Gabriel Bennett – Meat Magnate

From Australia’s Jewish Past:

Gabriel Bennett

Meat Magnate

First published in J-Wire February 3, 2022

Gabriel Bennet was born in London in December 1817. He emigrated to Melbourne with his wife Rosetta in 1853, settling in Adelaide the following year.

Bennet first opened a butcher’s shop in Currie Street, later moving to Hindley Street and in 1863 he moved into the wholesale meat trade. In 1865 he joined M Bagot, a fellow member of the South Australian Jockey Club Committee, as partners in Bennett & Bagot – station and livestock agents. The partnership was dissolved in 1876 with Bagot having to declare himself insolvent. Bennett carried on the business with his son Henry for a while until, unfortunately, the business ended in insolvency, due largely to the embezzlement on the part of his sons Henry and Simeon, who was employed as a clerk. Gabriel did not waste time and became a stock and cattle salesman and an auctioneer.

Gabriel, by this time, was at the forefront of thoroughbred racing in South Australia. At a meeting in 1861, a steering committee was formed to re-establish the South Australian Jockey Club and draw up the rules. Later that year he was elected to establish facilities and organise the first racing program and thus The Barton Racecourse came into existence with the first program being held there in January 1862. Gabriel owned two horses – Butcher Boy and Miss Rowe – both who ran in several races but unfortunately without success. He was more successful a year later with his horse Lord of the Isles.

In 1863 he became the club’s official starter and held that position until 1869 when the club folded. Racing was his life and he went on to own a number of other horses, as well as breeding thoroughbreds. In 1876, he traveled interstate with his horses to other race meets, including the Geelong Gold Cup, which he won, and the Geelong Handicap with his horse Emulation. In the same year, he won the Adelaide Cup with Impudence. Gabriel was known as a moderate gambler, seldom laying more than £10 in the course of a meeting. He never attended a Melbourne Cup or the Oakbank Racing Club which was established in 1875 in Adelaide.

On 1 January 1870, the Adelaide Racing Club at the Old Adelaide Racecourse, (now known as Victoria Park) was formed. Gabriel was there from the start and in 1879, on behalf of the club, he was one of a syndicate of four to take out a 21-year lease on The Old Racecourse. Gabriel served as steward and starter as well as officiating at country clubs – although he was barred for a period of two years in view of his still serving out his time as an “undischarged bankrupt”

Other interests and activities included his being a Judge at Agricultural Society Shows around South Australia. He was also a commissioned officer in the Reedbeds Cavalry in the South Australian Volunteer Force. He held various positions on the board of the Adelaide Synagogue, including as its President in 1870, which coincided with the arrival of Rev Abraham Tobias Boas as its first minister and, the following year, the foundation stone was laid for the Synagogue. Through Gabriel’s involvement in the meat industry, he worked closely with Rev Boas, taking up the position of the first Shochet in SA.

Alongside Benjamin Fisher Gabriel went on to establish Bennett and Fisher which became one of Australia’s foremost stock and station agents.

From Australia's Jewish Past is written by Ruth Lilian OAM for AJHS and published weekly in J-Wire. ​