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Campbell, Walter Scott (1844–1935)

by C. J. King

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

Walter Scott Campbell (1844-1935), public servant, was born on 11 June 1844 at Maitland, New South Wales, son of Irish-born Francis Rawdon Hastings Campbell, medical practitioner, and his wife Selina, née Porter. He was educated at Rev. William Woolls's school at Parramatta, Fort Street Model School, and Sydney Grammar School where he was an original pupil in 1857-61. In 1862 he joined the surveyor-general's branch of the Department of Lands as a draftsman. On 5 October 1867 at Holy Trinity Church, Sydney, he married Mary Ann Holt.

Campbell became chief draftsman in the new Department of Mines on 19 October 1874. In 1886 he studied suitable locations for 'experimental or demonstrating farms' for the government; in his Extracts from Reports on Certain Agricultural Districts of New South Wales (1888), he concluded that the 'greater part of the farming is carried out in an extremely rough, primitive and slovenly manner without method or the remotest attention to economy'. Next year with R. L. Pudney, principal of Longerenong Agricultural College in Victoria, he reported on a suitable site for the Hawkesbury Agricultural College (founded 1893).

When H. C. L. Anderson became public librarian in 1893, Campbell became chief clerk in the drastically reduced agricultural branch of the Department of Mines and Agriculture, and found himself doing in addition the work of the ex-director and secretary of forests and the ex-director of agriculture at a salary reduced from £600 to £400. Despite depressed economic conditions, the long drought in 1895-1903 and the rabbit plague, in Campbell's time the colony became self-sufficient in wheat production in 1897. He established horse studs at Arrawatta and Bangaroo, a vineyard at Morpeth, and experimental farms at Wollongbar (1894), Bathurst (1896), Grafton (1902), Glen Innes and Cowra (1903) and Yanco (1908). By 1896 he had reputedly spent £100,000 on Hawkesbury Agricultural College. In 1898 he persuaded William Farrer to join the department; after 1902 the distribution by the department of the Federation wheat-variety developed by Farrer made possible a vast increase in the State's wheat acreage.

Campbell became chief inspector of agriculture and travelling instructor in 1900. He proved level-headed, 'practical and resourceful' in administering the jungle of land laws, and establishing new settlers on the land under the Closer Settlement Act of 1904. He retired in 1908 and in 1911 investigated agricultural prospects in the Northern Territory for the Commonwealth government. He wrote many articles for the Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales, and in 1893 had published an exhaustive and scholarly report on sericulture.

Deeply interested in botany, Campbell collected for Sir Ferdinand Mueller and Dr William Woolls and was a friend of R. D. FitzGerald. In 1901 he was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society of London. He was also a keen historian and a council-member of the (Royal) Australian Historical Society (president 1916), contributing many articles to its Journal and Proceedings.

Proud of his 'remarkable physique and retentive memory', he visited England for the first time at the age of 90, and next year wrote a paper on 'The flour milling industry' for the Commonwealth royal commission on the wheat, flour and bread industries. Survived by a son and a daughter, he died on 25 July 1935 at his home at Vaucluse and was buried in the Anglican section of South Head cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1896, 2, 113, Evidence 38-42, 1903, 4, 589, Evidence 166-173
  • ‘Annual report’, JRAHS, 21 (1935)
  • Town and Country Journal, 15 Apr 1903
  • Hunt Institute biographies (Australian Academy of Science Library).

Citation details

C. J. King, 'Campbell, Walter Scott (1844–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/campbell-walter-scott-5494/text9345, published in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 31 October 2014.

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

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