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The Duncan Legacy:

Hughes Park Estate, Watervale

The Duncan Legacy
8 Nov 1905  THE HON. J. J. DUNCAN.png
Statue of W.W. Hughes

The Hon John James Duncan, Liberal leader, lived at Hughes Park from 1874 - 1913

The Hon. J.J. Duncan is the Leader of His Majesty's Opposition in the Legislative Council, (and) is a worthy representative of the squatting industry, and he has at great personal sacrifice, devoted many years to the service of his country in the legislature.

  • His vast experience in the business world renders his services in the legislature specially valuable.

  • On pastoral and agricultural matters there is probably no better authority in either branch of the legislature. - The Critic

Above: 1906, Statue of Sir Walter Watson Hughes unveiled outside Adelaide Uni.


"Sir Walter's gift of £20,000 (for a university) was a staggering amount for those times. The centenary celebration of the statue unveiling commemorates his generosity and vision that has had a major influence on the lives of so many people."

Two South Australian nephews of Hughes,

In conjunction with the university, it was determined that the memorial to Hughes would be in the form of a statue located outside the first university building, the Mitchell Building, on North Terrace.

  • The wall of the university on North Terrace had to be moved to provide space for the large statue.

  • The bronze figure of Hughes was made by Francis Williamson (1833–1920). This Englishman was reputed to be Queen Victoria’s favourite sculptor. Read more...

Duncan Family notables:

(Sir) John James Duncan (1845 - 1913)

Politician and heir of the fortune of (Sir/Capt.) Walter Watson Hughes

Father of:

Grandfather of:​

Great-Grandfather of :

  • Walter Duncan, Horticulturalist 

  • Jock Duncan, Pastoralist
    Father of Andy Duncan (see right)

Duncan Family Heritage now...
Meet Jock and Walter Duncan:
Duncan Family at Hughes Park
Meet Alice and Andy Duncan:
Hughes Park Timeline

Hughes Park Timeline


22 November, 2006:

Her Excellency Marjorie Jackson-Nelson, Governor of South Australia, and two descendants of Sir Walter - brothers Mr Walter Hughes Duncan and Mr Jock Duncan - unveiled the Sir Walter Watson Hughes statue on 22 November, in an echo of that earlier ceremony (illustrated above right)

Below: Sir S.J. Way and the Hon. Thomas Price, the Premier of S.A. and the Hon. J.J. Duncan, M.L.C. (left) attending the unveiling of the statue of Sir W.W. Hughes at the University of Adelaide.

Unveiling of a statue of Sir W.W. Hughes B-55263.jpeg

Hint : Click on any dated entry to see the original news story

1851 - Captain Hughes leased "The Peak" at Hoyleton




1887 - DEATH OF WALTER WATSON HUGHES on New Year's Day, 1887.



1897 - Property near Watervale, now being worked for gold 



1904 - Return cricket match was played on the Hughes Park Oval

1905 - Character Sketch —THE HON. J. J. DUNCAN

23 years in Parliament and one of the strongest men in the S.A. Legislative Council


1906 - Cricket match between Hughes Park, Gum Creek and Watervale 


Mr. Duncan sells surplus 8,157 acres for over £41.000


1911 - HUGHES PARK FIRE burns a large area





1923 - MR. & MRS. DUNCAN HUGHES visit Bedford Park Hospital



1927 - DAME JEAN DUNCAN'S WILL Estate of £96,727



The estate occupies 10,000 acres, carrying 7,000 sheep, 80 head of  cattle, and more than 30 horses.

1935 - Girl Guides' Rally At Hughes Park


1937 - British rifle team at Hughes Park

1939 - MR. J. G. DUNCAN-HUGHES formally endorsed BY LCL

1943 - CAPTAIN & MRS. J, G. DUNCAN-HUGHES at the Park again


           at 56 Park Tce Parkside

1966 - Walter's wife Jessie died at Hughes Park

1974 - Grandson Walter Duncan moves to Hughes Park, renovation begins

2003 - Andrew and Alice Duncan move to Hughes Park from Gum Creek

2007 - Andrew and Alice move in to the renovated homestead

Duncan Family Heritage
Captain Hughes
Early Life

Captain Hughes


"Captain Hughes", was a pastoralist, a copper miner, public benefactor and a founder of the University of Adelaide, South Australia.

Hughes was referred to in tantalising ways, such as ‘a sly old fox' by Thomas Elder, an 'opium smuggler', [he] 'should have been hanged by the neck', and 'a crook'.  He even confessed in one of his last letters to his nephew John James Duncan shortly before his death,
‘I’ve been a sinner all my life’- Patricia Sumerling

"Shrewd, gentle and kind, he had little formal education but shared the Scottish respect for learning."

"(His) public spirit and rise in influence were outstanding in the colony." - ADB

Early Life

A biographer of Walter Watson Hughes once wrote,

'The story of his fortunes and reverses reads more like romance than reality'. 

Hughes was born in August 1803, the son of Eliza and Thomas Hughes of Pittenweem, Fife, Scotland. He went to school at the nearby town of Crail where he was later apprenticed to a cooper, making barrels for whale oil.

The Schooner 'Providence,' and the Brig 'Hero,' at Plymouth, UK, 1846.png

On the Ocean Wave

He went to sea at an early age with lofty ambitions.

An obscure Scottish publication contains a quote from a letter he wrote to his father: ‘I sling my hammock in the forecastle, but I am resolved to spread my cot in the cabin.’ 


Being of a rather restless, roving disposition, he took to the sea, and rose to be chief officer of a vessel at the age of 26, when he made a voyage to India.

Before this he had a rough time of it on board a whaler, and in those days whaling was rough indeed — it is bad enough now, with all the modern appliances. His first seafaring essay was in a whaling expedition to the Arctic regions.


