Christopher Allingham, his descendants and associates.

Author: Trish Barnard

Collectors: Christopher Allingham, Dr Johnston Morton ‘Jock’ Allingham, Robert Stewart and Dr William Craig Christie MacDonald

Born: Christopher Allingham was born at Hillgrove, County Fermanagh, Ireland in 1829.

Died: Christopher Allingham died at Armidale, New South Wales, in 1876.

Active: Christopher Allingham, his descendants and associates, collected in the Ingham and Charters Towers districts from the 1870s to the 1950s.

Background biography:

Early pastoralists in the Kennedy District were often keen collectors of Aboriginal artefacts and their collections were inherited by their descendants. Dr Johnston Morton ‘Jock’ Allingham often accepted artefacts as payment from patients who were unable to pay their medical fees during his years in Ingham and later in Charters Towers. Dr Allingham descended from a pioneering dynasty dating from the time North Queensland was first opened to European settlement in 1861. His Irish forefather, Christopher Allingham, with his two cousins John and Johnstone Allingham, drove sheep and cattle from their home in Armidale, New South Wales. Beginning their trek in 1859, the year Queensland separated from New South Wales, they did not reach their destination in the Burdekin Valley, North Queensland, until two years later. In 1862 Christopher chose his own property in the region, establishing Hillgrove Station, named after his birthplace in County Fermanagh, Ireland. John returned to Armidale and married Frances Allingham (not related) and brought her to live at Hillgrove Station in 1862, as did his brother Johnstone who married Susan Jane ‘Jannie’ Markham in 1877. Christopher also established Muralambeen Homestead, off Bosworth Road near Palm Creek in the Herbert River flood plain, in 1876. Later that year he returned to Armidale due to ill health and died in November. Upon his death, the lease to Muralambeen was transferred to his cousin John Allingham. Although Christopher remained unmarried, Muralambeen continued to be owned by the family to the present day. Descendant Dr Jock Allingham married Lorna and initially lived at Hillgrove Station before moving to the Southwick property near Charters Towers. Dr Allingham had received his Bachelor of Medicine in 1941 at the University of Sydney and was a highly respected member of the Charters Towers community until his death in 2012.

An associate of the Allingham family was Scottish aristocrat Robert Stewart (1836-1902), who in 1861 established Southwick Station west of the Herbert River, named in honour of his birthplace and childhood home, Southwick House. He ventured into the northern frontier as a pastoralist and although he was initially involved in conflicts with Aboriginal people defending their lands, he quickly became interested in Aboriginal artefacts and actively collected up to 1887. Over that time he incorporated Hillgrove Station into his pastoral holdings too. Stewart regularly returned to south-west Scotland and exhibited his artefacts at the Wigtown Town Hall in 1878. According to historian Anne Allingham, Stewart was not just an avid collector of artefacts; inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution, he also studied the behaviour of Aboriginal people. In his 1878 Wigtown speech about his collection, his underlying message was that the ‘Aborigines were a dying race, but by the laws of nature it was preordained that they succumb to a superior fitter European race who were thereby the rightful inheritors of the land’. In 1881 Stewart sold Southwick to Townsville businessman and pastoralist William Aplin (1840-1901), and retired to Culgruff House in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland where he died in 1902. The collection was displayed there for more than a hundred years before being presented for sale at Christie’s salerooms in Paris. Remaining artefacts were later listed with Sotheby’s auction house and sold at the Museum of Contemporary Art on 20 October 2008. The collection included material culture from groups across the wet tropics of North Queensland and down to Charters Towers region. Southwick was later owned by Dr Jock Allingham and remains in the family.

A medical practitioner in the Ingham area who befriended the Allingham family was Dr William Craig Christie MacDonald (c.1855-c.1912) who had established a practice in October 1883. Dr MacDonald later moved residence to nearby Halifax in 1907, but lived there only until he relocated to Edgecliff in Sydney in 1909 where he remained until his death around 1912. During his time in Ingham, Dr MacDonald collected Aboriginal material culture, but also purchased other artefacts or accepted them as gifts. He employed two Aboriginal people as ‘servants’, a man and woman who were both from Cardwell. According to his daughter Helen Reeves in 1984, Dr MacDonald most likely collected material through this couple too. His granddaughter, Mrs Janet Arnold, also stated that he had been on good terms with local Aboriginal people and South Sea Islanders, and that his friend Allingham had said he was ‘interested in the Aboriginals and realised they would disintegrate in contact with civilization and wanted to know as much as he could of their culture’ (Reeves, April, 1984). After his death, Dr MacDonald’s collection was placed into storage with Grace Bros. in Sydney from 1938 to the 1940s. When his daughter Janet MacDonald died, the collection was stored away in a loft at the home of his second daughter, Dr Enid Bowman, at 479 Oxford Street, Paddington in Sydney. In 1968 Dr MacDonald’s youngest son Gavin sent the collection to Dr Jock Allingham at Fletcher Vale near Charters Towers. Apparently Dr MacDonald’s eldest daughter, Helen, a nurse, had married younger grazier John Allingham, parents of Dr Jock Allingham. In 1976 Dr Allingham was concerned that the dry heat at Charters Towers would deteriorate the wooden artefact collection and loaned a major selection to the Material Culture Unit at James Cook University for safe keeping (L76.01.010 +). Some of his collection remains with the Allingham family.

Allingham, Anne. (2008) ‘An important collection of Far North Queensland artefacts, formerly in the collection of Robert Stewart of Southwick’ in Aboriginal Art: including selected Oceanic Art, Sotheby’s auction catalogue, 20 October, pp.30-38.

Allingham, Anne, (1978) Taming the Wilderness: the first decade of pastoral settlement in the Kennedy District, History Department, James Cook University, Townsville.

Gilmore, Marjorie. (2010) The Allingham Family in North Queensland 1859-1975, Acacia Press, Corinda.

North Australian Monthly, vol 2 no 1, August 1955, p. 38.

Reeves, Helen. (1984) Letter supplied to Material Culture Unit, James Cook University on history of MacDonald collection, April.