Imagine owning pastoral lands equal to a third of the size of Belgium. James Tyson (1819-1898) was an Australian born, self-made ‘millionaire’ who owned a string of properties around Australia. His fame as a pastoral tycoon, immortalised by Banjo Paterson in the Poem T.Y.S.O.N.

By the time Tyson finished acquiring pastoral leases along the Warrego River and Cuttaburra Creek, adding runs in other parts of Queensland and adjoining properties in NSW his holdings covered over two and half million acres, said to be roughly a third of Belgium. Although the properties operated in two different states they were managed as a part of Tinnenburra. Tinnenburra Station, near the town of Cunnamulla in Queensland, 800 kilometres west of Brisbane and around 260 kilometres north of Bourke in NSW became the focal point of Tyson’s operations.

With a fortune founded on supplying meat to the Bendigo gold fields at first Tyson concentrated on cattle-breeding at Tinnenburra before an improvement in wool prices led him to swapping cattle for sheep. Of course a decent sized shed was needed and Tyson built one. With 101 shearers’ stalls the elevated shed was supported by rows of tree trunks, stories mention 1000 cypress pine logs. Corrugated iron awnings over the windows helping to perhaps to alleviate the heat. Our first millionaire and an enormous shed deserves a myth and Tinnenburra woolshed had one. One story was of a shearer fired for swearing. He slowly walked through the shed and out the other end where the foreman re-hired him not realising the shearer had grown a beard in the meantime. (Below: Tinnenburra paddock map).


Tyson was a business-savvy, quiet man who never drank and didn’t marry. He concentrated his abilities on what he knew best and took interest in everything. He was reportedly sympathetic to the local Aboriginals reserving an area for them on the eastern side of the Cuttaburra where they were to be left in peace and not disturbed. No doubt this was a mutually agreeable arrangement as Tyson then had access to skilled bush labour. At his peak Tyson held 3.8 million hectares of land with stations in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. I often wonder why he is not more celebrated in Australia’s pastoral history. Perhaps it’s because unlike the Kidman family there was no large kinship network to carry on the business after his death or at least pass down his legacy.

Tinnenburra Woolshed, 1918. © Collection of the Centre for the Government of Queensland