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Creswick, Alexander Thomson (1853–1939)

by S. R. C. Wood

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Alexander Thomson Creswick (1853-1939), pastoralist, was born on 28 July 1853 at The Hawthorns, Hawthorn, Victoria, second child and only son of Henry Creswick and his wife Jane, only child of Dr Alexander Thomson of Geelong. Henry Creswick was one of three brothers who in 1842 had occupied the Creswick's Creek run and whose name was given to the town. In 1851-58 he was a partner in the wine and spirits business of D. S. Campbell & Co. and made a fortune from liquor during the gold rush.

Alexander was educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, matriculating at the University of Melbourne in March 1872. In 1873 his father bought Liewah, and Alexander, much to his disgust, was taken away from university to manage it. The property comprised 35,000 acres (14,164 ha) between the Edward and Wakool rivers in the Riverina. A run of bad seasons and rabbits troubled Creswick until 1893. In that year he owed Goldsbrough, Mort & Co. Ltd, much more than the value of his assets, and was threatened with foreclosure. With better seasons he improved Liewah's carrying capacity to 30,000 sheep and by 1900 had £25,000 at call and was out of debt.

The death of James Tyson in 1898 gave Creswick the chance which was to gain him the reputation, after Sir Samuel McCaughey, as the largest individual sheep owner in the history of Australia. In 1900 and through the drought of 1902 he was financed by Goldsbrough's in the purchase of Tyson's Tupra-Juanbung complex near the junction of the Lachlan with the Murrumbidgee. Later he bought adjoining Tarwong for £100,000 from the estate of Tyson's brother Peter. In all he acquired from the Tysons 681,000 acres (275,594 ha), of which 115,000 acres (46,565 ha) were freehold, with a carrying capacity of 5000 cattle and 85,000 sheep.

By 1924 Creswick, with Goldsbrough's backing, had bought and sold over thirty other stations and was shearing over 400,000 sheep. His requirements for retention were river frontages and proximity to a railway, on which he could shift stock to his relief stations whenever drought threatened. In addition to Liewah and Tupra, stations which he retained in widely scattered districts of New South Wales included Moolpa, Mooloomoon, Gunbar, Yarrara, Coppabella, Merribindinyah, Arthursleigh, Bedford Park, Combogalong, Bullagreen and Collaroy. In Victoria he had Bumbang, Bolinda Park and the Nook Stud. In Queensland he at one time owned Coongoola, Tomoo and St Helens.

A gifted horseman and only 5 ft 5 ins (165 cm) tall, Creswick was a very successful amateur jockey in his early years in the Riverina. After 1901 he bred and raced hundreds of horses and won over £70,000 in stakes. In 1919-30 he was the master and financial mainstay of the Melbourne Hunt Club and led the field up to his 74th year. Creswick was a director of the Bank of Victoria and of the Carlton Brewery group of companies. To Melbourne Grammar he gave Creswick House and land for tennis courts. To the Melbourne Hunt he gave land and buildings at Cranbourne.

Except on horseback, Creswick's light build was no help in the bush, and by way of protection he had grafted onto a naturally irascible nature a grumpy and forbidding manner. Despite frequent rages he was generally liked by his employees because of generous and open-hearted contrition.

On 7 July 1881 Creswick had married Helen (d.1925), daughter of Rev. James Forbes; they had three daughters and one son. Though he scorned public ostentation his house, Yarrien, with a porter's lodge, ballroom and footmen in livery, was one of the last Toorak establishments to be kept in the style which had made that suburb a byword for opulence. Survived by two daughters, he died there on 19 March 1939 and was buried in Kew cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £190,726, but he had disposed of most of his assets during his lifetime. A portrait in hunting pink by W. B. McInnes is held in the Creswick Museum.

Select Bibliography

  • J. A. Graham, Early Creswick (Melb, 1942)
  • H. H. Peck, Memoirs of a Stockman (Melb, 1942)
  • R. B. Ronald, The Riverina: People and Properties (Melb, 1960)
  • H. B. Ronald, Hounds are Running (Kilmore, Vic, 1970)
  • Pastoral Review, 15 Apr 1939
  • Age (Melbourne), 20 Mar 1939
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 25 Mar 1939.

Citation details

S. R. C. Wood, 'Creswick, Alexander Thomson (1853–1939)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/creswick-alexander-thomson-5818/text9877, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 14 December 2018.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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