A trip from Sydney to Wingello was undertaken on June 21, 1864, by the NSW Governor, Sir John Young, and some members of the government.
As told previously, the party stayed overnight at Mittagong and next day stopped at Berrima. After lunch they proceeded down the Great Southern Road to Wingello, where on June 23 a sale of alpacas would be held.
The animals had arrived in the area in 1860, de-pastured by Charles Ledger at the large Arthursleigh property, then owned by the Hon Thomas Holt MLA, a wealthy Sydney wool merchant. Ledger and his South American shepherds had smuggled llamas and alpacas out of Peru in 1859, travelling hundreds of miles over the Andes to Chile and then by sea to Sydney, where the government purchased the herd and appointed Ledger as Superintendent of Alpacas.
His incredible journey and the intrigues involved form a fascinating chapter in the book Arthursleigh, a history of the property 1819 to 1979 by Chrissy Fletcher, 2004 [ISBN 0-95804970X].
In 1863 Ledger was accused of deceit and suspended. The alpacas were placed under the superintendence of Edward Payten who began moving them from Holts property to nearby Wingello Park. Ledger continued to insist that all the animals be re-sold to him.
A report in the Sydney Morning Herald on June 15, 1864 stated: It is generally known that the Legislative Assembly determined that the alpacas should be sold by auction, and that the government have placed the sale in the hands of Messrs Richardson and Wrench.
From the statements of those who have recently seen the alpacas, the animals are in splendid condition, and the difficulties in the way of their acclimatisation, that resulted from their removal from their native pastures, their exposure on the long land journey and the sea voyage, and the cross-breeding of the llama and the alpaca, have been surmounted. No fewer than 187 of the females are with young. The object is not now to possess some interesting pets, but to engage in an occupation that promises a good return. Our alpacas are known to be desired by public associations in the other colonies; some of the provincial governments of New Zealand are intending buyers; and enquiries have been made on behalf of Melbourne capitalists.
According to the Goulburn Herald, the sale day was fine and the neighbours from the surrounding country mustered in force, with about 150 persons present. The papers report continued that the Governor had arrived the previous evening at Mr Brown's Inn, Wingello, accompanied by the Hon J Martin, Colonial Secretary, and the Hon J B Wilson, Minister for Lands, and escorted by mounted police.
The alpacas, 307 in number, were divided according to catalogue into 51 lots. The sale was to be at 12pm, but some delay occurred and it was resolved that luncheon should take place before the sale. The company adjourned to Mr Payten's barn, where luncheon had been provided by order of the Government for 200 persons. At its conclusion, the Governor proposed Success to the Auction, coupling with the toast the name of Mr Holt. His Excellency expressed his approval of the course the Government had taken in bringing the alpacas to sale. They would be dispersed amongst a variety of breeders, and there would be thus a fairer opportunity for their being properly cared for than if they were retained by the Government.
The company then proceeded to the pens. It was soon apparent that there were but two or three buyers present. The first lot was knocked down to Mr Morrice, MP, at 30 pounds per head and only one other first-class lot sold. Intending buyers were not satisfied with the arrangement that a wether was included in each lot. Mr Holt bought one second-class lot exclusive of the wether, which he refused to take; and Mr Moore, of the Botanical Gardens, bought one lot for the Acclimatisation Society.
Mr Wrench then announced the closure of the sale as the Government were disappointed and did not feel justified in continuing.
Later reports note that while Holt kept a herd of alpacas on Arthursleigh, many were given away, some to amuse patients at lunatic asylums.
- Berrima District Historical & Family History Society compiled by PD Morton. Part 3 of a 3-part series.
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