The Russell Family
Wilfred and Millicent Russell
Wilfred Adams Russell came from New South Wales to settle in Queensland in 1910.
He was born in Rockhampton in 1875 where his father, Henry Edward Russell, was Manager of the Bank of Australasia. When Wilfred was still an infant the family moved to Sydney, where his father established himself as an accountant.
The family of six children grew up and were educated in that city. Wilfred attended the Sydney Grammar School and, afterwards, went to the Hawkesbury Agricultural College where he obtained his M.H.C. Diploma.
Later, he sought station experience in the New England district, after which he took up a 250 acre homestead selection in the Tamworth district. He grew wheat and barley for 15 years and increased his area to 5,000 acres by additional selection and purchase.
In 1901 he married Millicent, daughter of Charles Baldwin of Durham Court Tamworth, at that time a prominent horse and cattle studmaster. There were five children of the marriage – Muriel Frances, Joan Millicent, Henry Edward, Charles Wilfred and Eileen Marian. Henry died in infancy.
Wilfred Russell was recognised early as a sound land man, as shown by his appointment in 1907 as valuer for the Peel River Land and Mineral Company, when a portion of this property was resumed by the New South Wales Government.
In 1909 he acquired an interest in Dalmally Station, Roma, of which he ultimately became the owner, and went to live there in 1910. Subsequently he extended his pastoral operations to Cunnamulla and to Dalby.
Wilfred Russell was an industry innovator. In 1926, the west of Queensland was in the throes of a severe drought and agistment areas, veritable oases in the sunbaked plain, were few and far between. The transport of sheep by motor lorry was then unheard of, so he had several large motor vans constructed and used them to convey sheep from drought stricken areas to fresh pastures. He thus pioneered the transport of stock by motor vehicle.
In 1921, in an effort to find an answer to the blow-fly problem in sheep, he collaborated with the Department of Agriculture and Stock and the Department of Science and Industry in experimental research. The blow-fly did not become a menace until 1914 and, in the many and varied efforts made throughout Australia to discover ways and means of combating the pest, probably none attracted wider attention than those made at Dalmally.
Wilfred Russell played a prominent part in the life of the district. In 1926, he acquired 1200 acres of land in the Bunya Mountains which he donated to the public and which remains a dedicated public reserve, maintained by the Wambo Shire Council.
After the death of Wilfred Russell, the ownership of the property passed to his family who carried on business under the firm name of W.A. Russell Partnership and, subsequently, Russell Pastoral Company. Wilfred and Millicent’s son, Charles Wilfred Russell ,became managing partner. Several years after Wilfred’s death, Millicent left Jimbour for Sydney, where she lived until her death in 1961.
Under Charles Russell’s management the further development of the property continued. At that time the true agricultural value of the rich soil of the Dalby Plains was becoming recognised and rapid development was taking place.
In spite of the great economic depression that hit Australia in 1929 and was at its height in 1932, Dalby and district continued to develop agriculturally. This progress was unique in Queensland, and, possibly, in Australia. It was not long before agriculture in the form of wheat-growing and livestock fattening became an important factor of the activities of the property.
Gradually the land became too valuable for ordinary grazing purposes. The grasslands thus progressively gave way to the plough. In like manner, the older methods of deep soil cultivation had given way to the shallower, dry-farming methods and fuel tractors had taken the place of horse and bullock teams.
Close contact with Jimbour House and the history of his predecessors there no doubt influenced Charles Russell to take up public life. In 1936 he was elected a Councillor of the Wambo Shire and became one of the founders of the Country Party in Queensland.
In 1938 he entered the political arena to contest, unsuccessfully, the strongly held Labour State electorate of Warrego, in opposition to Randolph Bedford.
In 1944, having spent four years in the R.A.A.F., he contested the State Parliamentary electorate of Dalby against Robert Slessar, but was defeated by a narrow margin.
In 1945, Charles Russell married Hilary Newton, daughter of Lt.Col. F. G. Newton, C.B.E., D.S.O., and Mrs. Newton, and, having been absent from Jimbour for some years due to war service, re-established residence at Jimbour.
In 1947, he again stood for the State electorate of Dalby, and was successful. He served as a member of the Queensland Parliament until 1949. In that year he resigned his seat to successfully contest the Federal seat of Maranoa and was elected. In 1950, however, after experiencing disagreement with the Government’s financial policy, he resigned from the Country Party. At the next Election, he contested the Maranoa electorate as an independent candidate, but was defeated.
