Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Donald Robert Tully (1897–1981)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

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,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 30 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


1 March, 1897
Captains Flat, New South Wales, Australia


23 December, 1981 (aged 84)
Aranda, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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.