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Collicott, John Thomas (1798–1840)

by L. C. Viney

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

John Thomas Collicott (1798?-1840), postmaster, was the only son of Thomas Collicott, who was transported for failing to affix duty stamps to bottles of medicine. In January 1816 Collicott, with his stepmother, formerly the wife of Richard Allen, a physician to the Prince Regent, and members of his and her families, arrived in Sydney in the Mary Ann. They had a letter of introduction from influential friends to Governor Lachlan Macquarie, and Collicott was granted 200 acres (81 ha) of land at the Five Islands.

In January 1819 he leased his farm and took a position with a Hobart Town merchant; later he sold his New South Wales property. His father followed him to Van Diemen's Land in 1821 with an order for 500 acres (202 ha) of land which he had measured at Carrick; he did not live on this land but took a position as poundkeeper at Glenorchy. By 1823 Collicott advertised as a general store-keeper in Hobart. In May Richard Lewis took him into a partnership, which developed into the business of an estate agent, auctioneer and general appraiser. In August Collicott was a member of the committee for establishing the Bank of Van Diemen's Land of which he became an original proprietor, holding a considerable number of shares at his death. In June he had received a 500-acre (202 ha) grant at Ross, which he let. After Lewis withdrew from the partnership in December 1823, Collicott continued to build up his auctioneering business and, with some government patronage and the general growth of commerce consequent on the increase in the colony's population in the 1820s, it was a profitable concern when he sold his interest to another partner in 1834.

On 17 August 1822 he had been appointed postmaster at Hobart, and conducted the post office at his rooms in Murray Street. At first he received no fixed salary but retained the postal fees he collected. In 1828 the post office was transferred from private to government control; the detailed planning and administration of the new system was left to Collicott, who after January 1831 retained the position of postmaster at Hobart at a salary of £300. Although appreciative of his long service, Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur did not consider him qualified for the whole charge of the postal department, but in 1834 on the departure of Captain England, the director-general, Arthur reluctantly offered Collicott the position on condition that he gave up his practice as an auctioneer, which was yielding £700 a year. Arthur attributed Collicott's acceptance of the terms to a 'laudable desire to improve his position in society'. In 1834 he was appointed to the Commission of the Peace and in 1838 his salary was raised to £450. He was a contributor to the building fund of the Presbyterian church at Hobart, a member of the Church of England, and for many years a member of the Union Club. In poor health for some time, he died suddenly on 3 July 1840 on the eve of three months leave in Sydney. He was unmarried. In recognition of his eighteen years as postmaster, the lieutenant-governor headed the funeral procession.

During Collicott's administration of the post office the mileage of the postal routes was doubled, the use of convict messengers was abolished, letter deliveries in towns were introduced and a system of tenders for the conveyance of mails was established. He died in office, highly spoken of as an obliging and able officer distinguished for his integrity and kindliness.

Select Bibliography

  • G. W. D. Allen, Early Georgian (Syd, 1958)
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 25 Jan, 3 May, 2 Aug, 12 Dec 1823, 1 Oct 1825
  • Colonial Times (Hobart), 7 July 1840
  • CSO 1, GO 1 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

L. C. Viney, 'Collicott, John Thomas (1798–1840)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/collicott-john-thomas-1910/text2265, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 24 January 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

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