He remained an active commentator on public affairs but, despite several efforts, was never again elected a member of Parliament. He has told the story of his public life in his autobiography, “Country Crisis”, but the principal focus of his energies thereafter was his family’s rural interests.
In 1977, Charles Russell died at the age of 70 years.
Hilary Russell continued to live at, and care for, Jimbour for a further 20 years with the help of her son Alec.
During that time, she continued to play a leading role in local community organizations, and the regular Arts Council concerts at Jimbour provided to many people the opportunity to share in the area’s cultural heritage. She was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1979.
New houses were constructed at the western end of the former station village for the station manager (“Leichhardt”) and at Newtown.
Charles Russell had, in 1955, written a book on the history of Jimbour and during this period Hilary completed two further editions (in 1982 and 1989).
Hilary Russell left Jimbour to live in Brisbane in 1997, where she died in 2001.
Charles and Hilary’s son, David, speaking at the function on 9 December 2000 which both commemorated the 75th anniversary of the re-opening of Jimbour by his grandparents and launched the property’s new ventures in wine and tourism, said:
” If there could be anything which could detract from this evening, it is the absence of the one other person whose labours over the years have made Jimbour what it is today. In the whole of the history of Jimbour, no one – not Lady Bell, not my grandparents, or even my father (who runs a close second at 45 years) – exceeds my mother’s period of residence here of 53 years.
As many of you will know, recent years have been far less kind to Mother than her service to Jimbour, family and community warranted, and she did not feel well enough to make the journey to join us this evening.”
In her absence, a message from her was read to the gathering.
Hilary Russell concluded the epilogue to the second edition of Charles’ and her book with words that applied with particular force to herself:-
“One can only hope that there will always be loving dwellers in this place, prepared to exert themselves and see that the House and garden are given the time, attention and loving care that they merit and so richly repay.”
Alec, David and Deborah Russell
Charles and Hilary’s son Alec continued to live at Jimbour until his passing in December 2018.
Charles and Hilary’s son David married Deborah, daughter of Supreme Court Judge Walter Campbell (subsequently Queensland Governor Sir Walter Campbell AC QC) in 1975. Sir Walter had grown up in Dalby, and served in the RAAF with Charles Russell.
After Hilary Russell’s departure in 1997, Alec and David, together with Deborah, carried forward the family tradition of care for Jimbour until Deborah’s untimely death in 2011.
During that period the renovation program commenced by Wilfred and Millicent Russell, and continued by Charles and Hilary, was substantially completed.
In addition to practising in Sydney and Brisbane as a barrister, David has maintained the historic connection of Jimbour with public life, serving as President of the National Party at Queensland and National levels, and Vice President of the federal Liberal Party following upon the merger of the National and Liberal Parties in Queensland. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1986.
In 2010 he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun with Gold Rays and Neck Ribbon for services to Australia Japan relations. In 2012, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service the National Party of Australia, to politics, to taxation law and legal education, and to the community.
In 2011, the Northern Garden and newly erected Summer House were dedicated in Deborah’s memory.
In 2009, David Russell observed:
Sir Joshua Peter and Lady (Margaret) Bell completed the construction of Jimbour 130 years ago. Just over 85 years have passed since Wilfred and Millicent Russell first inspected Jimbour and decided to restore it – a task which has now involved three generations of the Russell family, including over 50 years stewardship by Charles and Hilary Russell. One wonders what they would think if they saw it now – the gardens extended in all directions from their original garden (following the boundaries laid down by the Bell family) and fully reconstructed on the northern side of the house. The exterior largely following the original plans, and the interior now fully restored, modernised and furnished – in important respects – with the original furniture which largely left after the 1912 clearing sale. The development of the garden has provided cover and protection for the house, removing the necessity for the awnings added in 1925. Environmentally advanced techniques now enable natural heat and light to play a greater role in lighting and warming the house in winter, and reduce the need for air conditioning in summer. So they would all see changes from Jimbour as they knew it. But hopefully, too, they would see the respect for their design and magnificent endeavours shown by those who have come after, and whose task it was to maintain what they achieved. Alec, Deborah and I are truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to follow in their steps and continue the stewardship of this heritage-listed home and Queensland landmark.