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Yulgilbar Station celebrations bring back past memories

CELEBRATION: Owner of Yulgilbar Station Baillieu Myer and archivist Susan Ibbott sound the old castle bell to welcome in the visiting group at the 200th birthday celebrations of one of the Clarence Valley’s early pioneers Edward Ogilvie at Yugilbar Castle on Saturday. Photo: Debrah Novak
CELEBRATION: Owner of Yulgilbar Station Baillieu Myer and archivist Susan Ibbott sound the old castle bell to welcome in the visiting group at the 200th birthday celebrations of one of the Clarence Valley’s early pioneers Edward Ogilvie at Yugilbar Castle on Saturday. Photo: Debrah Novak

THE CLARENCE Valley been the scene of countless moments of Australian history and added to them at the weekend with celebrations at the "Big House" at Yulgilbar Station to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of its founder Edward Ogilvie.

On hand to celebrate this historic marker were owners Baillieu and Sarah Myer, archivist Susan Ibbott, staff and a visiting group of regional historians.

"If Edward Ogilvie were here at his 200th birthday party today, I think he would feel a sense of pride at what he had started. And as he looked across the Clarence River to his 'bull' paddock, he would see it all cleared with a crop of oats and know that it is still being cared for," Mr Myer said.

"Sarah and I have been here for over 60 years, longer than Ogilvie and we are very proud to own this place because it is such an iconic property on the Clarence, it means a great deal to us."

The Myers have overseen many changes to this iconic Australian cattle property.

"Being part of the initial property transition we have had to put a lot into this place for many years and we have seen many changes as it was in ruins when we came here," Mr Myer said.

"We made a decision, which I now regret in taking down the north west tower as it was in reasonably good shape compared to the other three. In hindsight we could have left it but we made up for it in 1999 and built the south west tower."

Other changes to the property include having to make major cut backs to the garden.

"Ogilvie had a staff of 19 working on this property when lived here back in the 1880s and 90s and those days are well and truly gone," he said.

During the past six decades the Myers have met many members of the Ogilvie family.

"I have met some of the Ogilvies' grand children and they are all remarkable people, so he in turn must have been an extraordinary man himself," Mr Myer said.

"He seems to have been very determined, had great courage and was venturesome.

"From all accounts he appears to have been quite difficult and sometimes difficult with his family or at least with some of them and I think it was a tragedy that he was estranged from his son and heir.

"He was not the easiest of men to work with, but those times weren't easy and to be out here designing this enormous place himself without an architect was an extraordinary achievement."

The Clarence Valley in the 1860s was not yet a metropolis, transport was either by horse or boat and with a farm labour shortage Ogilvie indentured more than 100 tradesman from Germany to work on Yulgilbar Station, to help run the farm and build the castle he promised his wife.

"To bring out craftsman from Germany and elsewhere and stick this building up here on the hill took vision and was simply an extraordinary thing to do back then," Mr Myer said.

"I believe Australians today are still visionary - we can be accused of a whole lot of other things but I don't think we Australians of the 21st century are lacking in vision, except maybe some of our leaders, but that is another story."

The Myer legacy to the Clarence Valley is all the recorded history of this pioneer property.

"We like to share the information, knowledge and documentation we have been collecting and when we are gone, I hope all the archives will stay in the building and if and when needed will be given to the appropriate organisation in the valley," he said.

"We felt a responsibility to gather as much of the information about this property from it's early days which is why we started the archives room over a decade ago."

During this process very few photos were found of Edward Ogilvie, however there are two oil paintings which capture him at very different stages of his life, the latter being painted by Australia's famous artist, Tom Roberts.

"When Edward Ogilvie comes to my mind, I think of the famous portrait painting by Tom Roberts. I think of his piercing eyes, his strength of character shown in his face and the fire in his belly," Mr Myer said.



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