Charles (Hellbent) Kenyon

Waler Data Base @ FaceBook. Image: Kenyon horses, bought from the Darling Downs area, being taken to Brisbane for shipping. Greg Geeves family photo.

Three tremendous photos from a private family collection from Queensland, sent in by Greg, together with some family history. Thank you!

Found some more details and photos to fill out the story of the amazing Charles Kenyon – drover, racehorse trainer, mounted military policeman, livestock auctioneer, show rider and show harness driver – and wonderfully – he traded our horses overseas! His whole family were horsey – it continues down the generations to this very day.

Letter requesting Charles Kenyon find horses on Australian government letterhead demonstrating how highly regarded he was

Charles Joseph Kenyon was born in Liverpool NSW in 1883, moving to Queensland as a young man to spend his adult life there. He married in 1914.

Charles also sent horses overseas, using a private wharf on the Brisbane River. His reputation as a horseman was outstanding, hence the orders. Times were tough in the 1930’s – the Great Depression – some of his land was confiscated for rates arrears. A street had been named after him in the Eagle Farm area, Kenyon Street.

Image: Letter requesting Charles Kenyon find horses. It’s on Australian government letterhead which is interesting, his reputation was good indeed to get a government order.

Greg Geeves family photo.

Charles’ wife Amy (nee Missing) helped him with the horses, together with Charles she successfully showed their ponies and horses. Their children all rode and showed successfully too – sons Douglas, Anthony (Tony) and daughter Eileen.

Tony joined the mounted police in the NT in 1938 then as war broke out joined the army in a mounted unit in northern Australia – an experienced horseman and bushman like his father, having helped since a toddler with the horses and long droving trips. Tony was an army horse breaker as well.

After the war Tony managed Vanrook station in the Gulf country – one of Australia’s biggest, then over 3,000 square miles – and very remote, and other stations. His wife was a nurse, much valued in the bush for her kindly help to many.

Charles’ nickname was Hellbent as he was fearless and stood no nonsense, and had the odd barney. His droving trips were immense. Charles went deep into the Territory from his home base of Whinstanes area in Brisbane (in the days it was semi-rural); his property Famley on Eagle Farm Road. He owned three and a half acres around his home as well as several other parcels of land thereabouts and usually had about fifty to eighty horses and ponies.

Image: Northern Miner (Charters Towers), 1st November 1928

Newspaper article about a droving trip by Charles Kenyon in 1928
Charles Kenyon;s son Tony at the Enoggera Show 1933

Image: Telegraph, (Brisbane) 2nd September 1933 Charles’ son Tony, right, in the 14hh and under class at Enoggera. Becky Munro on the left.

Charles himself showed horses and ponies. One pony pair he showed in harness were Dick and Dandy. Dandy was showed alone too, both in harness and ridden.

His wife Amy won several buggy classes with their ponies and horses including pair 14hh and over. Also wins with her pony under 14hh, Dolly, in harness. She also won ribbons with pair in harness Dick and Dandy and others, including 1sts at Brisbane show. She also won ribbons in ridden classes such as with Tom at Brisbane, and with Lancer, Lancer winning 1st at Brisbane. She won ribbons in tandem pair too, with Spanker and Charlie, in the 15hh to 16 hh class. Umpteen ribbons for all the family.

Charles also won Best Stockman’s turnout at Enoggera, among many other ribbons. At various shows he won and placed in classes for buggy pairs of ponies, and of buggy horses. He also judged at times, usually harness classes.

Horsemen and horsebreakers of the 2/1st North Australia Observers Unit (NAOU), known colloquially as the nackeroos, at the horse camp.

‘Horsemen and horsebreakers of the 2/1st North Australia Observers Unit (NAOU), known colloquially as the nackeroos, at the horse camp. From left to right: unknown, Bluey Campbell of Moree, NSW; 4400057 William Richard (Bill) Kennewell; Sergeant Tommy Martin, farrier; Corporal Bill Baunach, NT champion lightweight boxer; Karl Fredrickson of Vic; Tony Kenyon, formerly of the Northern Territory Mounted Police. 1943. Manton Dam, Northern Territory.’


Images: ‘Katherine, N.T. 1943-09-29. DX766 Lance Corporal A.S. Kenyon of the North Australian Observer Unit schooling a young horse over the jumps.’ Photo by William Donald Martin. AWM

‘Katherine, NT. 1943-09-29. A young unbroken horse of the North Australian Observer Unit being thrown for shoeing by SX20603 Sergeant W. L. Lavington (left) and DX766 Lance Corporal F. A. Kenyon (right).’ AWM (note, his initials are correctly A. F. Kenyon.)

