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Wrenford John Mathews (1903–1967)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Wrenford John Ogilvie Mathews

Wrenford John Ogilvie Henry Mathews (1874-1954), wool expert and sheepclasser, and Wrenford John Mathews (1903-1967), sheepclasser and studmaster, were father and son. Mathews senior, later known as J. Wrenford Mathews, was born on 30 June 1874 at Morrisons, Shire of Ballan, Victoria, son of Wrenford Herbert Mathews, a farmer from England, and his wife Edith Ann, née Bowler, who was born at sea. After gaining a diploma in wool-growing and woolclassing from the Working Men's College, Melbourne, he joined in turn Joseph Gill & Co. and William Haughton & Co. On 29 July 1903 at the Presbyterian manse, Clifton Hill, he married Isobel Catherine Josephine Zevenboom.

From 1905 Mathews was wool instructor at the School of Mines and Industries, Adelaide, and lecturer in sheep-breeding and wool-growing at Roseworthy Agricultural College. In August 1909 he was appointed sheep and wool expert and instructor in the New South Wales Department of Agriculture on an annual salary of £400; he lectured at the Hawkesbury Agricultural College and at various government farm schools throughout the State, and wrote for the Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales.

On his retirement in November 1920, Mathews was presented with a gold watch and matchbox by W. F. Dunn, the minister for agriculture. That year he began his own merino stud on Wahroonga, Nevertire, with 400 ewes from E. E. I. Body of Bundemar, Trangie. In 1921 he joined Bundemar on a retainer-salary as chief classer of its stud and of its clients' flocks throughout eastern Australia. He judged merinos at most leading sheep shows, and was also an authority on British breeds. Survived by his three sons and twin daughters, Mathews died on 11 October 1954 at Killara, Sydney, and was cremated with Anglican rites.

His eldest son Wrenford John was born on 14 July 1903 at Collingwood, Melbourne. Leaving school at 17, Wrenford jackerooed on Toora, Nevertire, New South Wales, before taking charge of Wahroonga. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 7 January 1942, served in the Northern Australia Observer Unit (1942-44) and with training battalions, and was discharged on 26 November 1945. At St Philip's Anglican Church, Sydney, on 2 June 1949 he married Edna Patricia Joan Elwin, a 28-year-old nurse.

With an avid interest in genetics, Mathews made a thorough study of wool and paid particular attention to the various requirements of its manufacturers. Under natural conditions, in low-rainfall country timbered with wilga, myall and box, he concentrated on breeding big, plain-bodied rams of great stamina which produced high-yielding, soft-handling, medium-to-strong wool. In addition to classing his own rams and his clients' flocks, he personally selected many of their rams. He also classed at Bundemar, and for its clients. J. Wrenford Mathews & Sons Pty Ltd was formed in March 1954 to take over the Wahroonga stud (Flock no.1961); Wrenford became managing director and his brothers directors. In 1966 the stud's operations were extended by the formation of a partnership with N. M. Kater, styled Mathews Kater & Co. Mathews' unfailing courtesy, loyalty and cheerfulness endeared him to many. Survived by his wife, son and two daughters, he died of a coronary occlusion on 25 March 1967 at Wahroonga, Nevertire, and was cremated with Presbyterian forms.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Massy, The Australian Merino (Melb, 1990)
  • G. Walsh, Pioneering Days (Syd, 1993)
  • Pastoral Review, 16 July, 16 Dec 1920, 15 Jan 1921, 16 Nov 1954, 16 July 1957, 19 Apr 1967
  • Australian Stud Merino Flock Register, 42, 1965
  • private information.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Mathews, Wrenford John (1903–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 July, 1903
Collingwood, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


25 March, 1967 (aged 63)
Nevertire, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.