Historic and opulent Iandra homestead, in the Central West of New South Wales, is one of Australia’s great houses and the birthplace of sharefarming.
Story By John Dunn
The Olympic Highway connects Cowra and Young in southern New South Wales but there’s also a back road that links the two towns. It’s a typical stretch of narrow bitumen meandering through the undulating grazing land and the cropping paddocks, passing quickly through the village of Greenethorpe and heading, slightly uphill, towards the next one, Monteagle.
It’s here that this unremarkable byway jolts the motorist into a sudden sense of disbelief. Ahead, atop a slight rise, is a sight that is totally remarkable, one that belongs in the counties of England or the highlands of Scotland. Here, in the midst of rural Australia, is a castle – tall towers, turrets, medieval-like chimney pots, a crenellated parapet and portico, elegant bay windows and the Australian flag flying high and proudly in a stiff breeze.
This is Iandra, one of the great houses of Australia. Current owner Margaret Morris, and her managers Rod and Bev Kershaw, not only keep alive the fascinating history of this place but allow, several times a year, hundreds to participate in its past by inviting them to come, look and listen.
The story they uncover begins back in the early 1800s at Collon House in the Irish county of Louth where William Greene, a Royal Navy officer who had guarded Napoleon on St Helena, was attempting to recover from an illness contracted in the Burmese war. Because he was making little progress, his doctors strongly recommended a warmer climate.
Australia was chosen and the Greene family set off. This was no ordinary migration with limited luggage lugged aboard one of the scheduled sailings of the day. The Greenes were people of some means so they chartered their own boat to take their butler, grooms, cowherd, gardener, cook, laundress, housemaids, nurse, governess and even a house, which was dismantled and stowed in sections.
The building was re-erected at Woodlands near Melbourne where the Greenes lived initially and where their son, George, grew up and became one of the first students to graduate from Melbourne University. After the death of his father, George took up land in Victoria and then, in 1878, he came to Iandra in southern New South Wales where he bought 13,000 hectares and named it Mt Oriel after a relative, Lord Oriel, the last speaker of the Irish House of Commons.
This story excerpt is from Issue #75
Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2011