Wool sample, stud ram, bred by Marshall & Slade, Glengallan, Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia, 1888
The wool collection held by the Powerhouse Museum contains thousands of wool samples collected between 1804 and 2003. These samples provide a record of wool growing in Australia. The different fleeces reflect the breeding programs and environmental conditions under which the fleeces were grown and, as such, they provide a valuable history of the areas of Australia in which sheep were grazed.
Sheep were introduced into Australia in 1788 from Cape Town in South Africa. Since then sheep from other countries, including the Spanish Merino were imported into Australia and selectively crossbred. Careful crossbreeding, paying particular attention to the impact of the environment on both animal and fleece, led to the evolution of the Australian Merino. It is an excellent example of the engineering, through selective breeding, of a domestic animal. Wool went on to become the mainstay of the Australian Economy from 1807 to 1960.
This particular wool specimen came from a sheep bred at Glengallan station on the eastern edge of the Darling Downs region in Queensland. They bred a German strain of sheep with a Negretti component, and owe a large part of their success to a famous stud ram called Old Billy. The German sheep had short legs and barrel-like bodies which perfectly suited their environment. They produced a short and fine wool that covered all of the sheep. By 1900 Glengallan had 7000 stud sheep and in keeping with the quality German studs elsewhere in the country had top rams that produced fleeces weighing over 35lbs. Glengallan was one of the most influential early studs in Queensland. Many other stations were started using Glengallan bloodlines.
Charles Massy. 'The Australian Merino', Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Victoria, 1990.
The wool specimen was produced in 1889 by Marshall & Slade from Glengallan, Darling Downs, Queensland in 1888.
In 1890 Alfred Hawkesworth, honorary wool-classer to the Museum, noted the following about this specimen which was entered in the Centennial International Exhibition Melbourne 1888-9:
Next in order come two exhibits of rams and ewes which are most credible collections, especially taking into consideration the very hard times experienced in that part of Queensland for about nine months; had this wool been produced under the same favourable conditions as most exhibits in this class, the first and second prize takers would have had a most troublesome opponent from the ram selection. These sheep have a large proportion of Tasmanian blood, showing quality and style, are bred and entered by Messrs Marshall and Slade, Glengallen, Darling Downs, Queensland.
Showing the most perfect formation in this section; the staple is desirable in length (4 ¼ inches), of great density and evenness from bottom to tip; full of that kind, silky, wavy, lustrous, elastic fibre, not very often found in Queensland and rarely surpassed in more southern districts; will compare favourably with the foremost in this class as a most useful and desirable wool; in nice condition. Spinning quality 120s, value 12 ½ d. (Alfred Hawkesworth's valuation)
Alfred Hawkesworth, Technological Museum, Sydney, Descriptive Catalogue No 1. Raw wools and specimens to illustrate the woollen manufacture. Sydney Government Printer. 1890.
Originally donated by Messrs Marshall & Slade, Glengallan, Darling Downs. 1889
This wool specimen is part of the Bill Montgomery Wool Collection which consists of approximately 7000 samples. In the older part of the collection there are 5000 samples from Australian sheep fleeces grown between 1856 and 1906. The samples were collected by the Museum at a time when scientific research was prominent in the Museum's activities. In 1979, when the Museum's focus changed, most of its wool collection was transferred to the teaching collection of Mr Bill Montgomery, a wool classing teacher at Newcastle Technical College. When Bill retired from the College, the collection was again in danger of being thrown away. He took the entire collection home and stored it in his garage for 15 years. His Collection also contains approximately 1500 wool samples grown between 1950 and 2000 and collected by Bill himself. It includes 147 examples of faults and stains occurring in Australian flocks, 20 pigmented wools and 33 rare and extinct breeds from around the world. The Museum purchased the entire collection in 2003. Bill Montgomery died on 7th July, 2007.