Informative story of early pastoral exploits

Sapper Sutherland, Culcairn and his cousin author John Henwood and the story of the Sutherland family
Sapper Sutherland, Culcairn and his cousin author John Henwood and the story of the Sutherland family

Thologolong Station was once a major cattle property in the Upper Murray region of Victoria, and perhaps best known for the Angus cattle bred by the Sutherland family for three generations, but also as the property on which the Murray Greys, Australia's own beef breed originated.

This book is only available through contacting John Henwood on 0401 206 359

This book is only available through contacting John Henwood on 0401 206 359

Now mostly underwater when the Hume Dam holding back the Murray River is full, and only a remnant of its original size, it nevertheless played a leading role in the pastoral history of the region.

That history has now been recorded in a publication The days that are no more - the Sutherlands of Thologolong Station by John Henwood.

John was a reporter with the Victorian rural department of the ABC for 36 years and is a grandson of Peter and Ina Sutherland, the first of the generation of the family at Thologolong.

A chance discovery of his late mother's archive in a chest under their house in Albury led him on the path of discovery and he researched the story of his family and its connection to Thologolong as deeply and widely as was possible.

His mother, a daughter of Peter and Ina spent her childhood on the property and it is indeed fortunate for all who are interested and fascinated by families and their pastoral history she was able to keep a large collection of photographs and correspondence which John has used for this book and supported by extensive research.

He has first-hand knowledge of the property having spent many happy school holidays with his cousins either in the paddocks or on the river, so is well placed to write this story.

Beginning in 1885, when cousins Peter and John Gordon Sutherland with Peter's brother-in-law J.H Cushing trading as Cushing Sutherland and Co purchased the property, John Henwood has written an engrossing account of one families association with the pastoral industry and how the property and stock were developed through the years of ownership.

The story ends in 1932 with the dispersal of the Angus herd and the flock of comeback and cross-bred sheep following the resumption of Thologolong Station by the Victorian Rivers and Water Commision for the Hume Dam.

In that manner, this book will not only be a permanent record for further reference but a tribute to those who undertook the pastoral development of Australia.

Inevitably as John trawled through available archives he found instances of loss, some deliberate, some inadvertent but he has fashioned a glowing memorial to his grandparents, whom he did not know and to the second generation of the Sutherland family which included his mother Peg.

It is a simple idea to think of writing the history of a place that is part of your pysche

Author, John Henwood

In John's words ... 'it is a simple idea to think of writing the history of a place that is part of your pysche' ... but the reality is it was not so straightforward.

This book has had a long gestation ... John recalls being encouraged in 1960 by an eminent historian to research the history of the station and his cousin the late Bill Peach was also an enthusiastic supporter determined the history of the Sutherland family should be recorded.

But his career with the ABC often prevented whole-minded attention to the project and it wasn't until he retired that John was able to set his mind to the story.

It is a love story ... to a parcel of land within a beautiful landscape and with a fascinating pastoral history; to the stock bred on those fertile flats adjacent to the Murray River and to the couple who raised 12 children.

Family recollections are as important to the success of this story as the available archival treasure and in that respect John has been greatly assisted by many in the third generation of Sutherlands who remember growing up on land that had once been part of Thologolong Station.

The book is above all a charming source of familial anecdote recalling love letters between a courting couple before they married in 1887; tragedy with the loss of family members during World War One; success with the establishment of a renowned Angus herd; dispute about the true origin of the Murray Grey breed and the ultimate loss of the property to progress with the inundation by the headwaters of the Hume Dam.

Indeed, his research into the origin of the Murray Grey cattle has prompted the Murray Grey International Association based in St Louis, USA to consider re-writing their version of the history of the breed for their website.

It is an evocation of a place long gone and a family who made their mark on the Australian pastoral scene through the cattle they bred and the local Upper Murray community in which they were committed to support.

John has written a fine account of the Sutherland family and a famous station in an easy manner and is a worthy addition to the growing studies of the pastoral history of Australia.

It will allow current readers and future generations better understand the debt we owe to the pioneers who wrought a living and a fine pastoral estate from the bush.

Inevitably, life for families on pastoral stations has changed from the pioneering days, and it is worthwhile being reminded that success in the bush came from hard work and single minded application to improving land and stock.

As such this is a book which will appeal to those who are intrigued by the process of pastoral development in this country yet are far removed from the reality of those long forgotten trials and triumphs.