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Quinn, John (1864–1937)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

John Quinn (1864-1937), sheepdog expert and veterinary surgeon, was born on 7 June 1864 at Boorowa, New South Wales, sixth son of Patrick Quinn (d.1891), farmer and grazier, and his wife Mary, née Brophy, both from Tipperary, Ireland. After living at Mount Bolaro in the Mirrool district, where John began to work sheepdogs, he moved with his parents in 1874 to Springfield, a 2370-acre (959 ha) sheep property near Stockinbingal. On 29 April 1884 at Springfield he married Elizabeth Mulcahy, who bore him a son and two daughters. The marriage was dissolved in August 1896 and at St Paul's Anglican Church, Temora, he married Florence May Crisp on 16 September.

In 1890 at Temora he had won his first sheepdog trial with a black-and-tan kelpie, Clyde. With Clyde and the bitch Jess, both Willis kelpies from Junee, Quinn began his famous blue-kelpie strain. About 1904 he sold Springfield and began an agency business at Cootamundra, for a time in partnership with J. T. Renehan, operating as 'The Pastoral Exchange', auctioneers, stock, station and financial agents. He also practised as a veterinary surgeon, especially after 1916, and registered on 4 July 1924 under the Veterinary Surgeons' Act (1923).

Quinn's most renowned dog was Coil, a blue kelpie sired by Clyde. According to the Bulletin 'Coil was to the dog world what Victor Trumper was to cricket'! In 1898 Coil won the New South Wales Sheepbreeders' Association Trial in Sydney scoring the maximum hundred points and repeated the feat with a broken leg (set in cork splints) next day. Coil won numerous trials and featured in a series of photographs for C. B. King and A. E. McLeod demonstrating the eye and control of the kelpie by working a chicken into a jam-tin.

In August 1901 Quinn won the first Federal Sheepdog Trial at Geelong, Victoria, with Wallace, the only dog that completed the demanding course. In July 1903 the 'immortal Coil' (Kaleski's title) and a little later Wallace were sold to King & McLeod's stud at Canonbar, near Nyngan, where they produced a noted breed of prize-winning working dogs. Quinn went into partnership, breeding, training and exhibiting sheepdogs with O. Keith of Cullinga. For almost thirty years he judged trials and shows all over the State including the important Sydney fixture, his decisions invariably giving 'general satisfaction'. At the Sydney trials in June 1928 the governor-general Lord Stonehaven presented him with a silver salver and a wallet of banknotes donated by sheepdog enthusiasts in recognition of his work.

Burly, yet gentle, unassuming and suspected of 'speaking the language of dogs', Quinn was an outstanding developer of the kelpie which has contributed so much to the success of the Australian wool industry. He died of septicaemia at Cootamundra on 18 January 1937 and was buried in the Catholic cemetery. His wife, their two sons and three daughters and the children of his first marriage survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • R. L. Kaleski, Australian Barkers and Biters (Syd, 1933)
  • Pastoral Review, 15 July 1898, 15 Aug 1901, 16 Feb 1937
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 4 July 1898, 22 Jan 1937
  • Referee (Sydney), 6 July 1898
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 17 Aug 1901, 14 Nov 1903, 9 July 1904, 6 July 1918, 22 May 1923, 14 June 1928, 8 July 1933
  • Bulletin, 3 Feb 1937.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Quinn, John (1864–1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 28 November 2022.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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