The Collinsville tradition began in 1889 when John Collins purchased 50,000 acres of rugged, inhospitable pastoral country in the mid-north of South Australia and moved there with his family. The Land was 26 miles north-east of Mount Bryan, across rocky terrain that made the frequent journey so hazardous that his wife Kate, chose to walk the children over the steepest hills rather than risk their necks alongside their father in his buggy.
Within a year John Collins had introduced his first Merinos to form the foundation of the Collinsville Stud. It was officially registered in 1895 after he purchashed a draft of ewes from the Koonoona Stud near Burra. These sheep were sent from the relatively mild climate of Burra to the harsh terrain of Collinsville Station at the beginning of what was to be Australia's severest drought. After eight years on limited rations of saltbush, bluebush and herbage, the surviving sheep emerged as an outstanding foundation flock.
Koonoona rams were used exclusively at Collinsville until 1910 when John Collins son Melvin - already respected as a gifted sheepman - went to the Sydney Royal Show and paid a world record price of 1550 guineas for the Haddon Rig champion ram Dandie Dinmont. That purchase is generally regarded as being the point at which the Collinsville Stud really began.
Art Collins, John Collins' sixth son, took over the running of the stud in 1918 when Melvin Collins left to form his own Lamara stud. Art became the driving force of the Collins family and by the end of his life had gained a reputation among wool-growing nations of he world as the outstanding Merino breeder of the 20th century. He was committed to breeding a large framed, heavy fleeced sheep, which was able to withstand the most rigorous conditions and achieve a high lambing percentage. He succeeded in developing an animal that has had more influence on the national flock than any other bloodline.
When Art Collins began at Collinsville, the stud comprised 4,000 ewes plus a handful of daughter studs. by the end of his life, the stud flock had grown to nearly 10,000 ewes and 140 daughter studs had emerged throughout Australia. From the 1920's Art Collins was unchallengeable as Australia's top breeder. He achieved the remarkable and unequalled feat of winning the awards for both the grand champion ewe and ram at every capital city show in the country. Collinsville exhibited its sheep at all the main shows in Australia and established a thriving market for its sale stock both at home and overseas.
It was typical of Art's dedication to the future that, when he died in 1969 after 45 years at the helm. he had taken good care to ensure that Collinsville would continue unchanged. Tom Padbury was the first "outsider" to join the Collinsville family. He stayed on as studmaster until the mid 1990s.
In 1985 Collinsville was purchased by Neil Garnett. He was a new breed of studmaster. While having great respect for tradition, he understood the exciting opportunities offered to the industry by genetic technology. The world record price for a Merino was broken six times while owned by Mr Garnett and still currently stands at $450,000 for a three quarter share in a ram sold at the Royal Adelaide Sales in 1989. The Poll Merino record was also broken three times and is currently $280,000 for a three quarter share in a ram sold at the Dubbo Ram Sales in 1989.
In 1995 Collinsville changed hands again after it went into recieivership in 1991. Paddy Handbury - nephew of Rupert Murdoch and a man with extensive rural interests bought Collinsville, helping to ensure it's survival as one of the nation's great suppliers of superior merino genetics. Paddy Handbury appointed his friend Wal Hennessey to the position of stud master and Collinsville was about to embark on another era. Sadly three years later Mr Hennessey was killed in a plane crash on the way to a field day in New South Wales. Collinsville had many studmasters in the nineteen years Mr Handbury owned the stud but it wasnt until they appointed Tim Dalla in 2008 that it really started to go ahead in leaps and bounds. Returning to the Royal Adelaide Ram Sale in 2010 was a huge step forward for the Stud topping the sale with a Poll Merino ram making $39,000. Collinsville went on to top the sale again in 2013 and 2014. In Mr Handbury's final year he topped the 2014 Royal Adelaide Ram Sale with a Poll Merino Ram making $66,000, it was the highest price the iconic stud had achieved since selling a ram for $68,000 in 1996. Mr Handbury decided in 2014 to sell the stud because of the absence of a natural and willing long term successor within the family.
In late 2014 the famous Collinsville stud and the original station country east of Hallett was purchased by George and Sophie Millington. Mr Millington is a committed pastoralist and has the enthusiasm to ensure that Collinsville's breeding and sale success will continue long into the future.
Mr Millington will be ably assisted by existing Collinsville staff, stud manager Tim Dalla and Collinsville station manager Tony Connell. Both are energetic and capable stud sheepmen.