Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lionel James Weatherly (1881–1962)

by Robert Hood

This article was published:

Lionel James Weatherly (1881-1962), pastoralist, was born on 12 May 1881 at Billilla, Wilcannia, New South Wales, only son of William Weatherly (1839-1914), sheep-farmer, and his wife Jeanie Thompson, née Wilson, both Scottish born. In 1860 William had come to family friends Robert Hood and the Chirnsides in Victoria to gain rural experience. He intended to settle in Queensland, but an outbreak of scab in New South Wales closed the border, forcing him to sell his sheep at a disastrous loss. In 1863 he returned with Willie Hood from Hungerford, Queensland, in three weeks, riding only one horse each over the 1100 miles (1770 km). William repaid his debts by working for the Chirnsides and subsequently became managing partner in T. Chirnside & Co., holding a one-sixth share in their 450,000 acres (182,111 ha) at Billilla. On 19 December 1878 he married Jeanie with Presbyterian forms at Earlston, Berwickshire, Scotland, and returned to Billilla. With George and Anthony Bowes Kelly, in 1884 he bought a one-fourteenth share (for £150) in the new Broken Hill mine from (Sir) Sidney Kidman; William's half equity made his fortune. A fellow (1890) of the Royal Geographical Society, London, he had moved in 1888 to Brighton, Melbourne, and invested systematically in land, buying a string of properties after 1895.

Lionel was educated at Cumloden School, St Kilda, and Trinity Hall, Cambridge (B.A., 1904; M.A., 1908). His right side was partially paralysed in his youth, though his affliction did not prevent him from fox-hunting in England in 1908. On his return in 1909, his father gave him ownership of the major part of Woolongoon at Mortlake, Victoria, and the lease of the balance, and in 1910 he took over the management of two other properties. At Longwood on 27 April 1911 Lionel married Faerlie Alice Ffloyd Chomley: the bishop of Wangaratta officiated. William Weatherly died on 1 September 1914 at Brighton, survived by his son and two daughters. Lionel tried to enlist during World War I, but was rejected because of his paralysis. As well as running his own flock (25,000 strong in 1915), he worked for the Red Cross, supervised properties for enlisted owners and was president of the local repatriation committee. After the war he donated two farms (888 acres, 359 ha) for soldier settlement and voluntarily sold nearly 16,000 acres (6475 ha) to the Closer Settlement Board to provide another forty-six farms. Involved in numerous local activities, he was a member (1919-26) and president (1922-23) of the Mortlake Shire Council, but was forced to retire due to ill health. A committee-member of Mortlake hospital, he was also involved in the formation of the rural fire brigade.

From 1909 Weatherly was a member of the Pastoralists' Association (later Graziers' Association of Victoria); elected to its council in 1910, he was State president in 1921-25. He represented the association on the federal council in 1921, 1922 and 1924, and was federal president at the Melbourne convention in 1924; he remained on the State executive until 1947. Appointed to the Australian Meat Council in 1922, he represented it next year in South Africa, England and the Netherlands. In 1925 he resigned from the Wool Growers' Council, being reluctant to represent it while it opposed Sir John Higgins's plan for the post-war marketing of wool. Weatherly was a committee-member and president (1951-52) of the Australian Sheepbreeders' Association and a councillor of the Polwarth Sheepbreeders' Association. Keenly interested in thoroughbred horses, he was a member of the Victoria Racing and the Camperdown Turf clubs.

A devout Presbyterian and church elder, Weatherly was generous and intelligent, with a fine sense of humour. Although he was seldom critical of others, he set, and achieved, such high standards for himself that contemporaries regarded him with awe. Sir Chester Manifold was prepared to place him 'right up at the top of all the managers of properties'. Weatherly handed over Woolongoon to a son in 1944 and retired to Camperdown. In 1962 he donated £25,000 towards a Haileybury College branch school at Keysborough. Survived by his wife, daughter and two sons, he died on 19 December 1962 at his Camperdown home and was buried in Ellerslie cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • C. E. Sayers, Shepherd's Gold (Melb, 1966)
  • H. B. Ronald, Wool Past the Winning Post (Melb, 1978)
  • J. O. Randell, Teamwork (Syd, 1983)
  • J. Bowen, Kidman the Forgotten King (Syd, 1987)
  • Pastoral Review, 16 Sept 1914, 18 Jan 1963
  • L. G. Lomas, The Western District Farmer 1914-27 (Ph.D. thesis, Monash University, 1979)
  • Australian Sheepbreeders' Association records
  • Polwarth Sheepbreeders' Association records
  • Mortlake Shire records
  • Weatherly family papers (State Library of Victoria)
  • private information.

Citation details

Robert Hood, 'Weatherly, Lionel James (1881–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 27 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


12 May, 1881
Wilcannia, New South Wales, Australia


19 December, 1962 (aged 81)
Camperdown, Victoria, Australia

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