Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Buckland, Thomas (1814–1896)

by R. F. Holder

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

Thomas Buckland (1814-1896), merchant, pastoralist and banker, was born in Kent, England, the son of Thomas Buckland, farmer. He emigrated to Sydney at about 16. He soon came into the employment of the Waterloo Warehouse, and with this firm acquired extensive experience in commerce and pastoral activity. In the 1840s he managed the firm's business in New Zealand, which included both trading and whaling, and was responsible for importing several cargoes of cattle for stations in which the firm had an interest. Returning to Sydney, he was engaged in the management of the widespread business of the firm and later became a partner with Sir Daniel Cooper. Buckland managed the affairs of the partnership in Australia until it was wound up in 1889, and also looked after Cooper's extensive private interests in the colonies. This association brought Buckland within the orbit of big business in Sydney. On Cooper's resignation from the boards of the Bank of New South Wales and Colonial Sugar Refining Co. when he left for England in April 1861, Buckland was elected to succeed him as director in both companies. Thereafter he served on the boards of both organizations until his death. He was president of the bank from 1886 to 1894 when he vacated that office because of increasing deafness, and chairman of the board of C.S.R. in 1883 and 1891-93.

As a director of the bank Buckland played an important part in its steady expansion in size and strength. He gave unremitting attention to its affairs, particularly to its accounting system, lending methods and premises. During the absence of the general manager, Shepherd Smith, in 1879, he virtually stood in for him. For his services then he was voted a gratuity of £1000, which he applied to establishing the (Buckland) fund for the benefit of the bank's staff or their dependants in cases of distress. Later as president he provided a steadying hand in the banking crises of 1891-93, and though he had expressed a wish to retire for reasons of health and deafness he stayed on during the worst period of 1893 and laid down a policy for strengthening the bank's reserves which was to guide it for the next twenty years. He earned from his son-in-law, Sir Charles Mackellar, the description of 'the Nestor of Australian banking'.

Buckland's business interests gave him a wide knowledge of the pastoral industries and the men connected with them, and led him into his own grazing activities mainly around Dubbo and on the Monaro. He played a small but useful part in discussions and debates on land legislation, emphasizing in particular the importance of the 'merchants' ledgers' as the principal guide to the hard facts of the effect of the Land Acts. His practical sense had another facet; he had acquired in his travelling a substantial knowledge of Australian flora, and his amateur interest proved of some value to the botanist, Baron von Mueller.

In the 1850s and 1860s Buckland had been active in promoting the supply of water to Sydney and its suburbs, and in the reclamation of mud flats at Woolloomooloo and Botany, but thereafter he took little part on the public stage. He lived unostentatiously, and apart from his keen attention to business he was a quiet but generous philanthropist. The main institutions he supported were connected with seamen, and he was a founder and trustee of the Shipwreck Relief Society. In Sydney about 1849 he had married Marion D'Aubigny Hall; they had five sons and five daughters. He died, aged 82, at his home, Belvoir House, Sydney, on 18 September 1896 and was buried in the Church of England section of the Waverley cemetery. He was predeceased by his wife. His estate, sworn for probate at more than £260,000, was mostly divided among his surviving children: John Arthur (Fritz), grazier of Wonbobbie station near Warren; Thomas, retired public servant; Emily Rose who had married Henry Montagu Faithful; and Marion, wife of Charles Kinnaird Mackellar.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1862, 5, 1195
  • Australasian Insurance and Banking Record, 19 Oct 1896
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19, 21 Sept 1896
  • Bank of New South Wales Archives (Sydney).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

R. F. Holder, 'Buckland, Thomas (1814–1896)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/buckland-thomas-171/text4605, published in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 19 September 2014.

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

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