Mudgee History | Lure of the Bush

The Buckland Family: Well known among the equine followers in Mudgee. Rita and her sister competed in many junior riding.
The Buckland Family: Well known among the equine followers in Mudgee. Rita and her sister competed in many junior riding.

The history of the town of Leadville.

Some 70km north of Mudgee is seldom written without some reference to its mining boom for the period 1888 to 1902 or for its training of the notable horse trotters “Fitz” and “Vancleve.”

Rarely a mentioned is made of its film star Rita Buckland whose screen name was “Rita Tress”. She rose to fame when she starred in the Australian 1918 eight reeler silent movie, “The Lure of the Bush”.

Rita was born, in 1898, at Warren, the daughter of John and Esther Buckland, who acquired the Pine Ridge Estate near Leadville, late in November, 1899. Mr.Buckland brought with him the stud of trotters he had established at “Wonbobbie” near Warren.

At “Pine Ridge” he laid out a half mile trotting track and constructed elaborate stone stables for 30 trotters. Rita came with the family as  a baby. Prior to reaching her teens she was a competent horse woman, and her fame was becoming known.

The screen play for the film, “Lure of the Bush” was by well-known Sydney journalist, Percy Reay, who was the prize winner in a competition conducted by the Sydney weekly, “ The Bulletin”. It told the story of a boy from a pioneering family in the outback of Australia. 

The boy is sent to England for an education and returns later as “an English dude”, complete with monocle, plus-fours, and a riding crop in his hand. Anxious to relearn the ways of bush life, he gets a job as a jackeroo.

Station hands discover he believes that bushrangers still roam the bush, they play a joke on him by staging a mock hold-up. He trounces them all single handed. In later scenes he continues to astound the skeptical station hands with his athletic prowess.

After breaking in the wildest brumby on the station, he wins a boxing match with the biggest shearer, then displaying his skills at swimming and diving.  Eventually he competes successfully with the overseer for the hand of the manager’s daughter.

The foregoing hero was played by “Snowy” Reginald Leslie Baker who was born in Surry Hill, Sydney, in 1884, He soon became a champion in most athletic sports. 

After completing in “Lure of the Bush” he went to the United States to further his film career. Although he did appear in some movies, he succeeded rather as a coach and  instructor in athletic feats for

business men and film stars. He died in Los Angeles, USA, in 1953

The heroine was played by Rita Tress, from Leadville. She was claimed as  a true Australian  heroine, with an impressive horse riding ability and confidence in the bush to match her beauty and to make her a worthy partner for the manly hero.

In real life Rita Buckland married Major C.W.C. Thompson, of Melbourne in 1934.  She passed away at St. Leonards in 1965, age 75 years.

The “Lure of the Bush” scenes was shot near Gunnedah on Will Allen’s  Gunnible  property and Sir Charles Mackellar’s  Kurrembede  station. 

The latter was related to Dorothy Mackellar and John Buckland of Leadville. 

At the two properties mentioned great scenes were recorded of mobs of cattle and horses, flocks of sheep, and of many birds and animals including herds of some hundreds of kangaroos.

The Buckland family of Leadville were well known among the equine followers in Mudgee. 

Rita and her sister competed in many junior riding displays and competitions in Mudgee, while her two brothers played polo there.  

The father, John, a Vice President of  the Bligh Amateur Races Club was always a winner at the Mudgee Bligh races.

For further information on this Club’s May 1908 race meeting it is suggested that you read pages 87 to 101 of  Roy Cameron’s  book, “When Our  Beards Were Black” or google “Bligh Amateur  Races – Mudgee Guardian May 7,1908”.

Roy Cameron, OAM