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Merriman the Merino trendsetter

Wal Merriman with a picture of his grandfather, Sir Walter.

WOOL industry icon, the late Sir Walter Merriman, was a trendsetter in a boomtime for Merinos.

Wool was king and many of rural Australia’s great pastoral names were building their empires.

His own stud, Merryville, was established in 1904 with ewes he bought from his father’s Ravensworth stud at Yass.

He set up on a block he bought from his father, part of the original “Ravensworth” holding, and by 1930 was winning major prizes at the Sydney Sheep Show.

At a time when most breeders were chasing the Vermont type – popular because the extra folds of skin were considered to grow an increased volume of wool – Sir Walter and his father were travelling to Mudgee, Tasmania and Queensland’s Darling Downs to secure Saxon-type sheep.

His grandson and current co-principal of Merryville, Wal Merriman, said the stud’s famous Ringmaster family traced directly to those sheep.

Sir Walter also began a fine/medium line with the introduction of a ram from the famous Falkiner family’s Wanganella flock in the Riverina.

This ram – a Peppin type -was called Sir Francis, now another famous sire line in the Merryville stud, and was bought as a five-year-old in 1917 for 1000 guineas.

“He successfully blended the two types,” Mr Merriman said.

This line was developed to grow his market into the western areas where he could see people were after bigger sheep, “so he bred bigger fine wool sheep”.

Mr Merriman said his grandfather came through an era when many of the big names, such as Bundemar, Haddon Rig, Boonoke/Wanganella and Uardry, were building their empires – and he came through with them.

“And Merryville has since gone on to be a major parent stud in the industry,” he said.

He was knighted in 1954 for his service to the industry.

“He didn’t hang around – he walked in, got knighted and had to head home – he was shearing or something,” Mr Merriman said.

*Read more about some of the century’s most influential studmasters in The Land’s 100-page centenary liftout – free inside this week’s paper.

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