Image A shepherd and sheep, c1850

TLF ID R3035

This is a watercolour of an early morning scene on a sheep property or 'run' painted by Samuel Thomas Gill. It depicts a shepherd and his dog at the rear of a flock of sheep disappearing over a small hill. A slab hut is shown on the slope of the hill and a small hurdle or temporary fence is in the foreground. The painting measures 9.6 cm x 15.9 cm. The artist's initials, 'S.T.G.', appear next to the title, 'Turning out the sheep from the hurdle yard, early sunrise, shepherd leaving the hut', which is at the bottom of the watercolour.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset depicts a moment in the shepherd's daily routine - every morning at sunrise, the shepherd began work by counting out the flock of sheep from its temporary overnight yard and he and his dog set off with the sheep to find grazing.
  • It shows a hurdle, part of a set of heavy, temporary, self-supporting fences, which formed a hurdle yard or fold in which the sheep were penned at night and guarded by the nightwatchman and his dogs - the set of hurdles had to be moved to fresh ground every few days; when the ground in the vicinity of the hut could no longer be used, the hurdles were set up much further away and the nightwatchman slept alongside in a moveable watch-box (a bed on wheels with a roof).
  • It portrays a slab hut - the walls of the hut were made of split slabs of timber that were slid vertically into grooved metal plates secured to squared posts; the roof was usually bark, supported by sapling rafters and anchored by greenhide rope and sometimes pliable wire; the chimney was made of stones or wood, and plastered inside and out.
  • It shows a hut with smoke coming from the chimney - this hut would have been the home of two or three men; one or two shepherds who minded the flocks by day and a hutkeeper or nightwatchman, who, as well as guarding the flocks at night, served as cook, cleaner, woodcutter, water boy and sometimes butcher.
  • It depicts what is most likely a 'squatted' sheep run, that is, illegally occupied Crown land in a location outside the Nineteen Counties (the Counties were the only areas in the Colony of New South Wales that had been surveyed and where it was legal to buy land) - in 1835, grazing licences to manage 'squatting' were introduced at a fee of £10 each (a considerable sum in 1835), but were difficult to enforce; in response to demands by 'squatters' for more secure tenure, the 1847 Orders in Council allowed a 'holder' the right to purchase a homestead area with a pastoral licence of adjoining land in the settled districts (the Nineteen Counties) and to purchase pastoral leases with terms up to 8 years in intermediate districts and 14 years in unsettled districts.
  • It probably illustrates an out-station - because there were no fences, and flocks were scattered across the countryside, squatters had to devise a way of discouraging rival claimants to the land and convincing the local land commissioner that the land claimed was in fact 'held'; the solution was an out-station such as this; as well as showing that the land was 'held', out-stations provided additional pasture for the growing flocks of sheep; many squatters had strings of out-stations in all directions from their main run.
  • It is an example of the work of artist Samuel Thomas Gill (1818-80), who emigrated from England to South Australia in 1839 and joined a large group of South Australians heading for the Mount Alexander gold fields in Victoria, in 1852 - Gill turned his hand to portraying life on the gold fields, as what had once been sparsely populated pastoral land gave way to activities associated with mining; it is not clear if this watercolour was executed before he left South Australia, while travelling, or once he arrived in Victoria.
Year level

5; 6; 7; 8; 9

Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Samuel Thomas Gill
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Samuel Thomas Gill
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: National Library of Australia
  • Organization: National Library of Australia
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
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