The ‘Shepherd Kings’ of the Darling Downs

It is easy to get lost in the lives of the characters in the Grass Dukes and Shepherd Kings exhibition, now open in SLQ’s Philip Bacon Heritage Gallery.

From prominent colonial politician of the 19th century Sir Arthur Hodgson to the Forbes brothers of Clifton Station (sons of the Chief Justice of New South Wales) and St George Richard Gore of Yandilla, the scion of an aristocratic Irish family, these early ‘squatters’ in the Darling Downs earned a reputation for transforming the landscape of the area and beginning a new way of life.

“It has been a common custom hitherto to regard the squatters as among the wealthy classes, and they have figured in romance as ‘shepherd kings’ and ‘grass dukes’, rioting in affluence and far beyond the reach of penury.”
[Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, 4 March 1895]

The European settlers erected fine homesteads, grand stables and woolsheds, and cultivated exotic gardens.

The exhibition includes photographs, papers and artworks from the John Oxley Library as well as items on loan from private collections.

One of the most exciting parts of the exhibition is the Archive of Sir Arthur Hodgson, which has, until recently, been held privately in England.

Dating from the 1860s, this important collection of manuscripts, photographs, artworks and medals helps to reveal the rich history of early European settlement on the Darling Downs, particularly Hodgson’s own station Eton Vale.

Other properties featured in the exhibition include Canning Downs, Glengallan, Maryvale, Westbrook, Yandilla and Talgai.

Grass Dukes and Shepherd Kings is a fascinating opportunity for people to explore the prized possessions of pastoral life in 19th century Queensland and gain insight into the lives of these early European settlers who grew in political power.

A program of events is being held in support of the exhibition, which is open until 21 April 2013. For more information, visit slq.qld.gov.au/showcase.

Archery party in a paddock at Yandilla

Archery party in a paddock at Yandilla