Cunnamulla’s Gwydir Girls Epitome of International Women’s Day

Cunnamulla, Outback Queensland town of living history and the Gwydir Girls formerly of Coonberry Plains surely did their bit to develop the area.

Cunnamulla Gwydir Girls Coomberry PlainsLeft to Right: Nellie, Dolly, Gladys Gwydir

These three ladies surely are worthy of remembering today on International Women’s day as pioneers of our region but also as real outback characters that could do anything they set their mind too. 

They are an example that we all can do and achieve anything if we have a will to win, willing to listen, learn and put in the the dedication and work.

The following article was written and published in Queensland Country Life on February 1, 1940. This is only one tale of many great stories I have heard over the years of these great local ladies but we would love to hear more.

Credit to : Queensland Country Life


Unfortunately there are no V.C.’s to be won for meritorious conduct in pursuits far removed from the glory trail of Mars, but if there were, the Misses Gwydir, of Coonberry Plains, Cunnamulla, would be among the first recipients.

‘The three sisters, Misses Dolly, Nellie and Gladys, entirely control a 28,000-acre property carrying about 5000 sheep, and the story of their management is as thrilling a tale of the will to win that we have heard – and let it be said that we have not had the story from them.

In the wool appraisement catalogue offered by the A.M.L. ad F. Co. Ltd. last week, top price was 181/2d per lb. for 10 bales of aaa e of the Coonberrey Plains clip. The verdict of A.M.L. and F. Co.’s wool expert (Mr. H. S. Major) was, “One of the finest lots of wool we have had from the Cunnamulla district.”

Behind that, however, is the story – The Misses Gwydir were born on Tinnenburra, when that enormous area was in the hands of the late James Tyson, cattle tycoon. Their father was one of Mr Tyson’s managers, and the girls were born and reared in an atmosphere of stock and good stock management.

For the last eight or 10 years, since their father’s death left them completely to themselves, they have successfully carried on the management of Coonberry Plains. Miss Dolly Gwydir, who is the eldest, Bees for the housekeeping, and Misses Nellie and Gladys (the youngest) share between them the outside work; the actual running of the property.

The work is second nature to them, but they have had the courage to dedicate themselves to it, with their resolution unshaken by flood and drought and bad times. ‘The clip is classed by Miss Gladys. Although she has not been trained to it, she has learned on the property and from visits to the stores, sufficient to be able’ to class the Coonberry Plains clip so that it will sell to the very best advantage.

Last week, during the appraisal of the A.M.L. and F. Co.’s catalogue, the grading of the Coonberry-Plains clip was very favourably commented upon by the final appraisers. The three young ladies have filled their roles of 100 per cent Australians so fully that they break in and shoe their own horses.

For six or seven months of the year sometimes they run the property completely without the aid of men. There is nothing in connection with the property that they cannot do. In spite of the immensity of their task, they are able to find time to take part in the social doings of the district. They shine as equestrians, and have won outstanding trophies for camp drafting, hunting, etc.

And this is how they can “take it” when an emergency arises:- About two or three years ago, the three had decided to motor into Cunnamulla. Rain threatened as they left Coonberry Plains, and by the time they had gone about half way materialised into a positive deluge. In no time the red soil was boggy morass and their car stuck fast. The rain looked as if it would keep up; the station dogs were chained up and about 2000 sheep pastured on the river frontage; something had to be done.

Leaving Miss Dolly Gwydir in the car, in case help arrived, the Misses Nellie and Gladys made their way on foot to a property by the roadside a couple of miles away. Here they borrowed horses and rode for home.

For five or six hours they flogged through the mud, arriving home at 2 a.m. The dogs were released. After a brief “breather” and a cup of tea they ventured out again, about 5a.m., on fresh horses and shifted the sheep on the river frontage, to higher ground.

Twelve hours later the river came over its banks. Other properties lost thousands of sheep on that occasion.

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