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Crommelin, George Whiting (1845–1905)

by E. J. Lea-Scarlett

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

George Whiting Crommelin (1845-1905), entrepreneur, was born on 20 August 1845 at Finchley House, London, son of Thomas Lake Crommelin and his wife Harriet Ann, née Minard. The family arrived at Sydney in the Anglesey on 16 December 1852, but Mrs Crommelin decided to return immediately to England with the children. George and his two brothers, Thomas and James, rejoined their father at Sydney in the Sovereign of the Sea in October 1854. After briefly attending a school conducted by a clergyman at Balmain, George left for Braidwood where his father had gone in search of gold.

From 14 Crommelin undertook country employments for various landowners until he became a jackaroo in the service of Hugh Wallace at Nithsdale, Braidwood, and later at Eunonyhareena, near Wagga. A short but profitable venture on the Araluen goldfields was followed by a series of adventures on sheep and cattle stations, with survey parties and the like, until he joined the New Guinea Prospecting Association, of which Lawrence Hargrave was also a member. The object was trade in New Guinea, but the leaky old wooden brig Maria and class consciousness among the members conspired to thwart the enterprise. The Maria was wrecked on Bramble Reef, Great Barrier Reef, on 26 February 1872 with much loss of life. Narrowly escaping hostile Aboriginals, Crommelin, Hargrave and seven others were able to reach Cardwell. From there Crommelin travelled to Albury where his father had been appointed crown lands commissioner.

For the next eight years he was mining, droving and skin-buying until he took over Aston station, near Bombala, New South Wales, on behalf of Robert King. An accidental dose of arsenic taken at Aston in 1880 marked the beginning of a slow but fatal deterioration in his health. He bought Finchley, a property at Craigie, but was too ill to run it. He sold out and moved to the Bega district, where for several years he was able to act as an agent and broker until becoming a complete invalid. He died on 7 May 1905.

His wife Frances Emily Dawson (1855-1940), whom he married at Kameruka on 12 August 1880, belonged to a family well known in the settlement of the Monaro district. In 1903 she transcribed his memoirs, which were published in 1966. Of their seven children, the eldest daughter Minard (b.1881) became a distinguished worker in the cause of wildlife preservation and donated her private reserve at Pearl Beach, New South Wales, to the University of Sydney as a biological research station.

Crommelin typifies the junior members of better-class migrant families who were able to retain social eligibility while involving themselves in colonial pursuits. His self-reliance, toughness and drive were tempered by natural refinement and a quiet resignation in the face of many reverses. His sensitive descriptions of bush life, devoid of any affectation or attempt to exaggerate his own part in the adventures described, give his recollections a flavour of sincerity and originality.

Select Bibliography

  • E. J. Lea-Scarlett, ‘Recollections of a Pioneer: George Whiting Crommelin’, Descent, vol 3, part 1, 1966, pp 4-19, and vol 3, part 2, 1967, pp 43-55.

Citation details

E. J. Lea-Scarlett, 'Crommelin, George Whiting (1845–1905)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/crommelin-george-whiting-3291/text5001, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 22 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

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