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Buckland, Sir Thomas (1848–1947)

by R. F. Holder

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Sir Thomas Buckland (1848-1947), goldmine-manager, pastoralist, businessman and philanthropist, was born on 1 August 1848 at Maidstone, Kent, England, son of John Buckland, carpenter, and his wife Martha, née Smith. Educated there at Rocky Hill House Academy, he migrated to Sydney in 1865 and worked for his uncle Thomas Buckland. He soon moved to Victoria and became a gold-assayer, then in 1867 went to Queensland and joined the Gympie gold rush. In 1869 he returned to Sydney and entered the Bank of New South Wales, became bullion clerk and gold-assayer at head office and was briefly at its Araluen and Gulgong branches.

Three years later Buckland resigned and moved to Charters Towers, Queensland, where he set up as a gold-buyer and assayer and was head of the butchering business, T. Buckland & Co. Here he greatly prospered despite his propensity for fighting and litigation: he twice, in 1877 and 1883, sued T. O'Kane, editor of the Northern Miner, for libel and won negligible damages. At the time he owned the Towers Herald.

Investing heavily in mining, Buckland paid out a small fortune in 'backing money' before receiving a dividend. He became manager of several companies, and was managing director of the Victory (Charters Towers) Gold Mining Co. Ltd, in 1892, the 'most productive goldmine in Australasia'; earlier he had installed the 'Excelsior' machine to treat tailings. From 1877 Buckland was a member of the Charters Towers Municipal Council and was mayor in 1882 and 1883; he was also president of the hospital committee and the Chamber of Commerce and a vice-president of the Towers Pastoral, Agricultural, and Mining Association and the North Queensland Rifle Association. In 1879 he acquired Cardigan station in North Kennedy, in 1891 St Anns, and next year Bosworth on the Burdekin River.

At Millchester, Queensland, on 8 August 1875 Buckland had married an eighteen-year-old widow Emma Moore, née Barnett; he divorced her for adultery in 1889. In 1890 he went back to England, intending to settle, and on 15 October married Mary Kirkpatrick of Monks Horton Park near Hythe, Kent. However in 1891 he returned to Queensland to manage his interests during the depression, and soon became managing director in Australia for the English principals of Cobar Gold Mines Ltd, New South Wales. Residing in Sydney from about 1898, he became a director of several prominent companies: chairman of the pastoral company Pitt, Son & Badgery Ltd in 1906-43 and of the United Insurance Co. Ltd from 1935, president of the Bank of New South Wales in 1922-37, and a director of the Permanent Trustee Co. of New South Wales from 1920. After carrying his stations through the depression and the extended drought of the early 1900s, he sold them on a rising market between 1914 and 1916.

Thereafter Buckland devoted his time and energy to his directorships and to philanthropy. He endowed the Buckland Memorial Church of England Boys' Home at Carlingford in 1927, and in 1934 gave £100,000 for the construction and endowment of the Buckland Convalescent Hospital at Springwood, stipulating that the State government should build a water-supply to serve both the hospital and the neighbouring part of the Blue Mountains. He was a member of Barker College Council from 1928 and president of the Sydney branch of the Royal Society of St George in 1939; he had been knighted in June 1935.

Slight in build, unobtrusive, with tight waving hair and a pointed beard, Buckland dressed neatly though not fashionably. A member of the Australian Club, he had earned the nickname 'The Sydney Limited', partly for his rapid progress on foot from one board meeting to another. He continued to drive himself when aged more than 90. With a growing concern about the country's lack of defence preparations, in 1938 he donated £10,500 to the Commonwealth government to buy an Avro Anson bomber and was taken for a flight in it; rumour had it that he had made this a condition of his gift. In 1940 he gave £20,000 to the British government for war expenditure, and next year gave £15,000 for another bomber for the Royal Australian Air Force.

Buckland died on 11 June 1947 at his residence, Lyndhurst, Hunters Hill, and was cremated with Anglican rites. Predeceased by his wife, he was survived by two sons and three daughters. His estate was valued for probate at £589,958; after bequests of £40,000 to each child, legacies totalling £24,000 to other members of his family and some £11,000 to sundry schools and hospitals, he left two-thirds of the residue to the Buckland Convalescent Hospital, Springwood, and the income of one-third to Church of England homes for children.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Jones, Trinity Phoenix (Cairns, 1976)
  • Australian Mining Standard, 18 Feb 1893
  • Pastoral Review, 16 July 1947
  • Northern Miner, 22 July, 5 Aug, 12, 19, 24 Oct, 29 Dec 1882
  • Graziers' Review, 16 Apr 1922
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Oct 1928, 8 June 1929, 11 Mar 1932, 26 May 1934, 3 June 1935, 5 Sept 1938, 13 June 1947
  • Supreme Court, SCT/CH9, case 108 (Queensland State Archives)
  • Civil and Criminal Courts, A17369, A17371, A17389, A17735, A17736, A18281, A18309, A18496 (Queensland State Archives)
  • Lands, LAN/AF 823, 828, 999, N154 (Queensland State Archives)
  • Bank of New South Wales Archives (Sydney).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

R. F. Holder, 'Buckland, Sir Thomas (1848–1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/buckland-sir-thomas-5414/text9177, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 18 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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