Greg Watson and Ruby Taylor

With information also provided by Andrew TaylorRuby was Andrew’s Great, Great, Grandfather’s sister.

Three Watson brothers, Philip Sidney and Harry Frederick who were twins, and a younger brother, Robert McGregor “Greg”, established `Gregory Downs Station’ in 1877.

The three brothers had left their home, `Walwa’, on the upper Murray River in Victoria and travelled by boat to Townsville where they proceeded to put together a plant of horses. They travelled west to take up country they had looked at on a trip the previous year. On the way west they bought 900 mixed cattle, DOT brand, from `Dottswood Station’ and some bulls from `Tower Hill’.

The brothers held up at `Neila Ponds’ for some time before deciding to move on to `Gregory Downs’. Greg stayed back to look after cattle too weak to travel with young calves. While there, F H Harry Shadforth and his son Bob arrived with 900 breeders (branded WY) that had driven from Watson birthplace,`Walwa’ on the Upper Murray River, for the purpose of stocking Gregory Downs. They were 10 months on the journey.

Finally all the cattle were moved on to the Gregory where the Station was established under considerable difficulties.

Robert McGregor Watson, the youngest son of Sidney Grandison Watson and Isabella (nee Robinson) had been born at Walwa on the 6th July 1859 and later married Ruby Maude Taylor, at Beechworth, on the 1st July 1902.

Greg Watson and Ruby Taylor on their wedding day at Beechworth.

They lived in NSW at Longueville in Sydney at a house they called “Walwa”. They had no children and were later estranged but not divorced.

About the 8th of February 1911 Greg Watson signed a Settlement Agreement Deed with his, then estranged wife Ruby and her father, Richard Taylor, agreeing to pay an annuity to Ruby during her life ‘on condition that she continue to lead a chaste life’. Ruby later applied for a ‘fairer consideration’ and we are not sure whether this was in regard to money or the ‘chaste’ clause.

Ruby was born at Beechworth in 1874 and must have met Robert through her brother William McCurdy Taylor, who worked on Cattle Stations near Gregory Downs and ended up owning Cresswell Downs with his brother Hugh in the early 20th Century.

A Mr William McCurdy passed away at the Longueville house, “Walwa” in 1906. William McCurdy was a very successful businessman from Beechworth and a close Taylor family friend, so he must have been staying with Ruby and Robert when he died in Sydney.

Ruby Maude Taylor’s brother, William McCurdy Taylor (named after the William McCurdy who had passed away at Robert and Ruby’s house in Sydney) had also travelled with F H “Harry” Shadforth on his trip with 1,200 heifers to Rocklands for Tetley and Crosthwaite in 1878. As mentioned, Harry Shadforth and his son Bob had also taken 900 breeders to Gregory Downs in 1877.

Willy Taylor seems to have spent some time with the Shadforths since he was still with them in 1880. Herein lies another connection between the Watson and Taylor families, despite the fact that the marriage failed.

Letter from Harry Shadforth to Richard Taylor around 1880. (Image Bev O’Hara)

Andrew Taylor writes –

“William McCurdy Taylor worked for the Shadforth family as a stockman and lived at Lilydale Station with them. I believe this is now called Riversleigh. Their neighbours were Gregory Downs and Lawn Hill Station.

William travelled with the Shadforths when he was around 16 or 17. It was a pretty epic journey. He came back to Victoria after they had delivered the cattle to the Station and then he rode back up with the Shadforth family all the way from Beechworth. It took them many months.

I have been able to trace William’s movements in the Gulf country to some degree. He worked for the Shadforth’s for a few years and then seemed to work on various stations as a stockman and later owned Yelvertoft Station in partnership and then Creswell Downs with his brother Richard Hugh Taylor.

They helped to establish the ABC Races which are still held annually in the NT.

A woman called Emily Creagh travelled through the area in 1883 and kept a diary. She mentions staying with the Shadforths and meeting young Willie Taylor there. She also mentions talks about Frank Hann and Jack Watson (no relation to the Watson brothers) who owned Lawn Hill. Frank Hann and Jack Watson were said to be brutal toward the Aboriginal people.

The Watsons from Gregory Downs were known to be more humanitarian than most as evidenced by an incident when they rescued a man from the Native Police who were about to shoot him. They called him “Drummer” and he and his wife became a trusted and much loved members of the Watson household.

Aside from drought, fever and ague as they called it, getting cattle to market seems to have been one of the big struggles for cattlemen in the Gulf Country.

William Taylor was trying to convince the powers that be to put in a railway line to help open up the North towards the end of his life. William got ill in his 40’s and never really recovered. He died at Anthonys Lagoon Station in January 1816 after falling ill just before Christmas in 1915. His brother Richard died a couple of years later. Both had long term illnesses that are treatable conditions today. William was 53 when he died and his brother was 49. They are both buried in Cloncurry Cemetery.”

Greg Watson spent his final days at “Tarwin Meadows” in South Gippsland, Victoria. The annuity to Ruby of 8,000 pounds was contested and increased to 10,000 pounds by the courts. At the time of the court hearing Ruby was listed as living at East St Kilda in Victoria. Ruby outlived Greg by another 5 years and died at Royal Park, Melbourne in 1948, aged 76.

Black Family Plot at Tarwin Cemetery

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