Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Agnes Buntine (1822–1896)

by Kate Darian-Smith

This article was published:

Agnes Buntine (c.1822-1896), pastoralist and bullocky, was born at Glasgow, Scotland, eldest of six children of John Davidson, crofter, and his wife Sarah, née Wallace. The family left Scotland in December 1839, probably at the urging of brick and tile maker Hugh Buntine (1803-1867), a former neighbour at Little Netheraith, Ayrshire, who had emigrated in 1838 with his wife Mary and five children. Mary had died of typhoid in Sydney quarantine station and Hugh had moved to Melbourne, purchasing farming land on the Richmond Flats. In April 1840, when the Davidsons arrived in the barque, Glenhuntly, Buntine arranged employment for the parents. Agnes worked locally as a dairymaid then married Hugh on 30 October in Melbourne with Presbyterian forms.

The Buntines established a dairy farm on Merri Creek then, attracted by the prospect of fertile land in Gippsland, they built a hut near Port Albert in July 1841. In September Agnes gave birth to Albert, thought to be the first white child born in Gippsland. After running cattle and a small inn at Morris Creek, outside Tarraville, by 1845 the couple established Bruthen Creek station—almost 8000 acres (3240 ha). Five more children were born between 1843 and 1855. To supplement their income, Hugh opened a slab-and-bark public house, The Bush Inn, on land adjoining the road to Sale. Agnes acquired a bullock team and began to transport stores. In 1851 she carried a load of butter and cheese from Port Albert across the mountains to Forest Creek on the Sandhurst (Bendigo) goldfields. She opened a store there, and later at the McIvor diggings, returning in 1853 to Bruthen Creek. By 1858 they had moved to a farm at Flynns Creek, near Rosedale. Hugh was ill; Agnes supported her family through the bullocky business, eventually carrying goods from Melbourne throughout Gippsland, though unwilling to undertake long trips. When gold was discovered at Walhalla in 1862 she was the first to transport supplies to the township over difficult terrain, and the next day slaughtered a bullock to feed the miners.

After Hugh's death, 'Mother' Buntine continued to operate her bullock teams and the property. On 17 February 1873 at Sale, with Presbyterian forms, she married 29-year-old Michael Dawe Hallett, an English-born farmer, and retired as a bullocky, the couple continuing to farm at Flynns Creek. Known as an intrepid rider, bushwoman and farm-worker in her youth, Agnes was described in later years as a 'big rough looking woman', eccentrically dressed in short skirts, long leather leggings, thick blucher boots, and a loose jumper adorned by a bright neckerchief. She smoked an old, black, plug pipe. While contemporaries stressed her modesty and kindness, they also commented (admiringly) on her liberal use of a stockwhip on local Aborigines and insolent or drunk white men. Through an unconventional role for a woman, she exemplified the colonial drive for social and economic mobility, working hard to secure a better future for her descendants, and by extension for Gippsland settlers.

Agnes died on 29 February 1896 in Gippsland Hospital, Sale, survived by her husband and by one son and three daughters of her first marriage. She was buried alongside her first husband in the Presbyterian section of Rosedale cemetery. Many of her children and stepchildren settled as small landowners around south Gippsland; William Buntine, known as 'Talone Ordell', actor and writer, was a grandson.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Dunderdale, The Book of the Bush (Lond, 1870)
  • L. Braden, Bullockies (Adel, 1968)
  • Morwell Advertiser, 6 Mar 1896, p 2
  • J. D. Buntine, Hugh Buntine of Gippsland: A Brief Family Survey (manuscript, 1979, held at Royal Historical Society of Victoria)
  • W. J. Pickard, Agnes Buntine (manuscript, 1990, held at King’s School, Sydney).

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Kate Darian-Smith, 'Buntine, Agnes (1822–1896)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Davidson, Agnes

Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland


29 February, 1896 (aged ~ 74)
Sale, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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