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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Scrymgeour, James Tindal Steuart (1885–1965)

by S. J. Routh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

James Tindal Steuart Scrymgeour (1885-1965), cattle breeder, was born on 14 August 1885 at Meadowbank, near Oamaru, New Zealand, second of four children of Scottish-born parents William Tindal Scrimgeour, sheep-farmer, and his wife Mary, née McGregor. His father owned properties in the Otago and Hawkes Bay regions. Jim was educated at Otago Boys' High School, Dunedin, and Canterbury Agricultural College, Lincoln. An enthusiastic sportsman and horse-rider, he obtained a job with Dalgety & Co. Ltd. He later wrote about his early life in Memories of Maoriland (Ilfracombe, England, 1960).

The family moved to Queensland in 1908 and Jim worked on his father's stations at Goondiwindi. On 21 October 1916 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He embarked for Egypt in September 1917 and joined the 2nd Light Horse Regiment in January 1918. During fighting in July at 'The Bluff', near Musallabeh, Palestine, he was shot in the face and blinded. Invalided home, he was discharged from the army on 24 October. At the Ann Street Presbyterian Church, Brisbane, on 25 November that year he married Helen Marjorie Brown (d.1962), an expert horsewoman whom he affectionately dubbed the 'commanding officer'.

The couple travelled to London where, in October 1919, Scrymgeour entered St Dunstan's Hostel for blinded servicemen. Over the next year he distinguished himself in the curriculum (Braille, touch-typing, poultry-raising and carpentry) and in sport, especially sculling. Back in Queensland, he settled at Netherby, a property at Warwick bought by his family in 1922, and established a Shorthorn cattle stud, using Scottish lines imported in 1915 by his father. In 1930 his bull, Netherby Royal Challenge, won the first of six championships at the Royal National Show, Brisbane; by 1934 the Pastoral Review was describing Scrymgeour's heifers as 'easily the best' in Australia. He adopted the system of guide-wires used at St Dunstan's athletics events to find his way around the buildings and stables on his farm. The hostel had emphasized the training of memory, hearing and touch. When Scrymgeour judged at provincial shows, there was debate as to whether he could sense hair colour, but none about how he could 'see' cattle through his hands. A 'walking stud book', he also bred Clydesdale and trotting horses.

In 1937 Scrymgeour began to replace most of Netherby's stock with Poll Shorthorns. Between 1939 and 1955 he won thirteen senior championships at the Royal Easter Show, Sydney. Netherby and Arthur Langmore's Prospect stud at Jondaryan dominated competition in Brisbane. Scrymgeour served (1938-56) on the council of the Poll Shorthorn Society of Australasia. In October 1955 he suffered severe scalds in an accident at his home. The Netherby stud was dispersed, with record prices, on 13 March 1957, after which he moved to the town of Warwick.

Although Scrymgeour wrote sardonically about officers in his Echoes of the Australian Light Horse in Egypt and Palestine (Cairo, 1918), he was deeply patriotic. He was president and later patron of the Warwick sub-branch of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. Soft spoken and genial, with a pipe and battered felt hat, he wrote another three volumes of autobiography, among them Men, Mokes, Hooves, Horns and Hides (Ilfracombe, 1959). In 1954 he was appointed O.B.E. Survived by his two daughters, he died on 27 March 1965 at Warwick and was buried in the local cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, My Story of St Dunstan's (Lond, 1961)
  • H. S. Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, 1914-1918 (Brisb, 1984)
  • Pastoral Review, July 1923, Jan 1930, Apr 1934, Apr 1957, Apr 1965
  • Reveille (Sydney), 1 Apr 1940
  • People (Sydney), 22 Sept 1954
  • Queensland Country Life, 25 Oct 1956, 14 Mar 1957, 1 Apr 1965.

Additional Resources

Citation details

S. J. Routh, 'Scrymgeour, James Tindal Steuart (1885–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 2 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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