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Caroline Mary McLean (1883–1965)

by Zita Denholm

This article was published:

Caroline Mary McLean (1883-1965), pony-breeder, was born on 8 May 1883 at Murrumburrah, New South Wales, second child and elder daughter of English-born parents George Charles Knight Gregson, bank clerk and later grazier, and his wife Charlotte Louise, née Hughes. Charlotte had attended a finishing-school in Switzerland and supervised her children's education. Caroline was raised at Cunningham Plains station, near Harden, and became an expert horsewoman. On 18 January 1912 at St Paul's Anglican Church, Murrumburrah, she married Stephen Norman McLean (d.1955), a surveyor and engineer. She accompanied him to Papua where he was appointed assistant government surveyor. In 1914, pregnant with her elder daughter, she returned to Sydney. Her husband transferred from the Militia to the Australian Imperial Force and sailed for Egypt in 1915, soon after their second daughter was born. Captain McLean served with the 2nd Light Horse Regiment and returned to Australia on 4 March 1919.

Having bought a house at Burradoo in 1917, Caroline moved there with her daughters. In 1922 she and Stephen acquired the residue of a ninety-nine-year lease of Burradoo Park, 173 acres (70 ha) on the Wingecarribee River. Mrs McLean separated from her husband—who had returned to Papua to search for oil—in 1928; they were to be divorced in 1943. In 1930 she established a pony stud at Burradoo. She had two good, unregistered pony mares and purchased another, Fraser's Dolly, whose parentage was recorded.

Mrs McLean mated Dolly with Retford Prince, a colt bred by Sir Samuel Hordern from the imported Welsh sire, Greylight, and an Australian mare. The colt, Burradoo Rex (foaled 1930), was to be an influential force in the establishment of the 'Standard of Excellence' for the Australian pony. He sired numerous champion progeny, and won many awards at local shows and in Sydney. Mrs McLean experimented successfully with close- and line-breeding. Burradoo Gay, by Burradoo Rex out of another of his fillies, Burradoo Bonny, was outstandingly successful, both in the show ring and at stud. A prolific sire of sound ponies, Burradoo Rex died in the autumn of 1963. His last crop of foals was born in the following spring.

Throughout 1930 Mrs McLean worked to assist in the formation of the body which, in 1931, became known as the Australian Pony Stud Book Society. She remained a member until her death. Caroline and her elder daughter Jean (who had developed her own Berrima pony stud) helped to arrange the export of Australian ponies to the United States of America, where Burradoo Rex lines were highly prized. They also exported to New Zealand. There were Burradoo ponies in studs throughout the mainland States.

Caroline McLean died on 29 March 1965 at her Burradoo home and was buried in the Anglican section of Bowral cemetery; her daughters survived her. The Mrs C. M. McLean trophy, presented to the supreme champion Australian pony at the Royal Easter Show, Sydney, commemorates her work. The stud was dispersed in 1977.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Pony Stud Book, vols 1-4
  • L. Howlett, Ponies in Australia (Syd, 1979)
  • L. Howlett, Complete Book of Ponies (Syd, 1984, 1986, 1989)
  • private information.

Citation details

Zita Denholm, 'McLean, Caroline Mary (1883–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 29 February 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]

Alternative Names
  • Gregson, Caroline

8 May, 1883
Murrumburrah, New South Wales, Australia


29 March, 1965 (aged 81)
Burradoo, New South Wales, Australia

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