Monday, 11 November 2013

FROM THE BUSH TO INDIA.

HORSE SALE 1909. Source: Personal Collection.




Apart from running various cattle stations, my family were also heavily involved in the export horse trade that ran from the 1890s to the 1930s. The biggest market was India which was then part of the British Empire.

All types of horses were exported from the towns of Bowen and Townsville in North Queensland. Most of the horses exported were for the British cavalry. Apart from India the horses were also sent to South Africa during the Boer War and to the various theatres in World War One. An average of 2,000 horses were sent annually overseas, peaking at nearly 5,000 during one year. 
AUSTRALIAN LIGHT HORSE. WORLD WAR ONE. Source: The Waler Horse Society.


It was a lucrative trade for the station owners. An average price for a horse was eight to ten pounds a head which was far better than prices for cattle. My great grandfather, John Henry Clark found it profitable enough that he bought a station and set it aside for the sole purpose of horse breeding.
Horse sales were large affairs conducted for over a week in the major towns in the north. In that time hundreds of horses would be sold. The Australian horses were popular as they were hardier than the horses that were sent from England to India. Many buyers at these sales were British agents from India.

 The horse trade was run by a Scotsman called James Simpson Love, a tall, energetic, self-made man who regularly travelled on the ship with his horses to India. The horse trade was very kind for J.S. Love. At one stage he owned fourteen cattle stations and travelled around in a Bentley.
In a newspaper interview in 1928 he said he, “found India fascinating but it wasn’t very healthy as had you had to drink distilled water or imported aerated waters.” 
J.S.Love died in 1933 on board the horse-trade boat in Townsville harbour after returning from a trip to India.
Several of my relatives would go to India with J.S. Love to break in the horses in Calcutta (Kolkata) but more about their exploits in India in my next blog.