Volume 71: Macarthur family papers relating to wool and sheep, 1820-1936: No. 070
THE ERCILDOUNE FLOCKS.
These sheep were the descendants of the first great importation of the Spanish merino into Germany, which had been obtained by the Elector of Saxony as a great favour from the King of Spain, and which were of the best cabana or flock, in the kingdom. The late Mr. Forlonge obtained the promise of a portion of this celebrated breed, which was called the Electoral flock, and they were taken by Mrs. Forlonge and her sons to the port of embarkation and brought to Tasmania. Through some cause they passed out of Mr. Forlonge's hands into those of Mr. (now Sir William) Mitchell who brought them to his Barfold Station, near Kyneton. To induce Mr. Mitchell to part with them, Mr. Learmonth offered two sheep for one of the pure flock, and obtained the pure breed which he so much desired. Such was the origin of the pure Ercildoune flock, and although the breed was always kept absolutely pure, it was re-invigorated on more than one occasion by an infusion of different strains of merino blood, also descended from pure imported merinos, a few rams of the celebrated Camden flock, imported by Captain Macarthur, having been used, and in 1862, some sheep from Mr. Kermode's pure flock at Mona Vale were also used with great advantage. Since this time no new blood has been added to the pure flock, which has now within itself a sufficient variety of type to allow of selection in any desired direction, and without too close inbreeding.
Under the skilful selection of Mr. Jonathon Shaw, and owing to the present owner desiring to stock up his other runs with the breed, and breeding from nearly double the number of ewes that were formerly bred from, the numbers to select from have been greatly increased, and improvement has gone at a greatly accelerated rate, the sheep that are rejected now being quite equal to the general flocks as they were five years ago.
The establishing of annual sales of sheep in Melbourne somewhat interfered with the old supremacy of this flock at Skipton, as the owner objected strongly to artificial feeding of sheep for show or sale; but finding that judges and buyers gave prizes and high prices for highly-fed sheep, and neglected those that were only grass-fed, he gave additional care to the condition of the sheep offered, with the best results, as the high prices obtained at the late sales amply testify.