, c.1910

Anthony Brunskill, by Creelman, c.1910

Anthony Brunskill (1859-1936), farmer, was born on 6 December 1859 at Maulds Meaburn, Westmorland, England, eldest son of George Brunskill, farmer, and his wife Mary Ann, née Norman. The family arrived in Sydney as assisted migrants in December 1877. Anthony worked on construction of the Junee-Bomen railway, then as a station-hand near Wagga Wagga for 25s. a week. Hard work and thrift enabled him to buy a three-horse team and plough after two years. His family settled at Wagga in 1879 and acquired a farm, Flowerdale. With his father and brother George, he contract-harvested wheat and oats with the reaping-hook until his father introduced the scythe and cradle to awed locals, who dubbed him 'Old Yankee'. On 24 July 1884, at near-by Lake Albert, Brunskill married Elizabeth Caroline Baker.

In 1888 he purchased 2300-acre (931 ha) Bon Accord with its own railway siding, and by 1890 had 1070 acres (433 ha) under cultivation. In 1892 Brunskill was also share-farming, growing hay for Sydney auctions. A pioneer in costing-practices and time-and-motion studies, he used 'mass production' techniques, in contrast to contemporary farming practices. In 1891 he won the Department of Agriculture's initial prize for the best-managed farm in the south-west. When conditions in the 1890s worsened, Brunskill sold Bon Accord to solve his financial problems.

He then bought Allonby, a 4800-acre (1942 ha) farm near Forest Hill and, by 1900, was the biggest wheat-grower in the district with 3000 acres (1214 ha). By his commonsense farming practices and system of stock management Brunskill made Allonby known all over Australia; the farm became one of the show-places of the Riverina. Brunskill's Border Leicester sheep-stud was among the best in New South Wales. In 1907 he won the Sydney Mail prize for the best farm in the southern districts. That year, with Telacon Lloyd, he paid £3632 for 1638 acres (663 ha), once part of Borambola station, and they co-operated in stock-dealing throughout eastern Australia. Brunskill's interests extended to part-ownership of Dunlop station, near Bourke. He was also chairman and managing director of Anthony Brunskill & Sons Ltd of Old Borambola station.

A tireless advocate and pioneer of fodder conservation, Brunskill was mainly responsible for the Royal Agricultural Society establishing its important fodder-conservation competitions, and was also a member of the New South Wales Sheepbreeders' Association in the 1920s. He was a member of the Murray Lands Advisory Committee in 1922 and of the Federal Pastoral Advisory Committee in 1928.

Brunskill was strongly interested in immigration; in 1910 he revisited Westmorland extolling the advantages of rural work in Australia. A big, sunburnt giant of a man, almost two metres tall, with black beard and massive shoulders, he made a remarkable impact. In 1924, the year his wool carried off honours at the Wembley Exhibition, he toured England's rural districts interviewing intending settlers for New South Wales.

Survived by his wife, four sons and two daughters, Brunskill died at Allonby on 11 December 1936 and was buried in the Methodist cemetery, Wagga Wagga. His estate was valued for probate at £46,908. His reputation as 'King of Fodder' described a perfectionist who produced hay of superlative quality.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Irvin, Early Inland Agriculture (Wagga Wagga, 1962)
  • K. Swan, A History of Wagga Wagga (Wagga Wagga, 1970)
  • Standing Committee on Public Works—Proposed Wagga-Humula Railway, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1902, vol 5
  • Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales, 12 (1901)
  • British Australasian, 4 Aug 1910
  • Pastoral Review, Jan 1937
  • Wagga Wagga Advertiser, 15 Nov 1890, 19 Jan 1892, 12, 14 Dec 1936
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Dec 1930, 12 Dec 1936
  • Land (Sydney), 18 Dec 1936
  • Goldsbrough Mort & Co. records, 2/145/56 (Australian National University Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

John Atchison, 'Brunskill, Anthony (1859–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 10 August 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 7

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