The Upper Murray
“The Man From Snowy River” country
of North-Eastern Victoria & Southern NSW
© Copyright 2017  The Upper Murray Business Directory  All rights reserved.

Jack Riley’s early days

There is an old Irish saying that states that 'reputations last longer than lives'. It  aptly relates in many ways to the life of Irishman and Upper Murray stock man, Jack Riley, immortalised by A. B.'Banjo' Paterson's iconic Australian poem, The Man From Snowy River. John   'Jack'   Riley   was   born   in   Castlebar,   County   Mayo,   Ireland,   in   1841. Nothing   much   is   known   of   his   family's   background   or   why   Jack,   as   a   thirteen year   old,   travelled   to   Australia.   Young   Jack   arrived   in   Sydney,   New   South Wales, on 15 March 1854, aboard the ship, 'Rodney'. Jack   travelled   to   Omeo   in   the   Victorian   high   country   to   find   his   sister, Mary   Anne,   Mrs   Joseph   Jones,   and   her   family.   (After   her   first   husband   died, Mary Anne   married   a   Mr   McGowan   and   moved   to   the   busy   gold   mining   area at   Cassilis,   near   Omeo).Jack,   for   a   time,   worked   as   a   tailor   in   a   shop   directly opposite   the   Golden Age   Hotel   in   Omeo.   It   has   been   suggested   that   he   learnt this   trade   during   a   small   stint   in   gaol   after   having   been   caught   and   sentenced for horse theft. It   is   known   that   Jack   loved   to   work   with   horses    and,   during   his   time   in Omeo,   he   broke   in   horses.   Eventually   he   became   a   full   time   stock   man and,   for   a   number   of   years,   he   spent   a   good   part   of   each   year   in   the   high country    around    the    Snowy    River    and    the    Victorian    and    New    South Wales   border.   Several   times   a   year   he   returned   to   Omeo   to   replenish   his supplies and to trade stories with his sister and her children, and his friends. In   1884   Jack   Riley   obtained   work   as   a   stock   man   for   John   Pierce   Sr.,   who owned   land   at   Tooma   and   Greg   Greg.   At   that   time,   the   Pierce   family   owned many   thousands   of   acres   of   land   in   the   Upper   Murray   and   owned   and   held leases   on   20,000   acres   of   land   at   Tom   Groggin,    west   of   the   main   range   of the Snowy Mountains. John   Pierce   gave   Jack   Riley   a   management   role,   supervising   his   cattle   in   the high   country   over   the   summer   months   and   then   the   job   of   mustering   the animals down from the mountains to the home paddocks before winter.