Royal Reels: Gambling


This 1852 ‘town letter’ outer with the imperforate N.S.W. Laureate 1d brick-red (SG 48) stamp is postmarked with a poor barred numeral ‘15′ of Molong and is addressed to John Smith Esquire, Gamboola, Molong, and has a Molong reception on the reverse (Figure 1).

There is no doubt of the identity of the commonly named individual on account of the property named, Gamboola. John Smith, sheepbreeder, was born on 25 May 1811 at Trelanvean, St Keverne, Cornwall, England, son of John Smith, farmer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Cock. He reached Sydney in the Abel Gower on 22 April 1836, became station superintendent for John Maxwell at Narroogal in the Wellington District and in 1839 for John Betts, based on the Molong run. On 12 September 1843 he took up part of the Molong run with some pure-bred descendants of Reverend Samuel Marsden’s merino sheep, the remnant of his famous Gamboola stud. Smith built a substantial brick house in 1847 and a shearing shed at Gamboola station, in 1848. This shed still stands to-day and is preserved in the centre of additions (Figure 2).

He continued to take up large areas of grazing lands in surrounding districts from 1845 to 1855 by which time he had more than 35,000 sheep and had developed his stud. Smith evolved a large-framed, plain-bodied sheep with medium to strong wool. He adhered to Marsden’s method of breeding and the Gamboola sheep became noted for their wool, constitution and carcase. In 1860 he imported six Negretti rams certified to be directly descended from the flock of George III. He acquired numerous stations on the watersheds of the Lachlan and Macquarie rivers and settled his sons on Toogong, Boree Cabonne, Boree Nyrang, Narroogal, Nandilyan and Gamboola stations.

In 1872 his second son, Lance, took his portion of the Gamboola stud sheep to Boree Cabonne. These sheep became the Boree Cabonne Merino Stud, carried on by John’s great-grandson, Lance Mac. Smith. John Smith was one of the first to fence in the Molong district and to use wire in the western districts. Active in the town, he helped to establish a church, a school and in 1864 was president of the first show. He was a free trader, but he was narrowly defeated in 1880 by Dr. Andrew Ross for the local seat in the Legislative Assembly.

However, in the next year on 15 December 1880 he was granted a life appointment as a member of the NSW Legislative Council, which ended after 14 years on his death. As an MLC, his knowledge of financial and pastoral matters, combined with his sound common sense and integrity, contributed to his success. In 1857 he was a foundation member of the Union Club. About 1865 he purchased another family home, Llanarth, at Bathurst, NSW. Smith died on 1 January 1895 at Ashfield of bronchopneumonia and was buried in the Anglican section of the Bathurst cemetery. He was survived by his wife Mary, daughter of William Tom, whom he had married on 12 September 1842, four of his five sons and six daughters. His estate was valued for probate at £142,600. A picture of John Smith MLC is shown in Figure 3.

This paper is largely developed from 2 sites, the on-line Australian Dictionary of Australia and the Parliament of N.S.W. website.

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