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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Macartney, John Arthur (1834–1917)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

John Arthur Macartney (1834-1917), pastoralist and horseman, was born on 5 April 1834 at Creagh, County Cork, Ireland, son of Rev. H. B. Macartney and his wife Jane, née Hardman. Educated at Lucan School and by private tutors in Dublin, he arrived at Melbourne in the Stag with his family in 1848.

Macartney continued his education with private tutors and then entered the legal office of Charles Sladen at Geelong. After twelve months he resigned and drifted around Victoria, spending some time on the goldfields. In 1852 he was appointed judge-associate to Redmond Barry but resigned after eighteen months to take up his first station at Wondilligong on the Ovens River. In 1857 he took Edward Graves Mayne of Beechworth as a partner and in September left for Queensland, where he took up Waverley run near Rockhampton early in 1859. He soon became a legend, both as a horseman and as a collector of runs. He is said to have regularly ridden the 125 miles (201 km) from Waverley to Rockhampton in one day, carried out all necessary business and retraced the 125 miles (201 km) next day. At various times he held twenty-five stations and four lesser properties in Queensland as well as four major runs in the Northern Territory. In long rides seeking land he explored much of Queensland and early in 1880 became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. His partnership with Mayne was dissolved in 1884 and in 1887 he joined forces with Hugh Louis Heber-Percy, nephew of the fifth Duke of Northumberland.

Macartney took on a mail contract and, because of his passion for riding, neglected his stations to do the work himself. In 1893 the partners were in difficulties and lost many of their holdings. Macartney sought employment as a station manager. When told that he was too old, he is said to have vaulted over a table and thereby secured the job. He had returned to Melbourne in 1861 to marry on 4 January Anne Flora, daughter of A. C. Wallace-Dunlop, member of the Victorian Legislative Council in 1851-52. His autobiography Rockhampton fifty years ago, reminiscences of a pioneer was published in 1909. Predeceased by his wife, he died on 10 July 1917 at Ormiston House, Cleveland, survived by four daughters and two of his four sons.

Select Bibliography

  • M. J. Fox (ed), The History of Queensland, vol 1 (Brisb, 1909)
  • Jack cutting book no 10 (State Library of Queensland)
  • biographical cuttings (State Library of Queensland).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Macartney, John Arthur (1834–1917)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 30 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

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