The colonel, world record, and this house

This one historic house (pictured above) has witnessed an incredible number of fascinating stories behind its doors which I’ve included in my book Dovercourt. But here’s one tale that isn’t in the book – it’s the twenty-year association with a world record holder cattle auctioneer. I told a version of this story on West Bremer Radio.

Martin Snelling was nineteen-years-old in 1909 when he became the youngest licensed auctioneer in Australia.

Auctioneer Martin Snelling

He came from good stock. His grandfather was Arthur Martin who was the influential Queensland government auctioneer who successfully straddled the political divide back in colonial times.

The grandfather was a close friend of William Groom who was the inaugural mayor of Toowoomba and the first and only transported convict to ever sit in the Australian parliament. The grandfather was responsible for many landmark sales including in the Ipswich district the Morningside Estate at Booval in 1887, and the Liverpool Estate in North Ipswich in 1888, amongst many others.

Martin Snelling’s father was Colonel Walter Henshaw Snelling. He was also one of the founders of the Queensland Defence Force following the withdrawal of the British garrison in 1870. The Colonel commanded the three hundred and fifty Queensland rifle volunteers who assembled at the Ipswich show grounds in 1877 in the first ever mass gathering of the Queensland military.

Colonel Walter Henshaw Snelling (seated, centre)

Martin Snelling’s oldest brother Frederick tragically drowned in Moreton Bay in 1893 when he was on a pleasure trip aboard the yacht owned by the Queensland premier Sir Thomas McIlwraith. Snelling’s sister Louisa served as an Australian army nurse throughout the First World War. She was awarded the Royal Red Cross decoration to go with her three military service medals.

Martin Snelling himself was also in the headlines. He purportedly played rugby union for Queensland and shot for Brisbane Grammar winning the Empire championship. He was also the best auctioneer in the state and had his own cattle auction yards at One-Mile in Ipswich. The opening speech was given by the Ipswich mayor Alderman Alfred Tully Stephenson.

But Snelling made headlines around the globe in 1926 when he set the world record for cattle auctioneering up in the Burnett. On one day he sold – on his own – over seven thousand head of cattle in just four-and-a-half hours. To give you an idea of how many cattle that is, when they were walked into the yards, the herd was ten miles long.

Snelling’s world record cattle auction

Martin Snelling proved to be even better than his famous grandfather who in the 1860s had tried and failed three times to sell at auction the 1865 historic Brisbane home Dovercourt.

The only way that his grandfather could sell the house was to convince his son-in-law to buy it, and that was Colonel Snelling who was the father of the soon-to-be-great auctioneer Martin Snelling.

So if you’re down at One-Mile in Ipswich, think of the world-record auctioneer Martin Snelling who once had cattle sale yards there. And when you’re at Toowong in Brisbane, remember that the One-Mile auctioneer’s father Colonel Snelling owned the historic house there for twenty years back in the nineteenth century. There is history out there everywhere you go.

You can read all about the Colonel in my book Dovercourt.


Photo credits:
Dovercourt 2021 – Ross Monks
Martin Snelling – Queensland Country Life, Thursday 25th October 1945, page 4
Colonel Snelling and Officers from the Queensland Defence Force 1886 – State Library of Queensland
World record 7000 cattle sold by Martin Snelling – Queenslander, Thursday 16th June 1932, page 24

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