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Clare Pioneer, John Hope

John Hope, pastoral pioneer, whose home

Extracted largely from:

John Hope of Clare, South Australia: an under-recognised colonial achiever by Rory Hope, Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia Issue 46 (2018)


John Hope

  • had a spirit of adventure, was prepared to take risks

  • and was enterprising and purposeful.

  • He was a careful planner, a hard worker

  • and a perceptive observer.

As an experienced pastoralist and skilled stockman he was willing to share his expertise with others in a spirit of friendly collaboration.

  • He was generous and devoted to his family.

  • His religious beliefs were broad;

  • he had a strong sense of ‘duty’.

  • There is no sign of any racism or snobbishness in him throughout his life.

John Hope was caught between two worlds, and though he became increasingly attached to life at Wolta Wolta, he never fully embraced Australia as ‘home’ ‒ that had to await future generations of Hopes.

Leaves Ireland

John Hope left from Londonderry in Ireland for Australia on 17 March 1839, taking with him a large store of useful goods, some savings, and letters of recommendation.

John Hope arrived with little else but hope as his ship was wrecked near Cape Horn in South America, and so he arrived with little personal belongings at all.

  • He moved to SA in 1839 from Western Australia.

  • On arrival in Adelaide, he walked twenty-five miles (40 kilometres) to the then un-surveyed area now known as Gawler where he presented a letter of introduction to John Reid, an old Hope family acquaintance from Ireland.

  • The Reid family, early residents of Gawler, resided in ‘Clonlea’ one of the first stone house erected north of Adelaide (Illustrated at left).

  • Reid employed Hope as a tutor to his four sons at £1 per week.


Within a year or so, John Hope purchased several hundred sheep ‘at a good price’, shipped them to Albany in Western Australia, and then drove them 400 kilometres overland to Perth.

  • Only twenty-three animals survived the trip, the others died from eating virulent poison plants en route.

  • Instead of making money from this disastrous venture, Hope lost what little capital he possessed.

  • Hope joined into the northern exploration in 1839 and was briefly a joint partner in 66,000 acres at Hill River, so he knew the value of the area.

Hope arrives near Clare

In 1841 John Hope formed a partnership with John Watts, the Adelaide Postmaster General. These two enterprising men planned to graze sheep on un-surveyed Crown land in the mid-north of South Australia.

Subsequently Hope managed part of Bungaree in 1842 and in 1842 he was also managing E. B. Gleeson’s flock of sheep stationed where Auburn is now, where Hope and two men were kept besieged for a whole day by a [group] of Aborigines who pelted them with spears and stones; at last he fired some shot at them and they dispersed.”

  • Later, John Hope was to become godfather to Gleeson’s orphaned nephew.

Hope arrives near Clare
Leaves Ireland
Clonlea demolished 1956.jpg

By 1843 John Hope had in excess of 1000 sheep which he grazed under Occupational Licence No 43 on a run near Clare of about 80 square miles (20720 hectares).


In the mid-1840s, John Hope was a busy man.

  • While running his own sheep station Koolunga

  • and cooperating with George Hawker at Bungaree,

  • he retained a managerial role for John Watts.

On 7 June 1845, Watts recorded that: [Hope] came into town [Adelaide] to attend the Grand Jury and told me [Watts] there seemed to be no doubt of their being able to establish their right to the additional runs which Hughes and Hawker had attempted to take.

Koolunga Station 'Run'
John Hope's Koolunga property on the Bro
Koolunga Station  - 1846

After 1846 Hope held Occupation Licenses for 70 square miles running 7,000 sheep.

  • In 1847, Licence number 113 described Hope’s Koolunga run as being on the Broughton Plains, situated on the Broughton River.

  • Koolunga was a pastoral lease of land to John Hope, and the Koolunga run (station) was 95 square miles, situated north of the Hummocks Run.


These early licenses gave permission to graze without conferring lasting property rights.

  • The property boundaries were poorly defined. There were few, and in most cases no, fences – hence the need for shepherds.

  • John Hope named his run ‘Koolunga’. This is thought to be an Aboriginal word meaning ‘red banks’, with reference to the banks of the Broughton River.