Tiring of this, however, and seeing a field open for him in Calcutta, he made a voyage there as chief mate of a ship in 1829. Succeeding in his venture he bought the brig Hero (pictured above), and in which he traded opium in the pirate-infested Indian and China seas. Hughes sold this ship, when he resolved to settle in South Australia. He was still captain of the Hero in June 1840, accompanying the Eliza which also bore up during a gale, heading for Timor.

Another ship named Hero had became a convict ship which arrived in Sydney in 1839.

Hughes had timed his move from smuggling spectacularly well, since the First Opium War was fought between Britain and the Qing dynasty between 1839 and 1842. 

For nearly twenty years Hughes had lived sailing in the East; South Australia offered a fresh field for enterprise.

Married in Adelaide

Hughes made a number of trips to South Australia in the brig Hero before deciding to settle there in 1841, after which he arrived in the brand new ship Devon (which also carried 'sugar, flour, sundries and 116 ponies'), arriving at Port Adelaide from Singapore on January 9 1841.

Captain Hughes was already recorded as Captain on a prior voyage, sailing 13 March 1840 ➜ 29 April 1840, in the Hero from Singapore to Port Adelaide.

Since he actually arrived as a settler in 1841, (only visited on the Hero in 1840), on the cargo carrying ship Devon from Singapore in January 1841, to set up a business, the Devon may have been owned by him also, but its master was Captain Gettring. Hughes assisted his crew from the Hero to return to England, gather their families and emigrate to SA.

Later that year, on 21 September 1841, he married Sophia Richman (1824 - 1885), daughter of an early pastoralist and solicitor, James Henry Richman. and engaged in mercantile pursuits in conjunction with the firm of Messrs, Bunce & Thomson.

He resided in Adelaide till shortly after the SA crisis of 1842 paralyzed business, when he started sheep-farming on the Yorke Peninsula on Lease 147.

On the Ocean Wave
Married in Adelaide
IMG_7222 Brig Niagro.jpg

Chairman of 'Elders-Smith' Mr.

Robert Barr-Smith has made a number of private observations of the Hughes' couple in his letters:

  • "The Wallaroo Hughes are with us just now and we have much enjoyed their visit

  • This is the first time we have had an opportunity of knowing her and we like her much She is full of fun and good qualities of a higher order. "

  • "Hughes has greatly more natural talent and force of character than the average Ayrshire Squire – and Mrs. Hughes more talent than the Squire’s lady."

  • "Given (which we have here) wealth & an introduction and the result is considerable."

  • "Hughes likes the Colony but she does not."

  • "As to Mrs Hughes’ relative position Colony versus old Country. It is just in the Colony she failed.

  • People resented her wealth and wanted to shew they did not bow down to it. In Ayrshire they stood very well – and were much sought after"


Above: Hughes Park homestead in 2000.

Tiparra Springs to Tickara Springs on York Peninsula.png
Modern map Tiparra Springs to Tickara Springs on York Peninsula.png

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Impressive explorer John Ainsworth Horrocks first owned the land on which Hughes Park is built, which Watervale founder David Davies had named Dalore (pronounced Dalorie), a Welsh name for 'best field,' and a very appropriate name for the  beautiful spot now named Hughes Park.

In 1861 Walter Watson Hughes bought Dalore from Davies.

For some years Captain Hughes searched for copper in the Watervale district, without luck, but bought the farmland land east of The Peak, now called Hughes Park, near Watervale. 

Hughes Park is now a large historic property of 7,000 acres of land, leased by Hughes in 1845 and the homestead built by Hughes around 1860.

Using his own capital, he also bought land at Macclesfield and stocked it with sheep purchased from Edward Burton Gleeson for 5s a head.

He was to become, however, one of the many victims of the financial crisis during Governor Gawler's regime. and later he trudged back to Adelaide on foot from Macclesfield with the same sheep; these were sold by the Government auctioneer, Bentham Neales, for 2s 6d a head.

He had salvaged enough from the wreck of his fortune to buy another flock before prices rose dramatically, and with these sheep he went north. 

  • In 1843 he also took out a leasehold run of 16 square miles near Wilmington with a flock of 6,000 sheep.

  • In 1846 he took out leasehold lands by the Hummock Ranges and across to the Broughton Plains.

  • In April 1846 he acquired a new leasehold at Hoyleton along the edge of the Clare Hills called The Peak west of Skillogalee Creek.


He lived in the neighbourhood of Macclesfield for a number of years, and then bought the lease at Wallaroo. The workers on his Macclesfield property were all the former sailors of the Hero.

  • In 1857 he took over the Wallaroo run there from Robert Miller adjoining the Point Riley run held by Edward Stirling.

  • He then organised a great trek of his flock, his workers and their families from Macclesfield to Wallaroo. 

  • Wallaroo was managed by his brother-in-law, Captain John Duncan, as Hughes mainly resided at The Peak

  • “He owned other land in the Watervale area and lived in a mud hut known as ‘The Peak’ out on the Hoyleton plains,” Andy Duncan said. “Then he built this home, which was single storey, and called it Hughes Park.”



The land on which Wallaroo stands was first held by Robert Miller from 1 July 1851 (lease no. 147) over 104 square miles, stretching from a point 3 km south of Point Riley, South -East beyond Kadina, thence south to include Moonta, finally rejoining the coast at Tiparra Spring.

In 1857, Miller surrendered the lease when it was taken up by W. W. Hughes.

So with his brother-in-law, Captain John Duncan, who had married his sister, Joan, Walter Hughes took up Wallaroo Station which originally extended from Tiparra Springs to Tickara Springs, and from Wallaroo to Greens Plains. We know that wife Sophia also lived there, from a story about her horse, a mare, with a tendency to bolt, ridden by William Austin Horn.


On noticing that tree roots sometimes burned with a green flame, Hughes instructed all his shepherds and boundary riders to keep a sharp watch for any signs of copper ore.


One of the shepherds, James Boor, found a small mound of green carbonate of copper outside the burrow of a marsupial rat, but forgot about it until some days later when he mentioned it to Hughes' brother-in law, John Duncan, who was manager of the out-station.


