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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
William Ralph McCarthy

Born: 1836; Died: 1914; Married: Catherine [Galvin]

William Ralph McCarthy (1836-1914)

William was one of eight children born to James McCarthy (2nd) and his wife Phyliss Mary (nee Hush), two of them dying in childhood. William was born at Penrith in 1836, and had his boyhood on his father's Cranebrook farm.

In his early childhood his father, along with farmers across NSW struggled to cope with a severe drought. Mr Henry O'Brien of Douro, near Yass, struck the idea of boiling down perishing stock for tallow, for which a ready sale was found in Europe:
"In the midst of the depression in June 1843 he announced an experiment at his Fort Street premises in the process of boiling down sheep to ascertain the value of flocks. Wethers weighing 56 lbs (25 kg) were boiled down and an average of 27¼ lbs (12 kg) of tallow per sheep was obtained. Though not the first to see the advantages to be gained from boiling down and from smoking and salting mutton hams, Henry O'Brien made the process popular and thereby saved many pastoralists from bankruptcy. Sheep that were unsaleable in April and May 1843 were by July worth 5s. to 8s. each"
[Peter Scott, 1967. 'O'Brien, Henry (1793–1866)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, ANU]

William McCarthy's father was one of the first to start boiling down works on the O'Brien system, and made a lot of money out of the business, and when normal seasons again came around he was able to go ahead on a fair wind, and with good financial backing. As a youth William assisted in the boiling down operations.

Around the same time James McCarthy began acquiring rental property at Ginninderra. A station manager was installed there in 1835, and over the following eighty years 'Glenwood' was to join the ranks of the other large, wealthy estates of the district - Gungahleen, Jeir, Urriarra, Yarralumla, Duntroon and others. According to a report in the Nepean Times, at some stage William 'joined his brother [Jas McCarthy 3rd] as co-partner in the 'Glenwood' estate.....and went in for squatting pursuits on a large scale'.

"At the beginning of the occupation of Glenwood.............there were no rabbits, briars, or other of the disabilities the pastoralist has had to contend with in more recent years, but the dingo nuisance was very much — and is yet — in evidence in the district ; so much so that a number of the landholders were obliged to construct a nine-wire dog-proof fence which traverses the country from the vicinity of Mongarlowe to Michelago — a linear distance across country (over scrubs and hills and hollows) for some 30 miles. Dingo traps are placed at different positions along the fence which has been a considerable deterrent to the noxious sheep-killers (dingoes)".

William married Catherine Galvin around 1860, and they had a family of ten children. The birthplace for all but the first born is given as Queanbeyan, implying that by 1868 when Mary, their second child was born, the family had left Cranebrook and, presumably, were living at Glenwood. William is listed in Baillieres PO Directory for NSW of 1867 as 'JP, settler, Glenwood'. William's father died in 1869, and it seems possible that William and his brother James (3rd) took on responsibility for running Glenwood at this time.

William was characterised as 'a splendid workman and excellent at fencing, farming and general bushcraft'. When ploughing matches commenced in Ginninderra in 1872 he was appointed judge.

By 1873 William felt sufficiently established to purchase ('for £5,326 10s cash') the extensive 'Charnwood' property of their neighbour Henry Hall when he and his wife Mary retired to Yass. Within a few years however 'Charnwood' was auctioned by order of the mortgager - on 11th January 1881. '3551 acres of first class pastoral and agricultural lands etc, residence containing 8 rooms with large kitchen, store, granary, storerooms, four stall stable etc.' [Queanbeyan Herald 24.12.1880] . 'Charnwood' was purchased by Edward Kendall Crace. Crace had by then already acquired the Gungahlin and Ginninderra Estates from William Davis (junior) and became by far the biggest land-owner in the district, owning 20,150 acres.

This was a tumultuous period for William. Not only did the drought of 1880 almost ruin him financially, and he lost 'Charnwood', he was shortly to also lose his young wife. She died in 1882 at the young age of thirty five, not long after giving birth to her tenth child, Jospeh Patrick, leaving William to look after their young family. This tragedy prompted William to remove the family back to the family base at Penrith, this occasion marked with news of another sale:
"In another column will be found Messrs Smallhorn and Co's advertisement of the sale. The sale [...of Mr WR McCarthy's household furniture stock etc.] which will be held at the residence 'Glenwood' and will doubtless attract a large number of buyers .........A splendid lot of horses and other stock are to be sold, and the former, considering the well-known character of Mr McCarthy, ought to command a good figure. [Queanbeyan Age 7.7.1882]

His departure was lamented:
By the departure of WR McCarthy Esq, Glenwood, who intends leaving for Sydney shortly the district loses an old and worthy resident. I feel assured that all his old neighbours will regret very much the removal of a gentleman who resided so long in their midst, and between whom and themselves there has always existed the most amicable feelings. [Queanbeyan Age,11.7.1882]

After twenty years or so in partnership, William's brother James McCarthy (Jnr) was thus left as the 'squire of Glenwood' for the next thirty years, ably assisted for much of this time by his nephew James Vincent Hibberson.

William spent his last years in Sydney. "He was deservedly esteemed by his friends and familiars, his geniality, broad outlook, and overflowing good nature being the hallmark of his disposition. The remains of the late Mr McCarthy were buried in the family portion of the R.C. burial ground, at Cranebrook. It may be mentioned that the ground for the cemetery was dedicated to the authorities by the father of the late Mr Wm McCarthy, the first burial therein being, we believe, in the year 1807. From these particulars it will be seen that the McCarthy's as pastoralists and land-workers, have played no small part in the raising of the strong, if rude, edifice of our early history". [Nepean Times. 24.10.14, P.4]

He was deservedly esteemed by his friends and familiars, 'his geniality, broad outlook, and overflowing good nature being the hallmark of his disposition'. [Nepean Times, 24.10.1914, p. 4].

His remains were buried in the family portion of the RC burial ground at Cranebrook.

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