  • The present town of Koolunga (population about 200 in 2016) is close to the site of Hope’s original homestead.

Lease 113 (marked '58' on the map below), was situated on the Broughton [River], (see left)

bounded by a line commencing at the River Broughton and running 6 miles North,

forming a portion of the Western boundary of Mr. Watt’s run,

thence by a line running 2 miles West,

thence 3 ¾ miles North by West,

thence 6 miles West by South,

thence 2 miles South, thence 1 ½ miles West, thence 8 miles South East by South,

thence 2 ¼ miles South by West,

thence 6 ½ miles East by North to the starting point on the Broughton.

The bridge over the River Broughton leading northwards into the town is named ‘Hope’s Crossing’.

  • Hope employed upwards of twenty shepherds to care for his stock.

  • Each shepherd, some with wives, was assigned a hut and supplied with provisions.

Like many people of Irish background, John Hope had a great fondness for horses and was a skilled stockman. At one time there were 220 horses on Koolunga.

  • He imported rams, bulls and stallions from interstate and overseas, and concentrated on improving the quality and quantity of his stock.

  • Later, he appointed a manager to carry out much of the day-to-day work on the Koolunga run


In March 1852 the Governor of South Australia, Henry Young, appointed John Hope and Charles Hawker as Justices of the Peace.

  • Hope earnestly fulfilled his duties and, together with fellow JPs Paddy Gleeson and James William McDonald (Stipendiary Magistrate), he frequently adjudicated in the Clare Magistrates Court.

Buys the Hummocks - 1856
Buys the Hummocks
Hummocks Station - Snowtown Bed and Brea

In about 1856, the lease of the Hummocks (a run of 33 square miles or 8547 hectares, leased by John Ellis) about forty-three miles (69 kilometres) west of Clare, was taken over by ‘Hope, Moorhouse and Company’, which was a group comprising

  • John Hope,

  • Dr Matthew Moorhouse (who had relinquished his post as Protector of Aborigines) and lived on the run as manager,

  • Francis Faulding,

  • Joseph Fisher and

  • Anthony Forster.


The Hummocks Run then carried about 25 000 sheep.

  • By 1860, Lease 124 comprised the two properties of Hummocks and Bumbunga, which covered 100 square miles or 64,000 acres.

  • Another two leases, 492, 467, were also West of the Barunga Range, towards nowadays Port Broughton.

  • The lease was resumed by the Government in 1869 forcing Dr Moorhouse and John Hope out.


By 1857, in addition to his Koolunga run, he owned about 2340 acres (947 hectares) freehold in the Clare area. It was on one of these sections, within walking distance to the town, that he built his homestead ‘Wolta Wolta’.

 John Hope returned to Ireland in 1859, met and married a young woman, Isabella Kenney, from Dublin.

They returned to Clare and raised five children at Wolta Wolta.

John Hope's Landholdings from 'Irish Sou
'Wolta Wolta' at Clare
'Wolta Wolta' at Clare
My dear Catherine, duty more important t
Wolta Wolta around 1880.jpg

In the five years between 1860 and 1865, Isabella had five children (including  R. E. H. Hope, and Diana Hope, later Di Christison) and set of twins.

  • John, who fancied himself as a bush doctor skilled in administration of ‘medseine’ (as he always spelt it in his diaries) administered chloroform to his wife to ease her pain during childbirth.

  • Most of Isabella’s time was spent caring for their children but she also entertained visitors from Clare and Adelaide and continued to run the Sunday school.

John Hope 1860's.jpg

In 1865 Hope sold Koolunga, the run which had provided him with the financial security and independence he sought when leaving Ireland twenty-seven years previously.

  • In 1870 he also sold out of his share of the Hummocks.

  • Hope now focused his pastoral activities on the freehold land he had been accumulating nearer Clare and on which he had built the Wolta Wolta station homestead.

  • While Wolta Wolta station was never much greater in area than 12 square miles (3108 hectares), it had a higher rainfall and richer pastures than Koolunga.

