Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Allport, Morton (1830–1878)

by G. T. Stilwell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Morton Allport, by Stephen Spurling, 1860s

Morton Allport, by Stephen Spurling, 1860s

State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125881920

Morton Allport (1830-1878), naturalist and solicitor, was born on 4 December 1830 and baptized at Aldridge, Staffordshire, England, the eldest child of Joseph Allport and his wife Mary Morton, née Chapman. When twelve months old he arrived at Hobart Town with his parents in the Platina. He was educated under Rev. John Gell at the Queen's School and by Rev. Thomas Ewing. He was articled to his father in the firm of Allport & Roberts and later became a partner. On 21 June 1852 he was admitted to the Bar. Except for an overseas tour in 1852-55 he lived in Tasmania where he was regarded as one of the most successful of those educated in the colony.  

From childhood Allport and his brothers and sister were encouraged to take an interest in natural history and art. Of the former he was a most devoted student and became a great bush walker and an authority on Tasmanian botany and zoology rather to the neglect of his legal practice. His letter books show that he had a wide correspondence with scientific men of authority in Europe. He was a leading figure in bringing salmon to Tasmania; indeed it was he who was in touch with the experts in England and not Sir James Youl who made most of the arrangements for their dispatch. In 1866 he became one of the first salmon commissioners. He was also responsible for introducing other European fish into Tasmania. He became a fellow of the Linnean and Zoological Societies, and of the Royal Colonial Institute in London, a foreign member of the Sociétés de Belgiques Malacologique, Royale Botanique, Royale Entomologique, and Linnéenne, and an honorary life member of the Otago Acclimatisation Society and of the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, which awarded him its silver medal. In 1870-78 he was vice-president of the Royal Society of Tasmania, which he had joined in 1849, and for some years served as a member of its gardens committee; several of his articles were printed in its Papers and Proceedings. He was also agent in Tasmania for distributing the various works by John Gould, and a notary public.

As an artist he did not succeed even though he had such competent teachers as his mother and John Prout, but he retained a lifelong interest in art. After his visit to Europe he turned to photography. His collection of photographs date from 1855; most are studies of his family and local scenery, interesting because they are amongst the earliest of their kind in Tasmania. He was a member of the Amateur Photographic Association of Great Britain and was awarded several of its prizes. In 1858 he was an organizer of and an exhibitor in the Art Treasures Exhibition at Hobart. He also helped to organize Tasmanian exhibits for the 1862 Great Exhibition in London, and was one of the commissioners appointed to arrange Tasmanian entries for the Intercolonial Exhibition of Australia at Melbourne in 1866-67. Allport was appointed to the Council of Education, served on the committee of the Ladies' College and was a loyal parishioner of All Saints' Anglican Church, Hobart.

On 3 January 1856 Allport married Elizabeth (1835-1925), elder daughter of Lieutenant Thomas Ritchie. Of their children, Cecil (1858-1926) became a well-known solicitor in Hobart and built up a large collection of books and colonial paintings, forming the nucleus of the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts which was bequeathed to the people of Tasmania by his son Henry (1890-1965). Curzona Frances Louise (1860-1949) continued the artistic traditions of the family and exhibited at the Royal Academy and other overseas galleries. Evett Gordon (1863-1934) was awarded the gold medal of the Tasmanian Council of Education and was Tasmanian scholar in 1883.

Morton Allport died in Lebrena, Hobart, on 10 September 1878, and was buried in Queenborough cemetery. The Morton Allport Bequest at the Tasmanian Museum was created to honour his memory and that of his grandson and namesake.

Select Bibliography

  • Mercury (Hobart), 11 Sept 1878
  • Mary Morton Allport diary, 1852-54 (privately held)
  • records (State Library of Tasmania).

Citation details

G. T. Stilwell, 'Allport, Morton (1830–1878)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/allport-morton-2881/text4119, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 20 February 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2018

Morton Allport, by Stephen Spurling, 1860s

Morton Allport, by Stephen Spurling, 1860s

State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125881920