top of page

From shipping office to outback squatter

When you have been a big part of the establishment of the cattle industry in a burgeoning outback economy, it seems a cruel fate to be taken down by the first trolley bus in Adelaide.

John Conrick was a pioneer and squatter who paved the way for the pastoralist and small settler of his day. He was born on his father's farm at Point Arlington in Victoria in 1852. Later the family moved to Tower Hill in the Warrnambool district.

John Conrick. Courtesy Pastoral Review

Despite having a head for figures and working in a shipping office in Melbourne, John was drawn to the idea of adventure and travel, spurred by the actions of Burke and Wills. At 19 years of age he took his hard earned savings and bought a mob of cattle, which he took to Coopers Creek, where he established the first station in the area, called Nappa Merrie.

While other squatters struggled with Indigenous tribes, John claimed to have no problem with them as he held their rights to food and water as important, as long as it didn't interfere with his land.

John took advantage of the high demand for cattle in South Australia. by taking several hundred of his cattle from Nappa Merrie in Queensland to Adelaide. In 1874, he opened up the Strezlecki Track as a way to get 1,000 cattle, 1,000 sheep and 50 mares to Port Augusta, when their supplies were dwindling. It proved to be a great advantage.

When he acquired more property, he believed in knowing every foot of the track between his various stations. This was so that in times of drought, he would be able to move herds to better country. "Better to let them die on the hoof, than to let them die of starvation and thirst without a chance for their lives," he would say.

John bred racehorses and was a man of great strength. There were a number of anecdotes where this was proved. One time a horse had played up after John had roped it by the head. When it tried to pull away he stood his ground, the result being the horse broke its neck.

John Conrick's final resting place. Courtesy Findagrave

He was made a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. After being hit by a trolley bus in Adelaide, John's health suffered and he died in hospital in early 1926. He left behind four sons: John, Edward, Clive and Joseph to continue running his stations. He is buried at West Terrace cemetery, South Australia.


  • 'John Conrick', via Findagrave Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre, accessed 9th April 2024.

  • 'John Conrick (1852-1926), Obituaries Australia, accessed 5th June, 2024,

  • 'The Story of John Conrick, Pioneer', News, Adelaide, 5 October, 1923, Page 4

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page