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Hugh Robert Munro (1862–1958)

by Jillian Oppenheimer

This article was published:

Hugh Robert Munro (1862-1958), pastoralist, was born on 14 February 1862 at Keera, Bingara, New South Wales, youngest of ten children of Donald Munro (d.1866), and his wife Margaret, née McPherson. His parents and four children had migrated from Dingwall, Scotland, in 1848 and had bought Keera in 1858. After being tutored at home, Hugh was educated at Newington College, Sydney. At 19 he was managing Keera while his elder brothers developed their own pastoral partnership.

In 1885 Munro joined Thomas Cook of Turanville, Scone, as junior partner and general manager of T. Cook & Co. To Cook's 380,000 acres (153,782 ha) he added the 250,000 acres (101,172 ha) of Keera. For more efficient breeding and fattening of cattle on a large scale, they sold five stations and bought Oakhurst near Boggabilla, Gundibri near Merriwa, and Moogoon and Wyaga near Goondiwindi, in Queensland. Munro actively encouraged the export of chilled beef to Britain: he was chairman of the Australian Chilling & Freezing Co. Ltd at Aberdeen and a director of Pitt, Son & Badgery Ltd in Sydney. When Cook died in 1912 Munro bought Oakhurst, Wyaga and Gundibri from his estate. He had married Grace Emily Gordon on 14 July 1898 at Warialda. With his sons he later formed the Gundibri Estate Co. Pty Ltd, the Dingwall Pastoral Co. and the Keera Pastoral Co.

An authority on breeding beef-cattle and horses, Munro imported Shorthorn and Aberdeen Angus cattle from the United States of America, Scotland and New Zealand and used the Angus-Shorthorn cross to produce high-quality steers for market, winning numerous prizes at livestock shows. He founded the Wyaga merino sheep and Oakhurst poll merino studs; he also bred Canadian Berkshire pigs. He was for many years chairman of the Warialda Pastures Protection Board and a council-member of the Graziers' Association of New South Wales.

Chairman of the Northern and North Western Racing Association and a member of the Australian Jockey Club, Munro imported the stallion, Thespian, from New Zealand and successfully bred and raced horses throughout New South Wales and Queensland for seventy-six years. His biggest wins were the A.J.C. Metropolitan in 1921 with Laddie Blue and the Doncaster in 1931 with Sir Chrystopher. As a young man he rode his own horses at picnic race meetings: later such famous jockeys as Myles Connell and Jim Munro rode for him. He was patron of many country and picnic race-clubs as well as the Inverell Polo Club.

Munro was a staunch Presbyterian: he financially supported churches at Bingara and Canberra, St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital in Brisbane, and Rev. John Flynn's Aerial Medical Service. After World War I he made part of Keera available for soldier settlement and after World War II part of Gundibri and all of Cubbaroo.

Munro was tall, with twinkling blue eyes and waxed moustache and often wore a topee and leggings. He loved Scottish literature, especially the works of Scott and Burns and their Australian counterparts A. L. Gordon and A. B. Paterson. Rarely at home at Keera for more than a few days, he travelled constantly—and, although a member of the Australian and Royal Sydney Golf clubs, used the Australia Hotel as his Sydney base.

Survived by his wife, daughter and two sons, Munro died on 14 February 1958, his ninety-sixth birthday, at his daughter's home at Walcha, where he had flown to attend a race meeting at which his horse won. He was buried in the Presbyterian section of Bingara cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £194,616. A portrait of Munro by Gundars Eglentals is held by his family.

Select Bibliography

  • H. G. Lamond, From Tariaro to Ross Roy (Brisb, nd)
  • G. N. Griffiths, Some Northern Homes of New South Wales (Syd, 1954)
  • H. G. Munro (compiler), The Monument at Keera (Bingara, NSW, 1960)
  • N. Gray, Thomas Cook of Turanville (Scone, NSW, 1977)
  • Pastoral Review, 17 Mar 1958
  • Northern Daily Leader, 20 Feb 1958
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Jillian Oppenheimer, 'Munro, Hugh Robert (1862–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 26 February 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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