Duncan told his fifteen-year-old son, also John Duncan, to take the news to his uncle, so the boy set off with samples of ore and an Aboriginal companion. It was 130 kilometres to Watervale where Hughes was then living at The Peak near Hughes Park, but because of severe drought the horses were in such poor condition that the journey took a week. 


Hughes immediately identified the ore as copper and engaged four Cornish miners from Burra Burra to test the site. Young John Duncan drove these men, Walter Phillips, William Pascoe, Richard Walter and Richard Turren, back to Wallaroo, and in true Cornish fashion one of them swung a pick round his head and immediately began to dig where it landed, striking, as luck would have it, the main source.

When Captain Hughes first found traces of copper on his pastoral run in the early 1850s, he was short of funds and simply sat on his find while nurturing a valuable relationship with Edward Stirling, one of four directors in Elder, Stirling & Co.

Edward came to South Australia after receiving £1000 from his father, Archibald, who had been a slaveholder on four estates in Jamaica. (Edward Stirling was the illegitimate son of Archibald and a Creole woman) - Wikipedia

Edward Stirling (c. 1808 – 2 February 1873) was an early settler of South Australia. He established several pastoral properties and was a co-founder of what became Elders Limited, also serving two terms in the South Australian Legislative Council.

"Unfortunately for Hughes, when shepherd Patrick Ryan could not (find him to) report the discovery directly to him, he called upon Hughes’ nephew (John Duncan), who turned him away believing his claims were due to his drunken state.

Turning Ryan away set him on a series of events whilst in an alcoholic stupor, that included making two other legal and binding agreements on his way to the Adelaide Land Office, including one in the Black Bull pub in Hindley Street. 

When Ryan arrived at the office on 24 May 1861 with one of his new chums, publican Joseph Johnson, he was so drunk that when he was unable to describe the place of discovery, his first application was refused." - 'Fraud - Walter Watson Hughes & the Moonta and Wallaroo Mines', by Patricia Sumerling - also summarises the court battles ensuing

(Read more about Ryan in the sidebar at left)

Hughes promptly pegged mining leases, and invited Adelaide merchants Thomas Elder, Robert Barr Smith and Edward Stirling, to put up capital. Patrick Ryan received a pension for life.

Hughes also had Ryan sign an agreement with him. Hughes then registered a further 26 buffer zone mining rights as well. Some later claimed Hughes had no moral or legal right to these Moonta mining rights but after years of court appeals and legal fighting the Privy Council in England ruled in favour of Hughes.

During the legal fight Hughes returned to live in England from 1864 to 1870, when the Privy Council finally dismissed a challenge to the ownership of the mines, and Hughes returned to S.A. 


So the Wallaroo Mine Company, in which Hughes was the largest shareholder, was finally and legally formed. With profits from this venture, the other shareholders formed the pastoral firm of Elder, Stirling and Company.

​For many decades Elder and Smith (now Elders) were pioneers of the pastoral settlements and were also stock and station agents in the state of South Australia.

Read more: Clare Museum: Spirited Sir Walter Hughes

  SA History Hub: Sir Walter Watson Hughes

Captian Walter Watson Hughes.png
William Horn's Ride

In 1861 another shepherd, Patrick Ryan, chanced on some copper ore that had been thrown up by a burrowing wombat.

Despite Hughes' instructions that any findings were to be reported, Ryan kept the news to himself for some months before spilling it over a drink to the publican, Mr Johnston, at the Port Wakefield Hotel.

Johnston immediately went to Adelaide and applied for a lease of the area but was told he must give exact details of the site. Johnston formed a syndicate offering Patrick Ryan one-fifth share of the mine.

Walter Watson Hughes heard in Adelaide about the find and hurried back to Moonta where he offered Ryan a tenth share if Ryan would give him details of the site. 

Hughes then returned to his property at Wallaroo where he had staying with him a young man named William Austin Horn, who had that morning started on a trip up the shores of the Gulf of St Vincent.

When Horn was about 16 kilometres from Kadina he was overtaken by a messenger with a letter from Hughes asking him to return immediately. Horn wrote many years later, ‘I was riding a fine upstanding mare belonging to Mrs Hughes, she had been lent to me in the hopes of my overcoming her tendency to buck and bolt, and as soon as I turned her head for home she bolted and I nothing loth let her bolt and was back in Wallaroo by 4 p.m.' 

There he was met by Hughes who asked, "Can you get to Adelaide by nine o'clock tomorrow as some people named Day have started for Adelaide in order to forestall my claims for a mining lease and they have some 17 hours start but the Government offices don't open until 10 o'clock and I want you to get there before them" .

In a marathon ride William Horn covered 264 kilometres in twenty-two hours, and on his arrival at Adelaide he called on Mr John Taylor of the firm of Elder, Stirling and Company who rode to the Lands Office with him.

The rival syndicate was already there, but the office was not open. When the clerk put up the blind he recognised Mr Taylor, asked him what he wanted and dealt with his claim first. - The Philanthropist p.93

William Horn's Ride
Original application for pastoral lease no. 147 C-886.jpeg

Above: Captain W W Hughes

Below: Original application for pastoral lease no. 147 (Both at SLSA)

Unveiling of a statue of Sir W.W_edited.jpg
Child John Sansbury

Child: John Sansbury

At Wallaroo, Hughes had a relationship with a Narrunga Aboriginal woman known as Mary, who was the wife, in the 'blackfella way', of "Tom the King of Aborigines of Yorke's Peninsula".

They had a son, John Sansbury, who married  Elizabeth Angie, in the 'whitefella way'.

John was the child of Walter and Mary, but 'Tommy' assumed the role of stepfather to John, Walter Hughes paying Tom a pension for life.

  • According to Narrunga oral genealogy, John Sansbury was born in 1854 to “King Tommy” and “Queen Mary” leader of all the clans on Yorke Peninsula, and he was actually the biological son of Walter Watson Hughes.

