Every now and then there exists individuals whose exploits are so remarThe ultimate scene was set at ‘Alice Downs’ Blackall on 10No story concerning Jack would be complete without reference to his infAlthough it would appear unlikely that a tough shearer could influence There are very few people who can influence and participate in various If you have enjoyed this small segment of Jack Howe’s life, order the b
 Every now and then there exists individuals whose exploits are so remarkable that the recognition  they enjoyed in their lifetime survives them into future generations. Often, fact and fantasy are so entwined that reality often becomes hazy. However, the story of John Robert Howe, known to his contemporaries as ‘Jack’ and much later as ‘Jackie’ Howe, is supported by facts and recorded history. This is an abbreviated version of the book written by Barry Muir (Jack Howe-the man and the legend) and is an accurate account of the life of Jack Howe - the man and the legend.
    Jack Howe lived during one of the most turbulent periods in Queensland’s history encompassing the formation of unionism, the Labour Party and the 1891 and 1894 shearer’s strikes. He set an unbeatable blade shearing record, raised eight children, became a publican and grazier and was instrumental in the election of T. J. Ryan to the seat of Barcoo from where he became Premier of Queensland.
    John Robert Howe was born on the Killarney Estate, just out of Killarney near Warwick in 1861. As was the case in those times, the birth was not properly registered but according to his daughter Ivy, was on the 10th July.   
     Very little is known of Jack’s childhood and it is reported that he was taught to shear by members of the Chinese shearing teams working in that area during the 1870’s. In the early 1880’s along with other Australians, he shore a season in New Zealand and then reportedly tried gold prospecting in New South Wales and possibly Victoria. However, it was shearing that drew him into the Central Highlands area of Queensland around Springsure then to the Tambo area and eventually to Blackall. It was in Blackall that Jack finally settled and called home and where his world record shearing tallies were made.
Jack Howe at about 18-20 yrs. Note the size of his
hands which were very powerful and made handling
sheep easier
On the 24th April 1890, Jack married Margaret Alexander Victoria Short (known as Victoria), a dressmaker in Blackall. Ten children resulted from the marriage with six sons and two daughters surviving. In 1900 at the age of thirty nine, Jack abandoned shearing and purchased the Universal Hotel in Blackall, selling it two years later to obtain the Barcoo Hotel which he sold in 1907 to repurchase the Universal where he was publican until it was finally sold in 1919.
Jack Howe on his wedding day aged 29. Victoria had such an aversion to having her photograph taken that he was photographed alone.
Jack Howe (second from right) and staff in front of the Universal Hotel. Note Jack's Model T Ford and the Ford sign on shop front.
With similar façade, the Universal Garden Centre and Gallery owned by Jack’s granddaughter, Jenny and husband, Barry Muir was erected on the site of the original Universal Hotel. Jack Howe memorabilia can be viewed inside. It is also the site of the bronze statue erected in his honour.
     During his second ownership of the Universal, Jack had the Ford Car and Signal Lorry Agency in the Blackall area and also dealt with the Queensland Motor Agency of Brisbane. They supplied cars as well as spare parts to Jack and provided an instalment payment system to his customers. Jack himself had a Model T Ford - the first motor car to be seen in the adjoining town of Tambo.
    It was the dream of many men to own a grazing property but it wasn’t until the larger holdings were broken up into smaller parcels and put up for selection by ballot that these dreams were realized. In 1913 one of his sons, Leslie drew by ballot the small property of merely 8,300 acres, "Shamrock Park" three miles east of Tambo. The property proved to be such a dreain on resources that the Universal Hotel had to be mortgaged and was subsequently sold to "Tambo Station" in 1919. On 11th December, 1915, Darsey Howe’s ballot application for a portion of the larger holding, 'Ravensbourne', was accepted and was subsequently approved on 1st February 1916 for Grazing Homestead Lease No. 3223. It consisted of 19,233 acres of some of the finest grazing land in the district, taking in the main homestead of ‘Ravensbourne’ itself and which Jack later called ‘Sumnervale’. It was to here that he retired in 1919 with failing health.We would like to thank our sponsors and request you check out their range of Mens Rings here
The old cottage at Sumnervale with the main homestead in the background
©Barry Muir 2011