Once, A Splendid Coin: An Arcadian Story Behind the 1938 Shilling

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Author:   Stephen Burns
Publisher:   Inspiring Publishing
Format:   Hardback
ISBN:   9780987346353
Product Id:   5640

The image of the Merino ram that was struck upon the 1938 shilling has intrigued me since I started jackarooing on a Merino stud at Hay in late 1974. It has taken me nearly forty years to satisfy that curiosity. Early in the new year of 1975, I was among a few jackaroos invited to lunch at Burrabogie, a large sheep station east of Hay, which nestled closely within a bend of the Murrumbidgee River before running south and away over the mostly treeless Old Man Plain.  

Burrabogie had been founded as an offshoot of the more famous parent stud Uardry, across the river on the northern bank of the Murrumbidgee. Until it was dispersed in 1966, Burrabogie was a Merino stud of significance though without the influence of its parent. With the passing of the old studmaster, Neilson Mills in January 1967, by 1975 the main pastoral activities on Burrabogie centered on the commercial Merino sheep managed by Andrew Mills, son of Neilson; and an Australian Stock Horse stud operated by Andrew’s wife Pam.

Yet the aura of the old stud lingered in the fabric of the station sheds held within the simple bend in the river and the memorabilia that decorated the rooms and corridors of the homestead.

At that wonderfully rambling old homestead with its high-hipped roof-line and low slung verandahs, and framed by great River Redgums, we were welcomed in a cool garden on a hot mid-summer morning by our gracious hosts Andrew and Pam Mills, and their daughters Debbie and Sara. After drinks on the wide and gauzed verandah, we gathered in the paneled dining room with our filled plates and old silver, surrounded by framed photographs of stud Merino sheep.

The many pictures recorded the triumphs of the show and sale ring of the rams bred by Neilson Mills, but the entire room was dominated by an enormous portrait of a ram’s head which hung above the mantelpiece. At the time I thought it was a painting of the ram which I had vaguely heard was the model for the image of the ram on the shilling coin. Ever since, I have carried the thought that the portrait must hide an interesting story.