  • Another historian claims that John was more likely the biological son of his alcoholic and renegade brother, probably Alfred Hughes. who was in the colony on Hughes' Yorke Peninsula runs for a few years in the 1850s before Walter Watson Hughes sent him back to Scotland.

  • Walter Watson Hughes never acknowledged any biological descendants.


When John Sansbury married in a church in 1874 he only listed his father as King Tommy. Presumably this church was at Point Pearce Aboriginal Mission which was established in 1868.

  • While Walter Watson Hughes gave a pension for life to King Tommy, it is understood this was as compensation for his lands and King Tommy’s help in the discovery of copper.

  • There is a poor quality photograph of John Sansbury in the 1870s which show some resemblance to Walter Watson Hughes or to his brother.

  • Official white history states that Hughes never had children but the S.A. Museum’s archives hold the findings of Australia’s largest anthropological survey, overseen by Norman Tindale. It records that Hughes had a relationship with an Aboriginal woman and fathered a son named John Sansbury.


Australian of the Year and AFL star Adam Goodes (illustrated left) was not brought up in Aboriginal culture and had always wanted to connect with his heritage. 

  • In the Australian TV series of Who Do you Think You Are? (Aug 12, 2014) AFL king Adam Goodes’ discovered his four times great-grandfather was ‘Captain Hughes’.

  • He and his mother, Lisa Sansbury learnt they are descendants of the full-blooded Aborignal woman Mary, and are from the Narungga people of the Yorke Peninsula.​

Other Estates

Sourced from a chapter 'The philanthropist - Hughes Park' by Brown, Judith Margaret in "Town life in pioneer South Australia", p. 89-112, (held at the SLSA)

In addition, Hughes also owned large properties north-east and north-west of Watervale where in the early 1860s he established Hughes Park station.

  • He also bought Gum Creek Station near the Burra from Philip Levi, its 896 square miles (2321 km²) carrying 60,500 sheep from the estate of Philip Levi for the sum of £ 13 000.

    • Oulnina Station (sold  Fri 18 Jan 1907) was the pastoral home of politician Walter Hughes Duncan, who died in 1906. It was situated in the north-east on the railway line to Broken Hill, and comprising about 731 square miles, held under pastoral lease from the Crown, together with about 38,160 sheep. 53 horses and nine foals, 58 cattle and four calves; also plant and stores.

    • In 1861 Walter Watson Hughes bought Dalore near Watervale from Davies, and in 1863 he added to his holding when he acquired Spring Vale from Mr Treloar, planting the first Riesling vineyards. 

  • As a town house he bought Torrens Park (now Scots College) in the suburb of Mitcham, a house which had been built by Sir Robert Torrens in 1854, and sold to Walter Watson Hughes (Torrens' partner in the Moonta Mines) in 1865.

    • Hughes made some extensions to the house which he kept until he left Adelaide, when it was bought (only after repeated attempts) by Robert Barr Smith.

Other Estates
Gum Creek Station (Burra)

Interview: ABC 13 October, 2009 

125 years of farming by Tom Coull

Jock Duncan's Story

Over the past 125 years the Duncan family have seen many changes at Gum Creek Station. 

Download this mp3 file


The Gum Creek pastoral property originally extended from Farrell Flat to Mount Bryan, spreading over nearly 15,000 hectares, with the homestead being located in the Gum Creek locality.

Owned by the family since 1884, the property has survived severe drought, death duty claims and numerous changes in farming practices.

The current owner is Jock Duncan.

The site of Farrell Flat was part of the original Gum Creek sheep station.

Gum Creek station had several owners until it was obtained by Sir Walter Watson Hughes in 1884.

Known now as 'South Gum Creek', the farm is now of around 5,000 Hectares, situated west of Burra.

The original Gum Creek Estate was said to have covered about 30,000 acres, and is located to the East of Hill River station's Old Stone Wall.

Read more: Try and find the book:  Gum Creek Station' Published 1961, (held at Burra Library)

Read more at Wikipedia

Gum Creek Station
'Sharp' Business

Patrick Ryan, another shepherd of Hughes, found copper at Tiparra Springs in May 1861.

Lodging claims for this site, which became the Moonta Mine, was not straightforward for Hughes.

With grievances against Hughes, Ryan tried to take out the claim with other friends, who became known as the Mills Syndicate.

When their application was botched by Ryan and rejected by the Land Office, Hughes made the claim on behalf of Ryan and for the four partners of Elder, Stirling & Co.

His interference was condemned by the Mills Syndicate as a blatant abuse of the mining regulations and protests by them and others saw a select inquiry, a Supreme Court case, an equity case in the Supreme Court and the first Privy Council judgement for South Australia.

But when funds ran out in 1868, the Mills syndicate settled out of court for £8,000, leaving Hughes and his partners owners of the Moonta Mine.

‘Technical errors’ in Hughes’ mineral claims were sanctioned retrospectively by the Mineral Lease Validation Act of January 1869.

Sharp Business
Hughes Park, Watervale 1875 B-19189.jpeg

Above: Hughes Park Homestead around 1875

View a whole album of Hughes Park Photos at SLSA

AFL Star Adam Goodes
Gum Creek Farm sheep.jpeg
Gallery of Torrens Park House
Gallery of Torrens Park House, Mitcham SA
Campell House Narrung Peninsula SA B-11402.jpeg
Long Story: Copper Metropolis
  • In 1872 Hughes extended his pastoral interests by buying Narrung Estate (Illustrated left), on the Lake Albert and Peninsula estate from the executors of John Baker's estate.

    • This estate was sold again, on 28 September 1888, after Captain Hughes died, consisting of 13,132 acres of freehold and 9,437 leasehold land, in the Hundred of Baker. The horses, cattle, sheep, plant, stores, &c., were sold with 'the -estate, and the purchase-money amounts to between £50,000 and £80,000.​


The Moonta mine had phenomenal success and was the first in Australia to pay over £1,000,000 in dividends. This was the source of his real fortune.