Image: ‘Katherine, NT. 1943-09-29. Ration and mail buggy of the North Australian Observer Unit. Shown are:- DX766 Lance Corporal A.S. Kenyon (1). NX56990 Captain C.S. Fleeting (2).’ Photo by William Donald Martin. AWM

Charles occasionally trained racehorses as a hobby – having one horse and one race pony in training sometimes – pony racing was huge in those times. It was the times that Thoroughbred interests were taking control so those who did unregistered racing weren’t allowed to race in registered races (horses registered as TB’s) for 3 months. Most people did unregistered racing, and it was mostly ponies. Hence with the TB’s taking over the end was in sight for many, and Charles went out of racing after some disputes in the early 1920’s over all this.

On his droving trips, invariably bringing over 1,000 head of cattle per trip and at times mobs of horses, Charles had several regular stopovers on the long journey back to Brisbane or NSW, wherever the stock were destined for. In 1927 he and two partners moved over 11,000 head from the NT through Queensland to NSW for V. R. Cotton, during a bad drought.

A lovely article by Charles, about droving in a two year drought. Lovely observations of wildlife too, and telling of stations generous enough to allow drovers to remain long enough for their stock to recover from the effects of drought, before moving on.

His article makes good reading

A good account of droving from Charles…

Charles left Whinstanes with a plant of about fifty horses usually, some harnessed to wagons and carts, some stock horses. When Tony and Douglas were old enough they helped their Dad on these long trips. Daughter Eileen also loved horses and often went to the races with friends, she was a nurse and in WW2 an army nurse.

Newspaper article about Charles Kenyon selling horses in 1910

One of the welcome stops on the way back was Gayndah, a very horsey town from early days. Their race days and steeplechases for all comers – unregistered racing like picnic races as a big social gathering, were a big drawcard, and they had a popular horse show. It was a regular stopover with drovers too.

Once the train went through in 1907, drovers didn’t need to keep going, stock could be en-trained for the sales in Brisbane. Gayndah became a big auction centre for cattle and horses and Charles saw the opportunity, setting up Kenyon and Co. auctioneers there in 1910, partnering with experienced auctioneers – a success.

Image: Bundaberg Mail & Burnett Advertiser, 25th August 1910

Charles’ father had been an auctioneer in NSW, so a natural fit for him after rail went through from Gayndah thus taking out the end of many droving trips.

Gayndah was gazetted before Brisbane; a horsey and farming centre in the North Burnett area. It’s about 325 k’s to Brisbane.

And yes, Charles and Tony won ribbons at Gayndah show on their horses too. All, like their good mare Dolly, won show prizes as well as completing long droving trips, at times in drought. Proving the worth of the Waler!

Charles’ son Tony also met his future wife here!

Photo from Judith Salecich blog.

Tourist sign at Gayndah in Queensland

During WW2 the Americans set up an army camp at Whinstanes, Eagle Farm, Brisbane. This was partly for soldiers and partly a detention area for their soldiers who’d done a crime such as shooting other Americans. American soldiers during WW2 here didn’t need to obey our laws, so it was a very hard time in Brisbane and Sydney. Theft was common including of whole houses, many murders and countless other crimes happened. We couldn’t press charges; there were a couple of show trials only. As conscripts they often did major crimes to get sent home – where they were kicked out of the army and freed.

Charles Kenyon on his horse, patrolling between Whinstanes American army camp and Doomben Australian army camp, WW2

There was rivalry between the Americans themselves on a racist basis and between American and Australian soldiers. Our soldiers had a lot of lethal “accidents” and new cemeteries were opened. As there was an Australian army camp over at Doomben – within walking distance of the American camp – the danger was obvious.

Charles was given the job of patrolling between the American army camp and the Australian army camp. He wore a sidearm as issued. And he was fearless. He rode one of his own horses, a good strong skewbald, as its markings could be seen at night hence saving “accidents” due to surprise.

Image: Charles Kenyon on his horse, patrolling between Whinstanes American army camp and Doomben Australian army camp, WW2. Greg Geeves family photo.

Charles died in 1944, before the war was over. He was 61. A great life, a man who truly knew his horses, around which his entire life revolved and depended. A great horseman and family man. Thanks again to Greg for the photos and the heads up, and for his heartwarming update on the current generation: Charles Kenyon’s great granddaughters are still part of a farming family. They also carry the blood of some of Australia’s first and most successful farmers Thomas Upton and Richard Norris. They are also cousins to the Ingham family via the Fabris family. Horses however are the girls great love.

Posted by Enoch Waler

Waler gelding purpose bred to help educate and advocate for Walers, in person and via Facebook and Instagram.