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Beveridge, Peter (1829–1885)

by J. Ann Hone

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

Peter Beveridge (1829-1885), by Davies & Co, c1865

Peter Beveridge (1829-1885), by Davies & Co, c1865

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H10173

Peter Beveridge (1829-1885), squatter and author, was born on 24 June 1829 at Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, the third son of Andrew Beveridge, baker, and his wife Margaret, née Spratt. In 1839 the family arrived in Port Phillip and settled at Mercer's Vale (Beveridge). Later Andrew took up Dean station at Wandong. In 1845, inspired by Robert McDougall's description of the Swan Hill district and guided by him, Peter and his older brother Andrew (M.A., Edinburgh) drove 1000 cattle by way of Kilmore and Mount Alexander to the Loddon River, crossed it at Tragowel and continued on to Curlewis & Campbell's Reedy Lake station. They formed Tyntynder station, ten miles (16 km) down the Murray from the site of Swan Hill. Another brother, George, joined them with flocks of sheep and in 1846 they took up Piangil, about fifteen miles (24 km) beyond Tyntynder. There in September Andrew was speared to death by Aboriginals in an argument over stolen sheep. In 1847 the rest of the family moved to Tyntynder, Mrs Beveridge being the first white woman in that region. They stayed for six years before returning to Kilmore; Peter and two brothers remained on the stations until 1868.

In these years Peter acquired an extensive knowledge of the Aboriginals of the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Darling areas. He wrote, often under a pseudonym, many articles on their customs, dialects and myths, aware of the urgency of his task, for the Aboriginals were 'vanishing off the face of the land' and prompt 'remedial measures' were needed 'for their conservation'. He estimated the Aboriginal population of New South Wales and Port Phillip in 1845 as 5410 and in 1853 as 2405. He observed and recorded their remedies for such things as 'pulmonary affections, rheumatic fevers', headache, sore eyes and inflammation of the bowels. In May 1869 his paper on 'Aboriginal Ovens' was read to the London Anthropological Society, the author prefacing his remarks with: 'My observations of this subject extend over a period of twenty-eight years and having always taken great interest in things aboriginal I have not any hesitation in saying (even although it may savour of egotism) that the following description is correct in every particular'. In June 1883 in another paper read to the Royal Society of New South Wales Beveridge described at some length such subjects as chieftainship, marriage relations, games, poetry and philology. This paper formed the basis for The Aborigines of Victoria and Riverina as Seen by Peter Beveridge, published posthumously in Melbourne in 1889.

Beveridge's last years were spent at Green Hills, French Island. After a painful illness he died on 4 October 1885 at his mother's home, Woodburn, near Kilmore. A Presbyterian, Beveridge was described as a 'conversationalist of no mean order', and was liked as a 'frank, genial and companionable man'. He was survived by his wife Annie, née Forrest, and his brothers George and Mitchell Kilgour, who was founder of the Kilmore Advertiser in 1873.

Select Bibliography

  • J. E. Robertson, The Progress of Swan Hill and District (Melb, 1912)
  • J. A. Maher, The Tale of a Century: Kilmore, 1837-1937 (Melb, 1938)
  • M. K. Beveridge, ‘Pioneering on the Lower Murray’, Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 1, no 1, Jan 1911, pp 27-29
  • Argus (Melbourne), 1 Sept 1846, 5 Oct 1885
  • Kilmore Free Press, 8 Oct 1885
  • Kilmore Advertiser, 10 Oct 1885
  • Beveridge manuscript (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Beveridge, Peter (1829–1885)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/beveridge-peter-2992/text4373, published in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 20 September 2014.

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

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