  • However, the land was dispersed which made it difficult to manage.


Hope's Journeys


In October 1865, John Hope and family followed the Hawkers to England, arriving in Liverpool on 22 December after an unusually rapid voyage of only sixty-three days.

  • Isabella must have been overjoyed to visit her mother and sister in Dublin,

  • and John once again spent some time in England witnessing his wool being auctioned, and in Manchester with his brother Charles.

  • During this and subsequent trips abroad, John had to rely on correspondence with managers, agents and accountants to look after his affairs in Australia.

  • John Hope became increasingly tired of the social life and after about six months (in June 1866) returned alone to Wolta Wolta.


It was not long, however, before he again set off for Ireland (on 17 March 1867) this time travelling via New Zealand, South America and the USA, arriving some six months later in Dublin on 20 June 1867.

  • After a brief reunion with Isabella and their children, John Hope and George Hawker toured Europe, the Mediterranean and northern Africa together before returning to Australia via the Suez Canal.

After seven months back in South Australia, which included an ambitious camping/ horseback exploration of the Flinders Ranges with George Hawker,

  • Hope set out yet again for England and Ireland,

  • this time with the aim of returning with his wife and children.

  • They arrived back in Adelaide in July 1870, and settled into life at Wolta Wolta.

Hope's Journeys
George Charles Hawker.jpeg
Para Station NSW

Between 1873 and 1875, John Hope purchased two very large stations.

  • The first, near Wentworth in New South Wales, was named ‘Para’.

  • It was some 570 square miles in area (147 629 hectares) and had a twenty-five mile (40 kilometre) frontage on the River Darling.

  • Para was stocked with 38 000 sheep, 1200 cattle and 100 horses.

  • The annual wool clip, averaging about 450 bales, was sent by paddle steamer down the Darling and Murray rivers to Goolwa,

    • by rail to Port Victor (Victor Harbor), and then

    • by ship to Liverpool.

  • Including stock and improvements, Para cost Hope £58,000. The annual rental due to the New South Wales government was £335.

Map of John Hope's properties.jpg

Writing to his sister Catherine, Hope says:

the speculation that I recently entered into [the purchase of Para and Keeroongooloo]

will most likely keep me here for some years if I am spared so long.


It was not of choice that I entered into the business again

but the great and rapid changes that had taken place ... have made it necessary that I ... make a provision for the children.

Sheep farming was what I understood best.


In a different frame of mind, Hope had written to Isabella (in 1868):

Wolta Wolta is now looking very pretty,

the wattles are covered with their yellow blossom and perfume the air,

the almonds are so full of blossom that you can see nothing of the branches, the oxalis is very gay.

The orange trees have a great deal of fruit,

I wish that you were all here to eat them

Last Journey Home
Last Journey Home
John Hope's Wolta Wolta.jpg
Wolta Wolta Emerald Valley Manor Clare V
Wolta Wolta Clare.jpg
Wolta Wolta hero-300.jpg
Irish Cross over Grave of John and Isabe
Hope Window dedication.jpg
Hope Memorial Window med.jpg
Obituary, John Hope (1805 - June 20, 1880)

South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA) Sat 26 Jun 1880 Page 2


On June 20 Mr. John Hope, who was for many years a squatter at Wolta Wolta, in the neighborhood of Clare, died at the York Hotel Adelaide.

  • The deceased gentleman in March, 1879, had paid a visit to England on family affairs, and returned in the Orient about six weeks ago when he took up his abode at the York Hotel, being in ill-health.

  • He had lost all his strength owing to old age, and never recovered from his illness. He was about 75 years of age at the time of his death.

Besides having a large property in Clare, the deceased was the owner of a run near Cooper's Creek, and had also recently built a house at Glenelg.

  • The deceased did a great deal of good in and about Clare, although ha never came forward as a public man.


On Tuesday afternoon, June 22 1880, the funeral took place.

  • The remains of the deceased gentleman were removed from the York Hotel, Adelaide where he had been staying to the time of his death, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon for the North-road Cemetery,

  • and were followed to the grave by a large number of citizens as well as residents in the country.

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