FOLLOWING ON FROM WHEN THE BANK OF AUSTRALIA WENT BUST
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.
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.
In the late afternoon the three men set off for home along Maitland Road towards Bolwarra.
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.