Hughes was knighted in 1880 and the English paper, The World, on 15 December 1880 announced,

'The Queen has conferred the honour of knighthood on Mr Walter Hughes, an Australian celebrity. He did better than "strike oil"; he discovered the Wallaroo and Moonta Copper mines, and became the richest man in South Australia.' (apart from Robert Barr-Smith)

Retirement & Death
12 Oct 1872 Gift of Mr. W.W. Hughes.png

Retirement & Death

When Walter Watson Hughes retired to England in 1873 (later suffering from cancer), John James Duncan and his uncle, Walter Richman, took over the management of his properties until his death in England on New Year's Day, 1887.

  • Although Walter and Sophia Hughes returned to England in early 1873, just before they left Torrens Park House, Sophia’s sister Olive Richman married the Governor of South Australia Sir James Fergusson in March 1873. His first wife had died in 1871. Sir James Fergusson completed his term as SA Governor in April 1873. 

  • When Walter Watson Hughes and Sophia Hughes returned to England in 1874 they both had their portraits painted in London by Miss Margaret Thomas.

  • Read more: Biography of Sir W W Hughes

In later years Hughes lived at Fann Court, in Surrey, where he died of cancer, after having been kept alive for the last four or five months by milk and brandy.

  • He had married a daughter of the late Mr. J. H. Richman, and the Lady died in June, 1885, at Chertsey; and was buried on the Derby Day in Lyne Churchyard. She was very kind to the poor folk, who strewed flowers upon her grave.


"He was a man with a broad and independent type of mind. He formed his own opinion about things, and did not fail to express his thoughts upon matters of moment, and though of a retiring nature he had (also) recognised his public duties".

Sir Walter Hughes had expressed a wish that the funeral should be of an unostentatious character, and this desire the executors endeavoured to strictly carry out. 

Sir Walter Hughes's estate in England was sworn under £35,000

[No Report of probate for his Australian Estates]

  • He has left his immense landed property in South Australia to his nephews,

    • Messrs. John and Walter Duncan, and

    • to Mr. James Richman, his brother-in-law.

  • He has also left pecuniary legacies to a number of his relatives.

    • Fancourt, where he died, is to be sold, and the proceeds put into the general English estate. 

Walter Hughes Statue, Adelaide Uni 554.jpg
4 Jan 1887 Death of Sir Walter Watson Hughes.png
Possibly Captain Duncan 5096517141_7ecabed1f0_o.jpg
Arrival of Captain Duncan and Family at Port Adelaide

- (illustrated at left) Possible portrait of Captain Duncan (click for more info.)


-- Possible matching emigrant records, 

 South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA)  Sat 11 Mar 1854  Page 2 

  • Taymouth Castle, 682 - tons.- John Duncan, master, with emigrants (not listed) 6 February 1854 ➜ 2 May 1854  Plymouth - Port Adelaide


 South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA) Tue 24 Jan 1854  Page 2  SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE:

  • BENGAL (barque), 350 tons, Duncan, master, from Liverpool  Elder and Co, agents . Company's Wharf. 

  • 22 August 1853 ➜ 19 December 1853 Glasgow - Port Adelaide


 South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA)  Tue 7 Feb 1854  Page 2 

  • Passengers per Nautilus (arrival reported on Saturday)

  • Messrs Chambers and Duncan.


 South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA)  Sat 18 Nov 1854  Page 2

  • James Fernie (Ship) Built 1854, Tonnage 1,037 --
    17 August 1854 ➜ 15 November 1854    Liverpool - Port Adelaide

  • William, Margaret and Anne Duncan, Anne Duncan

Arrival of Captain Duncan
Death of Captain Duncan

 Adelaide Observer  Sat 24 Apr 1880  Page 22


We quote the following in reference to the late Captain John Duncan, who died on April 9 1880, from the Wallaroo Times:


"Captain Duncan, whose name has been a household word in Wallaroo,

has departed this life, deeply regretted by all who knew him.

He was a native of Anstrather, Fife, Scotland; a sailor by profession, and came to Australia as mate of a ship. On his arrival, he engaged with Captain Hughes (his brother in-law), who was a sheep farmer at the Hummocks.

After a time he returned to Scotland for his family, but his intention of returning to the colony was not then carried out, and he made one or two voyages to India, in command of a vessel in that trade.

Eventually, however, be came to Australia with his family in 1854, and Captain Hughes having become lessee of the land about Wallaroo, Mr. Duncan, soon after his arrival, took charge of and began to develop what was afterwards known as the Wallaroo Run.

A few years ago he returned from a trip to his native country and resided near Glen Osmond. No man was better known in Wallaroo nor more highly respected than Captain Duncan. 

When he arrived at Wallaroo Run the blacks were troublesome and the dogs very plentiful, destructive fires(were) frequent;

he underwent great hardships and trials through the loss of his wife before a medical man could reach the station.

He continued at Wallaroo as a partner in and in charge of the station
Read more:


Captain Duncan's Family: Sons
  1. John James Duncan was a politician in the colony and State of South Australia. J J Duncan was born the elder son of (sea) Captain J. Duncan
    Inherited Hughes Park estate. (see much more below)

  2. Walter Hughes Duncan, MP for Burra, South Australia (see below)

  3. Robert Duncan (early death at Hughes Park,1890, see below left)

12 Jul 1890 Death of Mr. R. Duncan.png

Walter Hughes Duncan

The second son of Captain John Duncan (as above)

This article is about the MHA for Burra, South Australia.

For the SA MLC, see Walter Gordon Duncan (below).


Walter Hughes Duncan (29 April 1848 – 12 May 1906) was a South Australian pastoralist and politician.

He was a member of the South Australian House of Assembly from 1896 to 1906, representing the electorates of Onkaparinga (1896-1902) and Murray (1902-1906).

