Kinnear’s and Buckjumping

From Waler Data Base @ FaceBook. Image: Joseph Atkinson’s buckjumping side show team in transit. State Library Qld.

J. Atkinson (Gayndah Q.) reveals himself as a fine rider. Australasian 3rd October 1925

Image: J. Atkinson (Gayndah Q.) reveals himself as a fine rider. Australasian 3rd October 1925

A rare photo of Joe Atkinson, taken at the Motordrome in Melbourne at the Australian Buckjumping and Rough-Riding Championships.

Joe had been part of Skuthorpe’s huge show for years, one of the star attractions as a rodeo rider, before going out on his own. In 1925 he had 22 horses in his own show and put on buckjumping competitions all the way down from Queensland to Melbourne before competing in the championship and winning; he often teamed up with Green’s circus on this tour to make a bigger attraction.

He won the Australian buck jumping championship in 1925 and the world championship in 1926. He went on to win several more Australian championships.

He was the only person who rode the champion bucking horse Bobs. He followed the rodeo season around Australia and NZ in his youth and went on the road with some horses and a couple of good rodeo riders – Billy Bargo, Queensland Bill and Les Bayliss – running his own rodeo show, putting up big money for anyone who could ride one of his buckers.

Not only buckjumping attracted crowds – it was a quite a show – a troupe of clever, well trained trick ponies, a bucking mule no-one could ride, a Wild West show with cowboys and painted Indians, pretty cowgirls doing graceful riding turns, Cossacks doing fast riding feats, high wire acrobats “The Human Butterflies,” clowns, a Daredevil Desperado – a young man who jumped from 87 feet onto a board – and more. Pinto and Black Bess were two of the trick ponies whose turn was much loved.

He visited many country towns – big and small – the only show to do so in some places, always welcomed and had good crowds, with many young bloods trying to ride his buckjumpers and win a few pounds. Some of the best known rodeo riders worked for him such a Kingy Horton and Jimmy Barnes (not the singer, ha).

Many thanks to Susan Barton who identified the saddle Joe Atkinson was using in this buckjumping photo. It’s a genuine Buckjump Poley saddle, made by Kinnear’s of Bourke Street Melbourne and also known as a Bulldog Poley – their brand stamped into the saddles and harness was a bulldog.

As well as travelling his show about, Joe supplied horses to rodeos such as Charters Towers and on the Atherton Tablelands. He also got into bucking bullocks. During his displays he could jump from a galloping horse onto a bullock and ride the bullock out while it bucked.

Joe Atkinson
Townsville Daily Bulletin, 5th May, 1934

In WW2 Joe became an army breaker for the 31st transport section at Bowen, handling unbroken horses harnessed to limbers and breaks as easily as riding them. He also kept his show going and put on trick riding displays at Bowen Show including riding around the ring with his little daughter standing on his shoulders and provided the show with bucking horses and rode in the rodeo competition himself. He travelled his show around Queensland in the 40’s while not needed to break army horses.

Images: On the truck is painted “Atkinson Bros” and under that “Wild Australia Buckeroos.” Photo taken 1920’s-1931, by Mick’s uncle Wattie (Amos B. Watts), when he worked in the Flinders and Richmond districts as a jackeroo, wool classer and station mechanic; Jack Atkinson, Queensland buckjumping champion, 1920. State Library Qld. Jack was the brother of Joe and was also a good horseman.

By 1944 Joe generously placed all his buckjumping horses with the Ambulance Committee at Bowen so they could use them for rodeos thus fundraising. Joe bought himself a big boat and kept busy with that. He did his last rodeo tour in 1946. Some of his horses, despite being “outlaws” – good bucking horses – got homes doing other work – such as Amy Johnson, a big grey mare, which became a famous trick horse. Bucking horses knew their job and with shows like Joe’s, were perfectly tractable animals when not working.

Susan Barton and her husband Clive are researching the Kinnear saddler family history and documenting their saddles. William (Bill) Kinnear made the very first poley saddles in Australia and patented his design in 1904. Photos below supplied by Susan.

The Kinnear family started saddlery in Australia in 1852, Bill’s father George Kinnear established saddleries at Kilmore and Euroa in Victoria. Three of his sons became saddlers. Bill established his own saddlery at Kirk’s Bazaar in Bourke Street, Melbourne about 1887. He made all sorts of harness and saddles and became one of Melbourne’s premier saddlers in the era of the horse.

Bill employed over 20 men in his saddlery, which was situated in the famous Kirks Bazaar where horses were auctioned and traded – including many that went to India.

Kinnear’s saddles also went to India – a much sought after article – used by officers there who could afford one and highly spoken of; and to the Boer and First World War.

The horses at Kirk’s Bazaar were broken in and catered for with farriers, blacksmiths,, vehicle makers, feed merchants, saddlers and there were coffee palaces and boxing saloons.

When Kirk’s Bazaar was demolished in 1925, Bill moved his business down the road to Victoria Horse Bazaar. Kinnear’s genuine Buckjump Poley (with patented poley pads) was used by the top buckjump riders such as Alan McPhee – who rode in one and used it on his successful rodeo tour of the USA and Canada. The Genuine Buckjump Poley was used until 1943 when ARRA introduced standardised saddles for all competitors.

Images from: The Herald, 16th May 1947; The Bulletin, 12th August 1949; Sydney Mail, 29th March 1922

Thorpe McConville, who had one of the biggest rodeo and horse shows of all and who had many buckjump champions working for him such as Ned Lloyd, only used a Kinnear Buckjump Poley. Victor Cowan, Billy Waite and Jack Morrisey, also used a Kinnear Bulldog Buckjump Poley.

Many famous names frequented Kinnear’s saddlery including the Cobb & Co drivers (they even made Bill a member of their old driver’s association!) and famous show riders and jockeys, poets and authors.

Melbourne Cups were won in a Kinnear made saddle. Bobby Lewis, only one of two jockey’s to have won four Melbourne Cups, rode on a Kinnear racing saddle, as he did on his many other VRC wins.

Bill’s son Ray worked with Bill, and they continued long after most saddleries were long gone as motors replaced horses. The last Kinnear saddle was made in the early 1950’s.

Bill was a life long friend of Jim Kelly, brother of the famous Ned Kelly, and had Ned’s portrait hanging in pride of place in the saddlery, plus several Kelly gang mementos.

Susan and Clive are passionate about the Kinnear Saddlery history – Susan helped with this post. If anyone has a Kinnear saddle or harness they’d love to know. Any memories of visiting the saddlery, or of the Kinnear saddlers, would also be much appreciated. Please just get in touch with us and we will pass on the information.

Posted by Enoch Waler

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