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Campbell, Thomas Irving (1861–1942)

by John Atchison

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

Thomas Irving Campbell (1861-1942), rural lobbyist, was born on 24 July 1861 at Richmond, Victoria, third son of Scottish-born parents James Campbell, carpenter, and his wife Isabella, née Irving. In January 1876 he left Melbourne to work for his uncle on Tuppal station, near Deniliquin, New South Wales. In the early 1880s he selected a farm, Waverly, near Carrathool, but soon moved to Ilkadoon, near Tabbita. In 1895 he let his farm and opened a stock and station agency at Whitton. On 11 October 1899 at Gunbar homestead, near Hay, he married with Wesleyan forms Mary Lugsdin.

The rabbit plague and his knowledge of land tenures precipitated Campbell into prominence at the Cootamundra meeting of the nascent Farmers and Settlers' Association in June 1893. There and at the Sydney conference he successfully stressed the need for government assistance against the rabbit. His emphasis on branch combination and vigorous representation became part of the association's platform.

A founding member of the F.A.S.A., Campbell was general secretary in 1897-1925, and from 1900 also manager of its co-operative, formed to market produce and export wheat. He moved to Sydney and set up an office at the Queen Victoria Markets, meanwhile putting the association on a business-like basis and instituting annual reports. As nominal editor with Charles White, he organized the publication of the Farmer and Settler in 1906; after being unsuccessfully sued for damages and breach of contract over the publication of annual reports in 1909, he helped to establish the Land newspaper in 1911.

Campbell was secretary to the council of the Commonwealth Farmers' Organisation at its first interstate conference in Sydney in 1906, founding secretary of the Shires Association of New South Wales in 1908-14, secretary to the Australian Farmers' Federal Organisation in 1916, assessor to Mr Justice R. D. Pring, the royal commissioner inquiring into the administration of the State Wheat Office in 1919-20, and a member of the New South Wales Board of Trade. He stressed the need for political organization by farmers and defended the F.A.S.A.'s link with the Liberal Party before 1914. With (Sir) Arthur Trethowan he organized the 'Loyal Camp' during the 'Great Strike' of 1917, and allied the association with the National Party. When the F.A.S.A. resolved on a separate political organization, Campbell provided secretarial services for the central council; he subsequently strongly opposed any amalgamation with the National Party. In 1921 he voted against the Progressives joining the Nationalists in a coalition ministry, thus fostering the development of the Country Party.

Construction of the Hay-Hillston railway and his eldest son's departure for Ilkadoon rekindled Campbell's yearning for the land: he resigned as general secretary of the F.A.S.A in 1925, but returned as president in 1927 and remained a vice-president until 1931. The Campbells developed large-scale wheat and sheep-farming, and 'T.I.' was primarily responsible for several water-leagues and trusts using drainage water from the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.

Survived by his wife, four sons and two daughters, Campbell died at Griffith on 24 July 1942 and was buried in the Presbyterian section of Griffith cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £2648. With his energy, ability and pertinacity and the confidence of the farmers, Campbell had helped to make the association into a powerful political force.

Select Bibliography

  • W. A. Bayley, History of the Farmers and Settlers' Association of N.S.W. (Syd, 1957)
  • Goolgowi Jubilee Committee, Corridors of Gold (Griffith, 1977)
  • F.A.S.A., Annual Report, 1898-1932
  • Land (Sydney), 24 Apr, 21 Aug 1925, 28 Aug 1931, 31 July 1942
  • Narrandera Argus, 28 July 1942
  • Area News (Griffith, New South Wales), 7 Aug 1942
  • private information.

Citation details

John Atchison, 'Campbell, Thomas Irving (1861–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/campbell-thomas-irving-5493/text9321, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 17 November 2018.

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

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