Lilliput of Rutherglen
History of Lilliput and James Gullifer and their connection to our winery.
Lilliput wines are located in the most north-eastern corner of what was James Gullifer’s original “LILLIPUT RUN” of approximately 14,000, acres where the Rocky Waterhole Creek and the Black Dog Creek meet, about eight kilometers south of Rutherglen.
James was born in Bristol, England around 1816 and, as experienced by most people in England, he found the living conditions very difficult. He decided at the age of 17, that he wanted to start a new life in Australia. James Gullifer put together a carefully calculated plan, which included free travel, to start his new life in the colony of New South Wales.
The resourceful Mr. Gullifer deliberately stole twice, knowing that it would gain him a seven year deportation sentence, after which he would become a free man in a new land with unlimited opportunities. James arrived in Sydney aboard the “LORD LYNDOCH” in 1833 and was eventually assigned to the Reverend Joseph Docker as a shepherd.
It was in this role that he made at least 2 trips to the Murray River region, bringing cattle down to the new areas of what was to become Victoria. Interestingly, James is also reputed to be one of the first white men to cross the river Murray while helping to establish the “BONEGILLA RUN” near present day Albury.
In 1838 James became a free man. When granted his ‘Ticket of Leave’ in Yass, NSW, as a free man he came back to Victoria and worked for various people including Joseph Docker and Rowan Bros at their “PEECHELBA RUN“.
It was in 1845 that James ‘squatted’ on a parcel of land near the Black Dog Creek, which was later to become the “LILLIPUT RUN“. In 1846 he met and married Agnes Meighan from Wangaratta. They had at least 14 children; three of them are buried at the rear of the original homestead. James built the homestead and the free standing kitchens from locally quarried stone and obviously intended it to last — as the walls were approximately two feet thick. The house is still standing on the western side of the Rutherglen-Springhurst road, opposite the turnoff to the winery on Withers road.
The LILLIPUT RUN was finally licensed to James Gullifer in December of 1848 and was named LILLIPUT by the then New South Wales land commissioner Mr. Bingham. As James could not decide on a name for the run, Commissioner Bingham concluded that the Gullifer name was close enough the Gulliver in Jonathan Swift’s classic novel Gulliver’s Travels, so “LILLIPUT” it was.
The one-time convict James Gullifer spent the rest of his life at “LILLIPUT”, becoming a very successful grazier, entrepreneur and business man, a devoted family man, a well known local identity and community leader. He died at the age of 83 in 1899 and is buried in the Carlyle cemetery near Rutherglen.
In recognition of James Gullifer’s pioneering spirit, we at the Lilliput Winery have branded some of our wines with names that connect to him: Gulliver’s Ghost, Lilliput Run Petit Verdot and our sparkling Red “Kilbernie Jack“ which was the name of the Clydesdale stallion that James had imported from Scotland and had standing at stud at LILLIPUT.
Information supplied by Mr. Bill Steele of Rutherglen; a Gullifer family historian and great-great grandson of James Gullifer.