Duncan was born the second son of (sea) Captain John Duncan (died 24 April 1880) in AnstrutherFifeshire, Scotland, and

Read more at Wikipedia

  • He was an attentive listener, and only ever spoke in Parliament on matters with which he was completely conversant. He was "one of Nature's gentlemen".

  • He died suddenly at sea on the S.S. Ormuz (1906) on his return journey from London, somewhere between Port Said and Colombo, and was buried at sea.

Walter Hughes Duncan
W H Duncan B-6691-37.jpeg
21 Apr 1880 Captain Duncan's Funeral.png

Above: "Sir John James Duncan's career was perfectly rounded. He won success in every sphere of activity upon which he entered. Of him it may truly be said"

'Take him for all in all, we ne'er shall look upon his like again.

The oldest son of John James Duncan (above) was John Grant Duncan-Hughes, lawyer and pastoralist, who was born into the politically minded Duncan family on 1 September 1882 at ‘Hughes Park’, near Watervale, South Austtralia.

He was the eldest of the four sons of John James (later Sir John) Duncan, pastoralist and politician, and Jean Gordon, née Grant.

His brother Walter would become a member of the South Australian Legislative Council from 1918 to 1962, and President of the Council from 1944 to 1962.

John Grant’s surname was changed to Duncan-Hughes when he was a child, in memory of his childless great-uncle, Sir Walter Watson Hughes, a pastoralist, whose fortune from copper mines on Yorke Peninsula helped found the University of Adelaide, and whose property, including Hughes Park, was left largely to John Duncan on condition that his son take the Hughes name.

John Grant Duncan-Hughes

Below: Strathspey , now Mercedes College at Springfield.

Hon. John James Duncan
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Hon. John James Duncan

Since Walter Watson Hughes and his wife were childless, and in his will he left his enormous holdings to various relations.

(Sir) John James Duncan (illustrated left) reduced the size of both properties for easier management.

  • In 1902 the trustees of the late Sir W. W. Hughes's estate have sold Lake Albert station, near the mouth of the Murray, to Mr. Sidney Kidman, a well-known cattle dealer. The price is withheld, but it is understood to approximate to six figures. The estate comprises 31,000 acres, and carries about 30,000 sheep.
  • In 1906, Hughes Park, Mr. Duncan sold a surplus 8,157 acres for over £41,000.

    • At the same time he enlarged the homestead at Hughes Park, adding a second storey to accommodate his growing family.

  • The Oulnina station and stock were sold by auction in 1907 to Mr. J. L McBride, of Kooringa, for £53,500. 

  • As his political commitments kept him in town for much of the time, he engaged Mr G.K. Soward to build a house in the suburb of Mitcham, a house to which he gave the name Strathspey (illustrated below, now Mercedes College at Springfield).

Gallery of Hughes Park (1910)
Gallery of Hughes Park (1910)
Duncans at Hughes Park
The Duncans at Hughes Park

A fine stone cottage was on the property dating from the 1840s but Hughes was a wealthy man and so he had a grand mansion built here around 1862/3.

  • Hughes built a large single storey dwelling with 72 acres of clipped lawn and a four acre clipped olive hedge garden.

  • After Hughes’ return to England his nephew John Duncan lived here. In his youth Duncan had received part of his education at Stanley Grammar School in Watervale.

  • In 1875 Hughes Park was given to John James Duncan to occupy and Duncan enlarged and added a second storey to the mansion in 1900 with fine stone work and a three storey tower.

  • In 1871 Hughes donated £1 for every £2 raised by the Bible Christians of Watervale to pay off the mortgage for the erection of their church in 1867.

  • Hughes also allowed the Adelaide Hunt to sometimes use Hughes Park for their hunt meeting. 


John James Duncan inherited Hughes Park in 1887 when Sir Walter Watson Hughes died.

  • A direct descendant of John Duncan still runs Hughes Park as a sheep property and wedding venue.

  • The original stone cottage built at Hughes Park around 1845 is now available for bed and breakfast guests.


Hughes had placed his nephew Sir John Duncan in charge of Gum Creek (as well as the finances of the Moonta and Wallaroo mines) and Duncan eventually inherited the station of 50,000 acres in 1888.

Gallery of Hughes Park (at present)

Gallery of Hughes Park (at present)

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Sir John Duncan laying Presbyterian Church, Unley, foundation stone  PRG-280-1-6-96.jpeg
Colonial Lineage Duncan Family
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15 Dec 1906 Sales of Hughes Park Estate.png
Hughes Park Land Sale
Early Occupants of Hughes Park
Early Occupants of Hughes Park


John James Duncan MP was in 1911-13  one of the first members elected by parliament to the Council of the University of Adelaide.

  • He was knighted for his public services on 12 June 1913.

  • In addition to his fine homestead at Hughes Park he had a large town house, Strathspey, at Mitcham (pictured well above).


In 1871, at 26 years of age, he was elected to the Port Adelaide seat in the South Australian House of Assembly, then when that district was broken up in 1875, to the seat of Wallaroo.

He resigned in 1877 to make a trip to Europe, and while in France acted as a commissioner for South Australia at the Paris Exhibition in 1878.

  • In 1884 he was elected to the seat of Wooroora, and held that seat until 1890 when he resigned to assist in creating the National Defence League.[2] 

  • The following year he was elected to the Legislative Council for the North-Eastern district.

  • In 1896 he retired to visit England.

  • In 1900 he was returned unopposed, and from 1901 was leader of the Liberal Party, and served on the Legislative Council until his death. He was gracious in manners and was deeply respected by his political opponents.

After an operation for gall-stones he died at a private hospital in North Adelaide on 8 October 1913.

  • ​He was buried in the family ground at St Mark's Church of England, Penwortham, the mourners travelling by train to Saddleworth and thence to the cemetery by char-à-bancs.

