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Sir Philip Belmont Charley (1893–1976)

by Hilary Weatherburn

This article was published:

Sir Philip Belmont Charley (1893-1976), dairy farmer, was born on 28 December 1893 at Belmont Park, Richmond, New South Wales, third child and eldest son of Philip George Charley (1863-1937), a Victorian-born horse- and cattle-breeder, and his wife Clara, née Ewens, from Adelaide. Philip senior belonged to the original seven-man Broken Hill syndicate. He sold half his shares in 1886 and in 1891 purchased the historic property of Belmont at Richmond Hill, where he built an Italianate sandstone mansion, and imported, bred and exhibited Cleveland Bays, English hackney horses, Norfolk red polled cattle, and Lincoln and Shropshire sheep. The holder of extensive properties, Charley was president of the Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association, and a vice-president of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales and of the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society and Hospital. He died at Rose Bay on 31 August 1937; his wife, five sons and three daughters survived him.

Philip junior attended Barker College, Hornsby, in 1908-11. A senior prefect in his final year, he was one of the cadets chosen to attend King George V's coronation in 1911. He worked at Belmont Park before accompanying (Sir) Sidney Kidman on a motorcar trip in 1914 to the latter's Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australian stations. On 8 September 1915 Charley enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was posted to the 5th Field Artillery Brigade. From March 1916 he served in France as a driver and later as a signaller. Following leave in England, he qualified as an observer and was commissioned in the Australian Flying Corps on 23 June 1917. He served in France at headquarters, No.1 Wing, and returned to Australia in June 1919 where his appointment terminated on 11 August.

Charley began farming in 1919 at Clarendon Park, Richmond, a gift from his father. Constant flooding forced him to turn from market gardening to dairying. On 18 October 1923 at St Andrew's Anglican Church, Walcha, he married Norma Margaret (d.1956), daughter of James Nivison of Ohio station. The young couple lived in old Belmont Cottage. After the sale of Belmont Park in 1936, they bought Claremont Cottage, Windsor, first occupied in 1796. Like his father, Charley was active in district affairs. President (for twenty-eight years) of the Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association, he served as an alderman (1925-28) on Richmond Municipal Council and was a director of the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society. From 1939 he supplied milk to the Royal Australian Air Force base at Richmond. During World War II he served as an acting flight lieutenant, R.A.A.F., administering the Air Training Corps, and was deputy-president of a war agriculture committee.

Elected to the council of the Royal Agricultural Society in 1938, Charley was a member of the executive, chairman (1954-65) of the horse section committee, and served on its building and works, cattle, and publicity committees. He was assistant ringmaster (1947-53) and ringmaster (1954-59) at the Royal Easter Show, Sydney, a vice-president (from 1951) of the council, deputy-president (1964) and president (1965). Universally popular, he sought to strengthen the ties between country agricultural associations and the R.A.S., as well as between the R.A.S. and the wider community. He was knighted in 1968. In July next year he sadly retired from 'his life's prime interest' and became vice-patron of the society. He belonged to the Imperial Service and Union clubs, and was president of the Richmond Ex-Servicemen's Club. At St James's Church, Turramurra, on 21 December 1957 Charley had married Myfanwy Ison Rickard, née Page, a widow and a real-estate agent. In the early 1970s they moved to Wahroonga. Survived by his wife, and by the son and three daughters of his first marriage, Sir Philip died there on 7 February 1976 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Richardson & Wrench, Claremont Cottage 1796-1926 (Windsor, NSW, c1926)
  • D. G. Bowd, Macquarie Country (Melb, 1969)
  • G. Mant, The Big Show (Syd, 1972)
  • S. Braga, Barker College (Syd, 1978)
  • B. H. Fletcher, The Grand Parade (Syd, 1988)
  • J. Oppenheimer and B. Mitchell, Abraham's Tribe (Walcha, NSW, 1989)
  • Royal Agricultural Society (New South Wales), RAS Annual, 1906-21
  • Royal Agricultural Society (New South Wales), Official Catalog of Royal Easter Show, 1947-66
  • Hawkesbury Benevolent Society and Hospital, Annual Report, 1936-56
  • Pastoral Review, 19 Nov 1965
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 20 Sept 1966, 1 Jan 1968, 30 July 1969, 10 Feb 1976
  • Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 26 Oct 1923, 3, 10 Sept 1937, 20 June 1956, 10 Jan 1968, 6 Aug 1969
  • Country Life, 1 Aug 1969, 11-17 Feb 1976
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Hilary Weatherburn, 'Charley, Sir Philip Belmont (1893–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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