There is an old saying….‘Life is a lottery‘ 😎

Bank of Australia liquidation lottery ticket
Bank of Australia lottery ticket.



In 1848 Angus McDonald from Bolwarra (near Maitland)  bought a ticket in  New South Wales’ first official  lottery.  It was held as a means of dispersing the assets of the failed Bank of Australia. The ticket  cost the tenant farmer £4.  Prior to the draw he had tried to sell a half share in the ticket, but fortunately for him the offer was refused. The original owner of the ticket was a shareholder in the bank, storekeeper George D. Craig of East Maitland, who sold a second ticket to a German gardener.

In early  January 1849  McDonald’s ticket, No. 3374, was drawn as  first prize  in the lottery.  The gardener’s ticket was also successful, winning  a property worth £1,200.  Angus McDonald  was suddenly the owner of Underbank, a  8,320 acre station, on the Upper Williams River north of Dungog.

Williams River, location of the  lottery winner's station.
Williams River

It  must have been a heartbreaking outcome for merchant John Lord, who  had bought the property in the 1830s, but  was  bankrupted like so many others in the  drought driven depression of the ‘hungry forties’.

Underbank  came complete with a fine homestead, barn, other outbuildings, 3,700 head of cattle and 40 horses. There was even a vineyard.  It was all a  bit overwhelming, particularly as the country was still recovering from an economic depression. How was a young man of such limited experience to  manage the  property successfully?

It was for this reason that McDonald decided to engage Donald McLachlan to manage Underbank and look after the livestock. On April 5th, McDonald, McLachlan and a third person, Hugh McFadyen,  were in Maitland together. It appears that McDonald  and his new station manager were  discussing the business of Underwood.

High Street Maitland, a visit here ended in disaster for the  Bank of Australia lottery winner.
High Street, Maitland

In the late afternoon the three men set off for home along  Maitland Road towards Bolwarra.

Map showing the fatal route of MacDonald, the lottery winner.

They were ambling along chatting  together until Hugh McFadden said he needed to get home and urged his horse into a canter. McDonald followed, but McLachlan was happy to stay back. Soon afterwards  McLachlan reached a sudden descent and saw Angus McDonald’s riderless horse clambering up  the opposite rise.

McDonald was not a good horseman. It was thought that his stirrups were too long, and that as he cantered down a sudden descent he was unseated, hitting his head on the road.  By the time McLachlan reached the injured rider, Hugh McFadden was also returning.  He’d realized there had been an accident when the riderless horse passed him.

Angus McDonald was lying on the road, bleeding from both ears. He was alive, but only just. He  died before the doctor arrived. An inquest held at Maitland a few days later found that his death was the  result of an accident.  The poor fellow  never had to chance to live at the estate he won in that remarkable  bank lottery.

Ownership of Underbank  passed to McDonald’s infant son.  However, as a result of bad management and low cattle prices it was  later mortgaged to John Pearce. The proceeds were invested in gold shares, which turned out to be worthless.  In 1878 the property was  finally lost to Mr Pearce.

Around the turn of the century Underbank was subdivided into smaller sections for dairy farms. I understand that descendants of Angus McDonald with a sense of history  have purchased some parcels of land in recent times.

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