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11 Oct 1913 Biographical sketch Sir John Duncan 2.png

Sir John Duncan was survived by his wife (Lady Duncan, died 1927, see below),  four sons and two daughters.​


From his SA estate of £320,000 generous bequests were made to his numerous relations,

  • £1500 to charitable organizations and

  • £5000 to the Presbyterian Church of which he had been a devoted member at Flinders Street.

  • His Victorian estate totaled £104,687, the bulk of it 'realty'.

  • His NSW estate was valued for probate around £11,500.


His widow. Jean Gordon Duncan, his sons, John Grant Duncan-Hughes,  barrister-at-law, and Walter Gordon Duncan, and James Harvey, all of Adelaide, were executrix, executors, and trustees of his estate.

  • In 1914 they appealed successfully against a land taxation revue of the value of three lots of the Gum Creek estate, which had been sold. The appeal was allowed with costs and the assessment (for Gum Creek) of April 17, 1913, of £194,389 would be reduced to £172,344, a £22,000 reduction. (reported Wed 1 Jul 1914)

  • Most of his remaining property was sold and placed in trust for his family and descendants.

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11Feb 1914 A Rich Estate (JJ Duncan).png
Sir John Duncan's Estate
Biography of Sir J.J. Duncan
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Death of Lady Duncan
John Grant Duncan Hughes
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Residence belonging to J.G. Duncan Hughes, Robe Terrace, Medindie SA

Residence belonging to J.G. Duncan Hughes, Robe Terrace. B-58700.jpeg
Gertrude Rosalie Duncan-Hughes, 25 February 1925 gert_246x550.jpg

Above: Gertrude Rosalie Duncan-Hughes,
25 February 1925 

Below: (Senator) John Grant (Jack) Duncan-Hughes


Above:  'The Haymakers' A group of young people attending a Church of England Mission to Seamen's Ball in Adelaide on July 6 1909, they are described as being the 'Haymaker's Set'. Back row, left to right: Duncan-Hughes; Front row, left to right: Miss Hawker; J. Stirling; M. Bruce; C. Barr Smith; Lucy Morphett; G. Dean; ...


His Children:​

John Grant (Jack) Duncan-Hughes, MHR

  1. The eldest son was John Grant (Jack) Duncan-Hughes, MHR, lawyer and pastoralist, (illustrated left) who was born on 1 September 1882 at ‘Hughes Park’, near Watervale, South Australia. (also pictured youthfully top left)
    On 20 September 1910 Duncan-Hughes married Gertrude Rosalie Dean, (illustrated left) the only daughter of Brigadier General G. H. Dean, CBE, VD. Jack had fought in WW1.

    In 1920 he was appointed aide-de-camp, then private secretary to the Governor-General, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson.-
    - INHERITED the estate in 1913 when father J.J. Duncan died in hospital. They had no children.  
    He was the Liberal parliamentarian for the seat of Boothby (1922–1928) in the Australian House of Representatives, won at the 1922 federal election. In the 1931 election, he stood successfully as a senator for South Australia (1931–1938).

  2. Walter Gordon Hughes-Duncan MLC (Born: 10 Mar 1885- Died: 27 Aug 1963) would become a member of the South Australian Legislative Council from 1918 to 1962, and President of the Council from 1944 to 1962, (in the shoes of his father Sir John).
    Married Jessie Graham (Duncan) (1885-1966)
    She died on 22 July 1966, at Hughes Park, Watervale, South Australia, aged 80.
    (To read more about Walter Gordon: see section below

 Narandera Argus and Riverina Advertiser  Tue 18 Feb 1930 

Hughes Duncan -- Remarkable Escape

Thrown from a motor car when it turned over and slid down a bank four miles from Coolac on Saturday afternoon, Mr. W.M. Hughes, M.H.R., (Billy Hughes) and Senator Duncan were both slightly injured. They had an amazing escape from death.

When a front tyre blew out Mr. Hughes sought to swing the car from the edge of a steep incline that fell away 80 feet from the road. He failed by a few inches and the car tumbled over the bank in fairly rugged, hilly country.

As the car plunged suddenly from the road both occupants were thrown clear. Mr. Hughes had his hand badly gashed, but was extremely lucky. Senator Duncan received a severe cut on the arm and both were shaken and dazed for a minute or two. Both Mr. Hughes and Senator Duncan can consider themselves lucky to be alive.

Mr. Hughes was driving an open car, and not the big sedan in which he usually travels on country trips. He was on his way to Melbourne on matters connected with the organising of the new Australian Party.

Mr. Hughes and Senator Duncan proceeded in another car to Yass, on their way to Sydney.

Read more:

His Children:​

   3. ​Captain Keith Anstruther Duncan, (1886 - 1955) sheep farmer Gum Creek South near Farrell Flat (unmarried) also ran Hughes Park Estate;

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Hughes Duncan - Remarkable Escape
Society Wedding
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12 Feb 1920 Sydney Society Wedding.png

 His Children:​

 4. Captain Colin Robert Duncan OBE (1892 - 1966) married
(a society beautyCecily Coatman Catterall  (born 1893, died 24 Dec 1987). 

Colin Duncan was one of three sons to join the military. Lieutenant Colin Duncan  was appointed the A.D.C. to the Governor-General, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson (later Lord Novar) in June 1918, for three years.  Capt. Colin Duncan was private secretary to His Excellency the Governor of SA);  Read more:

and three daughters:

  1.  Eliza Robina (Duncan), married John Gordon (9 Nov 1916 - 14 Jul 1963)

  2.  Jean Gladys Joan (Duncan) Dean, wife of Alan Ernest Dean, Gertrude's brother. Married 6 Jan 1920 (to 3 Oct 1946) in Adelaide, South Australia, Australia [children unknown] Died 4 Jan 1981 at age 84

  3. Mary Hughes (Duncan) Fotheringham — married 21 Apr 1920 (to 16 Feb 1952) in Adelaide, South Australia. Died 6 Jan 1966 at age 84.

