Head Shepherd

The story of the incredible Elizabeth Macarthur with Michelle Scott Tucker

December 19, 2022
Head Shepherd
The story of the incredible Elizabeth Macarthur with Michelle Scott Tucker
Show Notes

This week on the Head Shepherd podcast, we're changing gears a little and chatting with author Michelle Scott Tucker.

Having an audience of mostly sheep tragics, Mark thought the parallels between Michelles book, Elizabeth Macarthur: a life at the edge of the world; and our listeners was too good not to make the most of.

Michelle tells us more about the wonderful Elizabeth Macarthur and the foundations of the Merino wool industry of Australia.
Elizabeths story begins in on a farm in North Devon, after marrying a not-strongly liked soldier named John Macarthur. In 1790, Elizabeth followed him to "make his fortune" in Australia- the only officers wife to go and what Michelle refers to as a "pretty stupid decision".

June 1790 she arrived in Sydney Harbour excited to see this mythical township she'd been promised Australia held , and instead saw an army campsite of tents full of soldiers without shoes, food or women to talk to.

In 1793, the Macarthurs got their first land grant of 100 acres in a place that is now called Parramatta.  They spent a few years working hard turning the place into a mixed farm. Livestock numbers were incredibly low so they had sheep but not in huge numbers.

In 1801 John Macarthur was sent back to England to be court marshalled after shooting his commanding officer during a duel, and left Elizabeth to run the recently expanded farm alone with the youngest children.

John escaped his court-marshalling in the UK and sweet-talked his way into supplying British wool mills with Australian wool, despite not having the sheep or the experience in importing wool. John also sweet talked his way into exporting a flock of the kings Merinos he'd purchased, despite export of them being illegal. He returned to Australia in 1905 with 5,000 acres and some "scrubby" fine wool sheep.

But, nearly 4 years later John gets sent back to the UK after causing more political trouble.

And so Elizabeth was left running the farm, and the wool export industry for the next 12 years. She was the first person to send commercial quantities of wool to England.


Although different to our usual podcasts, this is a fantastic relaxing listen. Michelles years of research into the beginning of the Australian wool industry, and much much more, is really commendable and enjoyable listening for any sheep tragic.

If you'd like to find out more about Michelles books, follow the link below:

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