Most Unusual Australian Cowboy of the Nineteenth Century – Who Would You Pick?
A slim, redhaired girl who rode sidesaddle is a top contender on any list. Hannah Glennan was called Annie by her parents but she was to become famed in folklore as ‘Red Jack.’ Annie grew up around working horses at the family farm on the Darling Downs, Queensland, and developed a keen appreciation of each animal’s capabilities. Partnered by her brother Bill, she went into business as a horse breaker, using unconventional methods of gentle handling and her alert eye for the potential of a new horse. Annie’s well-earned reputation as an expert with horses soon made the venture a great success.
To promote the horse breaking business, and for the sheer fun of the sport, Annie turned up to any rough riding competition she could reach ln the Outback. Despite the handicap of riding sidesaddle, she won numerous trophies and also the admiration of her ( mostly male ) competitors. With her trim figure dressed in a ladylike riding habit, and her long red tresses left loose to the wind, Annie drew the wishful gaze of many a would-be suitor. All were disappointed, because Annie’s life was too full for her to consider any proposal of marriage in the near future. Besides that, her devotion to her favourite brother left little room in her heart for any other man.
The two had become best mates as well as working partners, striving to help keep the farm going after their father went blind. Tragedy struck again when Bill died, filling Annie with overwhelming grief that turned her into a recluse. Unable to bear the familiar sights and sounds of the home that no longer held Bill, Annie contracted out as a drover and horse-tailer. Sad and silent, she preferred a solitary outdoor life, keeping company only with her favourite horse, named Mephistopheles. She hoped that keeping busy would bring some solace and the peace of mind she craved.
Soon the pair found themselves regular work, following the drovers’ track that led hundreds of miles across central Queensland, from bustling Charters Towers to the cattle yards at Camooweal on the border with Northern Territory. This rough lifestyle meant an end to Annie’s former dainty way of dressing, now replaced by bushman’s boots, a sturdy new york yankees t shirt and moleskin pants. That shining hair, which had drawn such attention at riding events, was now shoved beneath a wide brimmed rabbit-felt hat. Having proven herself a worthy member of the crew, Annie was awarded the nickname of ‘Red Jack.’ Toughened though she was by the hard work and lack of home comforts, Annie’s heart still yearned for affection and eventually her thoughts turned to starting a family of her own.
A young cook named Doyle was working on a cattle station when Annie and Mephistopheles delivered a herd of new breeding stock. In the days while the crew and their horses rested at the station, Annie and the cook wasted little time in getting to know each other. Their mutual attraction delayed the crew’s departure while everyone attended an Outback wedding. Only a short time later, the new bridegroom was killed in a shooting accident. For Annie, the old saying that ‘bad things happen in threes’ had proven to be correct.
In the old Australian way, she stowed this new grief behind a shield of determination to get back to work, doing what she did best. In 1902, she was in the far northern town of Mareeba, when a mustering accident caused injuries from which she died. Bush poems and folklore have made a legend from Annie’s story. Her true character is a torch that lights the way for the many superb horsewomen who have followed her example, in horse sports and in life itself.
write by harris