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Tyrrell, Edward George Young (Dan) (1871–1959)

by Gil Wahlquist

This article was published:

Edward George Young (Dan) Tyrrell (1871-1959), vigneron, was born on 9 July 1871 at Owlpen, near Maitland, New South Wales, second of ten children of Edward Tyrrell, a vigneron from England, and his native-born wife Susan, née Hungerford. Edward senior had come to Australia in 1850 on the advice of his uncle William Tyrrell, the Anglican bishop of Newcastle. In 1858 Edward occupied Ashmans, 330 acres (134 ha) of limestone country at Pokolbin, where he built a slab hut. He planted vines in 1861. The cuttings were drawn from the collection planted by James Busby at Kirkton, a nearby property, in 1832. Edward had his first vintage in 1864. His eldest daughter Susan married William MacDonald who planted the Ben Ean vineyard. Only two of Edward's children stayed on Ashmans: young Edward, known as 'Dan', and Avery (b.1891).

Dan made his first wine in 1885 when he was 14 years of age and his last in 1959—seventy-four consecutive vintages. After his father died in 1909, he ran the winery while Avery cared for the vineyards. He continued the simple winemaking practices taught to him by his father, believed that earth floors helped wine to mature, and distrusted gadgets such as thermometers. When wine was fermenting during vintage, he tested its temperature by plunging his arm into the vat and relying on his judgement.

Philobert Terrier, who worked the Kaludah Winery and later St Helena, both at Lochinvar, exerted an early influence on Dan. For some years Dan ran the Kaludah Winery and vineyards as well as the Tyrrell Winery. He bought high quality grapes from other local growers for blending with his own, and sold most of his wine to merchants and other vignerons (particularly Maurice O'Shea) who retailed it under their own labels. When Avery's son Murray joined him at the winery in the 1950s, he tried to persuade Dan to bottle some wine under a Tyrrell label. The old man would not listen. He believed in doing things the way they had always been done.

Tyrrell, a bachelor, was 6 ft 5 ins (196 cm) tall and spare in build, with aquiline features. He had been a fine athlete in his youth and a crack shot. If he felt off colour, he took a hoe and worked in the vineyard 'to shake my liver up'. 'Hard work—it never hurt anybody', he often said, but 'work and worry . . . would kill anyone'. Another of his sayings was 'I want to wear out, not rust out'. He worked until the day he died. Although he refused to have a radio set or a refrigerator in his home, he made one concession to progress by owning a motor car. On 13 April 1959, at the age of 87, he drove ten miles (16 km) to the police station at Branxton, renewed his driving licence and returned in the afternoon. He died that evening in his kitchen and was buried with Anglican rites in Rothbury cemetery.

Dr Max Lake wrote that 'his wines were simple, honest, great big reds and whites. His name is revered in Pokolbin. Dan Tyrrell spared no effort to help a battler'.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Lake, Hunter Winemakers (Brisb, 1970)
  • J. Halliday and R. Jarratt, The Wines and History of the Hunter Valley (Syd, 1979)
  • D. Paterson, Tyrrell's 125 Years of Traditional Wine Making (Syd, 1983)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Apr 1959, 25 Feb 1967.

Citation details

Gil Wahlquist, 'Tyrrell, Edward George Young (Dan) (1871–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 24 September 2021.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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