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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Yuille, William Cross (1819–1894)

by J. Ann Hone

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

William Cross Yuille (1819-1894), by unknown photographer

William Cross Yuille (1819-1894), by unknown photographer

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN01/08/94/21

William Cross Yuille (1819-1894), pastoralist, was born on 28 March 1819 at Cardross, Dumbartonshire, Scotland, son of Robert Yuille and his wife Anne, née Cross. Educated in Glasgow, he was apprenticed there for three years in the West India House of Messrs Ewing & Co. In 1836 he sailed to Van Diemen's Land arriving in December. In February he crossed to Point Henry near Geelong, Port Phillip District, with his cousin Archibald Yuille and a flock of merinos; they took up a run at Murgheballoak on the Barwon River. William joined the search-party for Joseph Tice Gellibrand and G. B. L. Hesse, presumed killed by Aboriginals, and during the quest new country was opened up. With John Aitken, Thomas Learmonth and H. Anderson he explored north of Mount Macedon to Mount Alexander, and from there to the Loddon Plains, Mount Misery, Lake Burrumbeet, the Grampian Range to Mount Emu and back to the Barwon—a journey that verified Sir Thomas Mitchell's statements about the potential of Australia Felix.

In 1838 Yuille left the Barwon as the Aboriginals were very troublesome. He took up 10,000 acres (4047 ha) at Ballarat and for a time Lake Wendouree was known as Yuille's swamp. In 1840 he went to New Zealand where he acquired large tracts of land from the Maoris (though his claim was not officially recognized), attended the ceremony at which the British took possession of the islands, fought against the Maoris and after nine months returned to Victoria. He visited England and on his return joined James Oliphant Denny in forming the mercantile firm of Denny and Yuille. In 1842 he married Denny's daughter Mary (d.1889). The firm took up the Rockbank run in the Werribee Plains and in 1846 Yuille became sole lessee, holding it until the early 1850s when he sold out to William John Clarke. In 1851 Yuille acquired Barwidgee station from William Forlonge and Ballanrong, near Hastings, where he built an Anglican church. He became known as one of the main ram-breeders in the colony. Also at this time he bought Kirk's Bazaar and leased it to George Watson. In 1852 and 1853 Yuille sold his stations, his cousin Archibald buying Ballanrong, and took his family to England.

He remained overseas until 1858 but sent back some thoroughbred horses, including the famous Warhawk and Gaslight. On his return he lived at Williamstown and set up a large stable. Horse-racing had always been his great interest and in 1839, at the second race meeting held in Melbourne, he rode his own horse and won easily. From 1842 he was actively identified with racing and in 1849 began to make a name on the turf with Jim Crow, Dinah, General Tom Thumb and others. From 1858 his success caused a sensation in racing circles and his tall, upright figure, with hat fitted jauntily to one side, was a familiar sight at Flemington. With Flying Buck in October 1859 he won the first Australian Champion Sweepstakes, for which five colonies entered, and in November the Victoria Turf Club Oaks with Birdswing; Flying Buck won the 1860 St Leger and was then sold. He also owned Carisbrook and Toryboy, who won the Melbourne Cup in 1865. He closed his racing establishment in 1866 and, as 'Peeping Tom' and 'Playboy', became the main sports-writer for the Australasian. In 1872 he founded the bloodstock auctioneering firm, W. C. Yuille & Co.; one of his biggest transactions was the sale of Charles Fisher's Maribyrnong stud in 1878 for £84,000. Yuille compiled the Australian Stud Book, first published in 1877.

He was steward of the Victoria Jockey Club for many years, handicapper to the Victoria Racing Club and a leading member of Tattersall's committee until 1881. In the 1870s he was one of the best amateur billiard players in Melbourne. In old age Yuille sported a waist-length white beard and still cherished a Scottish accent. He died in Melbourne on 19 July 1894 survived by four of his seven sons and three of his four daughters. Two sons Archie and Albert carried on W. C. Yuille & Co.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • A. Henderson (ed), Australian Families, vol 1 (Melb, 1941)
  • Australasian, 20 June 1891, 21 July 1894
  • Argus (Melbourne), 20 July 1894.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Yuille, William Cross (1819–1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 30 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

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