George Lee

Lee, George (1834–1912)

by Theo Barker

This article was published:

See: Biography – George Lee – Australian Dictionary of Biography (

George Lee (1834-1912), pastoralist and stud-breeder, was born on 16 December 1834 at Claremont, a station near Kelso, the sixth son of William Lee and his wife Mary, née Dargin. Educated locally and at Sydney College, he managed stations for his father and settled at Wallaroy, near Bathurst. In 1870 his father died and he inherited land at Kelso and other stations including South Condobolin, later known as Merriwee. In 1872 he built Leeholme at Kelso, where he became well known as a stud-breeder of merinos and Shorthorn cattle. Devoted to the land Lee travelled widely in the management of his affairs.

With descendants of his father’s grey mare, Sappho, Lee bred race-horses. Three times he recovered Sappho after she had been stolen by bushrangers. From a select number of high quality brood mares, the greatest of which was Etra Weenie, he bred some famous horses: The Barb, winner of the Melbourne and two Sydney Cups for John Tait; Kingsborough, winner of many races for Governor Robinson; and Merriwee, another Melbourne Cup winner and Savanaka, raced by Herbert Power of Melbourne. Although Lee leased or sold most of his horses, he raced Lecturer in his short unbeaten career and with him won the 1872 Sires’ Produce Stakes. In 1897 he won the Debutant Stakes at Caulfield with Wigelmar. In 1906 Lee got the top price of 1600 guineas for his colt at William Inglis & Son’s first yearling auction sale. Lee was a member and committeeman of the Australian Jockey Club and was prominent in the development of the race-course at Randwick.

A close friend of H. C. Dangar and F. B. Suttor, Lee resisted the persuasion of Suttor to stand for the Legislative Assembly in 1881. At Suttor’s instigation, Sir Henry Parkes recommended his appointment to the Legislative Council and in December Lee reluctantly accepted nomination. Undistinguished as an orator and politician, he was a conscientious member and staunch free trader. Active in local affairs Lee was treasurer, president and later patron of the Bathurst show. He was also interested in the District Hospital, the local Turf Club and Agricultural Association. A prominent Anglican, he represented Bathurst in the Provincial Synod of New South Wales. A teetotaller and non-smoker, Lee abhorred bad language and reputedly never gambled.

Predeceased in 1904 by his wife Emily Louisa, née Kite, Lee died on 23 January 1912 at Leeholme and was buried in the Anglican cemetery at Kelso. He was survived by two sons and six daughters. His estate was valued for probate at nearly £153,000.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Barrie, The Australian Bloodhorse(Syd, 1956)
  • 100 Bathurst Shows(Bathurst, 1968)
  • Bathurst Historical Society Archives
  • Lee family records (privately held).