McCAUGHEY, Sir Samuel (1835-1919)


McCAUGHEY, Sir Samuel (1835-1919)
pastoralist and public benefactor
was born near Ballymena, county Antrim, Ireland, on 30 June 1835. He came to Australia with an uncle, Charles Wilson, a brother of Sir Samuel Wilson (q.v.) and landed at Melbourne in April 1856. He immediately went to the country and began working as a jackeroo, in three months was appointed an overseer, and two years later became manager of Kewell station while his uncle was on a visit to England. In 1860, after his uncle's return, he acquired an interest in Coonong station near Uralla with two partners. His brother John who came out later became a partner in other stations. During the early days of Coonong station McCaughey suffered much from drought conditions, but overcame these by sinking bores for artesian water and constructing large tanks. He was thus a pioneer of water-conservation in Australia. In 1871 he was away from Australia for two years on holiday, and on his return did much experimenting in sheep-breeding, at first seeking the strains that could produce the best wool in the Riverina district, and afterwards when the mutton trade developed considering the question from that angle. In 1880 when Sir Samuel Wilson went to England, McCaughey bought two of his stations, Toorale and Dunlop. He then owned about 3,000,000 acres. In 1886 when he again visited the old world he imported a considerable number of Vermont sheep from the United States, and he also introduced fresh strains from Tasmania. In 1900 he bought North Yanco and at great cost constructed about 200 miles of channels and irrigated 40,000 acres. The success of this scheme is believed to have encouraged the New South Wales government to proceed with the Burrenjuck dam. McCaughey had become a member of the New South Wales legislative council in 1899, and in 1905 he was knighted. He retained his health through a vigorous old age and died at North Yanco on 25 July 1919. He never married. He is stated to have left £600,000 for the technical training of the children of dead soldiers, £300,000 to the university of Sydney, £250,000 to the university of Queensland, £250,000 to the Presbyterian Church, a rich endowment to a Presbyterian orphanage in Sydney, £10,000 each to four Sydney secondary schools and £5000 each to three Sydney hospitals. (Australia's Debt to Irish Nation-builders.) This, however, is not strictly accurate, for instance the benefaction to the two universities takes the form of a yearly income of about £17,000 to Sydney and about £11,000 to Queensland; but up to the time of his death no other Australian had left so much in public benefactions. His portrait by Longstaff (q.v.) is in the Great Hall of the university of Sydney.
McCaughey believed in the gospel of work and attributed his success to this. He had too a shrewd mind, great foresight and knew when to take a risk. Personally he was a modest man of unbounded generosity, hundreds of men benefited by his kindness and his contributions to public funds were also large. He was an important force in the development of the wool industry, and may fairly be considered one of the great builders of Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 June 1915, 26 July 1919; The Argus, Melbourne, 26 July 1919; P. S. Cleary, Australia's Debt to Irish Nation-Builders.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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