- ROBERT DARVALL BARTON (1843-1924)
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Born at Boree Nyrang, on Easter Sunday 16th April, 1843 (not 1842 as he recorded in his Reminiscences), the first son and second child of Robert Johnston and Emily Mary Barton, Robert was baptised there five weeks later on 21st May (not, as he suggested, when he was a year or two old) by the Reverend James Gunther, missionary priest from Wellington. His sponsors were his uncles Hugh William Barton of the Waterfoot, Co.Fermanagh, and John Bayley Darvall, barrister of Sydney, his cousin Elizabeth (Bessy) Francis and his aunt Rosamund Mary Darvall, who had been staying since February with Emily at Boree. Like his father, he was "Robin" to Emily, who thought he was 'not a pretty baby' but when he was two she wrote of his 'fine intelligent eyes and a charming disposition, very passionate but easily led'. Emily then decided that he would be 'a very handsome godson after all' to her friend and cousin Bessy Francis.
Robert grew up with a black companion, Albert, about his size 'but far more advanced in bush knowledge', and he recalled seeing 'many corroborees and festivities' when young - before the famous raid of the 'Yass blacks" broke up the camp at Boree. Emily taught him (and the other children) until at 12 he was sent to The King's School, riding alone across the mountains four times a year - once completing the trip on foot after his horse knocked up, despite being very sick with measles.
At 16 he left school (1858) and took over the management of the 700 acres of freehold that remained after his father sold off most of the Boree Nyrang run. His father died when Robert was 20 and it was a few weeks after this that he happened to ride into Goimbla Station on the morning after David Campbell had shot the bushranger O'Meally when Ben Hall's gang raided the station. He later made a long droving trip, taking Boree cattle to Victoria, and afterwards took some sheep to Scrubby Range, a property near Wyalong that he looked after for a time.
Robert visited his mother at Gladesville before J. D. Macansh engaged him in 1867, as manager of Gurley, near Narrabri. He was there for four years before looking for a place of his own. Failing to find anything suitable in Queensland, he bought a block 20 miles from Coonamble in partnership with Willie a'Beckett, who had been with him on Gurley. They called it Nelgowrie and enjoyed good seasons there, so that after three years he felt able to marry his 'best girl', Fanny Blanche Smith, second daughter of John Smith of Gamboola, Molong; he was 30, she 21.
In the next five years they had four sons, and Fanny went home to Llanarth, Bathurst, for each confinement. Meanwhile, in 1876, the partners bought a neighbouring block, Conimbia, but in the following year they were hit by severe drought. The next two children were girls and both were born at Nelgowrie. In April 1882 they lost little Claude, their third son and 'the flower' of their family, to an attack of 'inflammatory or acute croup'.
Not long after this (about 1883), Robert and Willie decided it was time to split up: Robert took the Conimbia block and sold it, while Willie took Nelgowrie (and married Fanny's younger sister in February 1884). Again Robert went to Queensland looking at properties but then 'lost some months of [his] time and about £3000 in cash' by investing in and managing a meat freezing works at Orange. When this failed, the search for land took him to the North Island of New Zealand, but he finally bought Burren, near Walgett, in April, 1886 - 180,000 acres of leasehold for £11000. Meanwhile Fanny had installed the family in Bathurst and presented him with another son, born at Avonbank, where they lived until she bought Esrom.
The family stayed in Bathurst where the boys went to All Saints' College, while Robert, known for some reason as "Tye", developed Burren, building a new homestead and woolshed and enjoying 'some of the happiest times of [his] life'. The older boys would go up for school holidays and learn to ride and shoot, during the 20 years their father
spent at Burren, putting in fencing and wells and weathering many drought years and the troubles with the shearers' union in the early 1890s. Tye bought the freehold of some 15,000 acres, well improved, which he gave to his third son in about 1904. He had also bought a small property, Tooree Vale, 20 miles from Cassilis, in about 1896, but sold it again soon after.
In 1906, at 63, he bought Biddenham on the Nive River, near Augathella, Queensland, a sheep and cattle property of about 120,000 acres of leasehold, which he also improved, building dams and sinking six or seven bores. Selling up there in about 1911, he took up Headingly Station near Urandangie on the Northern Territory border and spent nearly five years fencing and sinking eight or ten bores before selling up in 1914 and moving to Sydney.
He dictated his REMINISCENCES OF AN AUSTRALIAN PIONEER, published by Tyrrells in March 1917. He spent his last years in a cottage at The Grove, Roseville (where his housekeeper was Mrs. Woodward, a widow one of whose sons became Lieutenant General Woodward and Governor of NSW). He promoted an ambitious water conservation scheme entailing the construction of a 'Great Water Canal' on the western side of the Divide, between Goondiwindi and Albury.
Tye died in August 1924, aged 81, and was buried near his younger brothers Edward Hugh and Henry Francis Barton, in the Field of Mars cemetery, survived by his wife, four of their five sons and two daughters.