Walter Hughes Duncan
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Walter Hughes Duncan MLC

Hughes Park was inherited by Walter Gordon Hughes Duncan in 1962.

Walter married Bessie Graham Fotheringham in Adelaide, South Australia on 20 October 1909.[3] 

The following marriage notice was published in the South Australian newspaper, The Register, on 13 November 1909: [4]

"DUNCAN—FOTHERINGHAM.—On the 20th October, at Chalmers Church, North terrace, by the Rev. A. J. Wade, Walter Gordon, second son of the Hon. J. J. Duncan, M.L.C., Strathspey, Mitcham, to Bessie Graham, second daughter of A.S. Fotheringham, Esq., Glenroy, Robe terrace, Medindie."


The family derived its considerable wealth from the pastoral and mining activities of John's father Captain John Duncan and maternal uncle Sir Walter Watson Hughes

Built House and stables known as “Duncraig”, completed in 1900. 

Walter Hughes Duncan was the Member of the Legislative Council for the Midland District in SA. Leader of the Liberal and Country Party in the Legislative Council for forty years.

He was educated at St Peters College, Adelaide and at Cheltenham College in England.

President of the Royal Agricultural Society of SA from 1924-25.


He lived at 56 Park Terrace, Parkside (now Greenhill Road, Eastwood), which grandson Walter later moved to Heritage Garden, Sevenhill.

He was a Director of BHP, Australian Iron & Steel Ltd, Adelaide Steamship Co Ltd and Goldsborough Mort & Co Ltd.

He was Chairman of Bagot's Trustee and Executor Co Ltd and on the Adelaide Boards of AMP Society and Goldsborough Mort & Co Ltd.

Leaving school in 1903, Duncan worked at Hughes Park, and on other family properties Gum Creek, near Burra, and Manunda in the saltbush country near Yunta. 

On 20 October 1909 at Chalmers Church, North Terrace, Adelaide, he married with Presbyterian forms Bessie Graham Fotheringham; they lived at Parkside and were to have three children.

He became part-owner of several properties, a director of the Milo and Bon-Bon pastoral companies, and chairman of directors of Manunda Pastoral Co. Ltd.

As the result of a family decision in 1914, Walter, the only son with young children, remained in South Australia in charge of the Duncan concerns while his mother accompanied her three other sons to England where they joined the British armed services.

South Australia's industrial development at Whyalla owed much to Duncan's influence in B.H.P. and Australian Iron & Steel Pty Ltd.

During World War II he was chairman of the State's Business Administration Committee, which was established to investigate allegations of wastage and which reported to the Department of Defence Co-ordination, Melbourne.


In 1939 he was knighted. He was president of the Stockowners' Association of South Australia and an honorary member (1943) of the Royal Agricultural Society of England. An exhibition hall bearing his name was opened at the Wayville showgrounds in 1962.

For four decades Duncan influenced non-Labor politics. Heeding his father's advice that more power could be exercised 'as an outside member' of the council, he did not seek ministerial office or a seat in the House of Assembly.

Duncan was one of the Liberals who ended fourteen years of feuding with the State Country Party by negotiating a merger which formed the Liberal and Country League in June.

As president (1944-62) of the Legislative Council Duncan was fair minded, good humoured and prepared to bend the rules to expedite proceedings. He won both popularity and respect.

With severely parted grey hair and eyes that twinkled behind heavy horn-rimmed glasses, he wore a spotted bow-tie and smoked a large-bowled pipe.

He retired due to age and increasing deafness in 1962. His last years were shadowed by the death of a daughter, Bessie's ill health and his own battle with cancer.

Survived by his wife, son and a daughter, he died on 27 August 1963 at Parkside and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at £125,617. 

Walter's Children
Walter Duncan's Children:
  1. John James Duncan (1912 - 8 Feb 1997) 
    Married Rose(mary) Erica O'Dea on 28 March 1938.
    They had two sons.

    1. Walter Duncan b. 22 Dec 1939, renovated Hughes Park, established his rose nursery at Rhynie, now has built The Heritage (Rose) Garden, Sevenhill (illustrated, below left) with materials from their childhood home at 56 Park Terrace Parkside;
      married Margaret Buckby, also married Jo in 1986, then Kay.

    2. Jock Duncan AM, a long-time president of the Adelaide Show RA&HS SA (of Gum Creek Station), married Rose.
      His Son Andrew Duncan & wife Alice, are now at Hughes Park

  2. Margaret Grant (Duncan) Skipper (1914-1999)

  3. Jean Gordon Duncan (8  Nov 1916 - 14 July 1963)

Walter and Kay Duncan's Heritage Garden Home.jpg
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Above: RAH Society President Jock Duncan AM with HRH Duke of Edinburgh on 27 February 2001

Present Occupants:
Present Occupants:

Alice and Andrew Duncan:

“The original Hughes Park homestead was a single-storey home; the second storey was added in 1890 by my great, great grandfather, Sir John Duncan, after Hughes had returned to England where he died in 1887, leaving most of his land to Duncan,” Andy said.

“We believe the stone used in the house is from the two quarries on the property.”

The property was once a bustling village in its own sense, with blacksmiths’ cottages, maid’s quarters, workmen’s cottages and stables.

Parts of the homestead remain largely untouched, its grandeur still evident.

Paintings of the family’s forebears still adorn the walls and much of the original paperwork from the daily operations of a busy pastoral lease are still filed.


Nearby, Hughes Park Cottage and Sir Walter’s Cottage were built by Hughes in 1845 and maintain their charms with slate floors and open fireplaces among modern conveniences where visitors can share the Hughes Park experience.

In another chapter to its history, Andrew’s uncle, well-known rose guru Walter Duncan of the Heritage Garden, also lived at the property and grew roses alongside the sheep farming enterprise, before moving to his current home and re-establishing his garden near Sevenhill.

Read more: Restoration Spectacular - Australian Country

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