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Carson, Duncan (1860–1931)

by G. P. Walsh

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

Duncan Carson (1860-1931), woolbroker and pastoralist, was born on 8 November 1860 at Clutha, Kew, Victoria, youngest son of John Carson (d.1902) of Glasgow and his wife Elizabeth, née Duncan, who had both arrived in Melbourne in the Robert Benn in 1842. Educated at Scotch College, Melbourne, he went in 1876 with his family to Britain via the United States of America and the Philadelphia International Exhibition. His father, a prominent Melbourne horticulturist, set him to study horticulture and botany under Sir Joseph Hooker until November 1878 when the family returned to Melbourne. In 1879 he went as a botanist on the brief Pacific cruise of H.M.S. Wolverine. After a short period in the office of William Sloane & Co. in Sydney, Carson turned his attention to wool. With an introduction from A. van Rompaey, he went to Europe in March 1881 to study the trade, mostly at Verviers, Belgium, but also at Bradford, England, and in France.

On his return to Australia, Carson acted as buyer and valuer for his brother William during the wool season and spent the rest of the year acquiring station experience, sometimes on his father's property, Goangra, Walgett, acquired in 1883. His practical experience in the industry was wide: long droving-trips in New South Wales and Queensland, sheep-classing in the Riverina and Victoria, and sheep-judging at many country shows. In 1888 he started a commission agency in Brisbane in partnership with J. H. Geddes, but soon sold out. After acting as wool expert for J. H. Geddes & Co. in Sydney, he joined a partnership with F. E. Winchcombe, C. L. Wallis and E. J. Turton in March 1889 to found the woolbrokers, Winchcombe & Co. [Ltd]. In 1899 the firm (styled Winchcombe Carson Ltd from 1910) was incorporated in New South Wales. Carson's wide and expert knowledge of the trade soon made it one of the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. In 1917 he became its chairman and succeeded Winchcombe on the State Wool Committee, helping to direct the British-Australian wartime wool purchase scheme.

Carson was a director of the Australian Bank of Commerce and the New South Wales Land and Agency Co. Ltd. At first in partnership with Alfred Brown, he owned Bomera station on the Liverpool Plains and was chairman of the Rockwood Pastoral Co. in Queensland. Associated with almost every movement to benefit the pastoral industry, he was a council-member of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, the Graziers' Association and the Royal Agricultural Society, acting president of the New South Wales Sheepbreeders' Association and an active worker for the Sydney Sheep Show. He took a keen interest in pasture improvement and maintained his early interest in botany and horticulture. A member of the local Linnean Society from 1890, he accompanied a German botanist on an expedition to North Queensland in 1900, hybridized the early flowering peach known originally as 'Carson's Peach', and had one of the finest collections of orchids in Australia. He also travelled widely to Japan, China, the East Indies and South America, as well as Africa where he shot big game.

Rather short and stocky, friendly and generous, Carson devoted the same energy and enthusiasm to all his interests whether business, family, or the activities of the Highland Society of New South Wales of which he was president from 1923. On 10 June 1891 at Randwick he had married Constance Haidee (d.1932), daughter of Robert Richards of Sydney; they formally separated in 1925. He was extremely fond of children. Three sons served in World War I, and the loss at Gallipoli of Ronald, who had also learned the trade in Belgium, was a great blow.

Survived by his wife, four sons and three daughters, Carson died of cerebro-vascular disease on 6 January 1931 at his residence Weeroona, Wahroonga, and was cremated after a Presbyterian service. Two sons settled on the land, another joined the firm, and a daughter Haidee Margaret married the eminent physician and surgeon (Sir) Norman Gregg. Probate of his estate was sworn at £67,979.

Select Bibliography

  • Pastoral Review, 16 Jan 1931
  • Scottish Australasian, 21 Jan, 21 Feb 1931
  • Sydney Morning Herald, and Sydney Mail, 7 Jan 1931
  • private information.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Carson, Duncan (1860–1931)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/carson-duncan-5520/text9399, published in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 17 April 2014.

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

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