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Tully, Donald Robert (1897–1981)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Donald Robert Tully (1897-1981), grazier and sheepdog breeder and trainer, was born on 1 March 1897 at The Springs, Captains Flat, New South Wales, fifth son of six surviving children of David Thomas Tully (1852-1941), a grazier and native of Sutherland Shire, Scotland, and his second wife Mary Agnes, née Hughes, from Devon, England. Donald was educated by his mother, who had been a governess, and at local public schools. Qualifying as a wool classer at the East Sydney Technical College, as had his brothers, he classed clips on stations from central Queensland to the Monaro in New South Wales. For a period he worked for the shearing contractors, McInnes Bros, Queanbeyan.

When his father retired in 1928 from Carrinya, Mulloon, near Bungendore, Tully leased the land, sheep and cattle; he purchased the property in 1934. With his brother David in 1935 he acquired Murray’s Block, a former ex-serviceman’s property, near Mount Stromlo in the Federal (Australian) Capital Territory. In 1938 he moved to a 940-acre (380-ha) farm, Hill View, at Weetangerra in the Mount Painter area and the later Canberra suburb of Cook, where he ran sheep and cattle. At St Ninian’s Presbyterian Church, Canberra, on 22 May 1943 he married Weetangerra-born Thelma Jane Cameron.

Since the 1860s members of the Tully family had been station-managers in New South Wales and were closely associated with the development of the kelpie sheepdog, a breed with vital Scottish and Border District connections. For a time, the working dogs that they bred were called ‘Tullys’, rather than collies or kelpies. Tully’s father had been a respected sheepclasser and a judge of sheep, wool, and working dogs, and he had shared his knowledge with the small settlers of the Queanbeyan-Canberra district. In 1943 Donald was a founder of the National Sheep Dog Trials, held annually in Canberra. A successful competitor in the early years, he entered every national trial until he was over the age of 80.

As a rural landholder and grazier in the ACT, Tully faced an uncertain future as his land was subject to resumption for Canberra’s urban expansion. In 1967 he lost 500 acres (202 ha) of Hill View, for which he was paid $750 in compensation; one small block of this land realised $1400 at auction. Left with enough land to support about 500 sheep and 50 cattle, he kept up the Tully tradition of breeding and training sheepdogs, mainly border collies: ‘I am mad about dogs’, he said, ‘I have been all my life’. Predeceased by his wife and survived by their two sons, he died on 23 December 1981 at Aranda. After a funeral service at St Ninian’s Uniting Church, Lyneham, he was buried in the Woden cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Walsh, Pioneering Days (1993)
  • D. Duckett and M. Robson, Shepherds’ Journey (2000)
  • Canberra Times, 9 Sept 1970, p 3, 10 Dec 1977, p 12, 11 Jan 1982, p 7
  • private information.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Tully, Donald Robert (1897–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tully-donald-robert-15554/text26767, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 24 January 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

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