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Cumming, Thomas Forrest (1842–1918)

by J. Ann Hone

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

This is a shared entry with John Cumming

John Cumming (1830-1883) and Thomas Forrest Cumming (1842-1918), pastoralists, were the first and fourth sons of John Cumming and his wife Ann, née Forrest, who emigrated to Van Diemen's Land in 1833, crossed to Port Phillip in 1839, and founded Cumming's brewery in Geelong. John junior was born on 4 August 1830 in Aberdeen, Scotland, was educated in Geelong and then worked in his father's brewery. In March 1849 John senior bought Stony Point station near Mortlake. On this run of 15,573 acres (6302 ha) John junior served his pastoral apprenticeship. In 1857 when the Clyde Co. was disposing of its properties he bought Terinallum station, Darlington, from George Russell.

At Terinallum Cumming built up an excellent merino stud winning a reputation as a knowledgeable sheepbreeder. He improved the property and planted acres of trees. By the 1880s Terinallum was carrying 53,600 sheep. Cumming also had interests in the pastoral expansion of New South Wales and Queensland. He owned Arumpo on the Darling and Burtundy station in New South Wales and he competed with the Riverina studs in supplying sheep for the far interior. In Victoria he extended his holdings to include the 7770 acres (3144 ha) of Gnotuk station near Camperdown and by 1883 Terinallum comprised 47,320 acres (19,150 ha). However, both properties carried heavy mortgages, the result of Cumming's determination to convert to freehold.

In 1870-80 John Cumming represented South-Western Province in the Legislative Council. He was a conscientious but quiet member and the debate on the 1872 education bill was one of the few times he broke his silence. In a long speech and quoting J. S. Mill he opposed the bill for not providing for poor children and for centralizing power. A staunch Presbyterian, Cumming was persuaded by Alexander Morrison to support Ormond College of which he became a trustee; in 1881 he donated £300. He was also a trustee of the Presbyterian Ladies' College, chairman of the Scotch College Council and a trustee of the University of Melbourne. In his last years Cumming lived more in Melbourne than at Terinallum. He owned Millicent, Clendon Road, Toorak, was a member of the Melbourne Club from 1871 and a director of the Australian Mortgage Land and Finance Co. He was ill for some time before his death on 20 September 1883. He was survived by his wife Eliza, née Annand, whom he had married in 1851 and by whom he had five sons and five daughters. He left an estate worth £96,000.

Thomas Forrest, born on 26 September 1842 in Melbourne, attended Scotch College and at 18 joined his brother John at Terinallum. He worked as a drover for John and his other brothers, George and William, moving between the stations and Ballarat, Geelong and Melbourne. On his majority Thomas was given Stony Point station by his father and began his career as one of the outstanding breeders of merino sheep in Victoria. The flock was founded on pure merinos already at Stony Point. Cumming introduced new strains through such rams as Sir Thomas, Longwool and Nugget. Stony Point was reduced to 8000 acres (3238 ha) freehold and Cumming spent much money on improvements and planted 550 acres (223 ha) of trees.

George Peppin was impressed by the work of the Cumming brothers and asked Thomas to assist him in classing his sheep. The two became close friends and in 1874 when the Peppin brothers decided to form the Double Stud at Wanganella Thomas did the work. When the Peppins sold out to Austin, Falkiner and Millear, Cumming continued in charge of the classing at Wanganella.

A founder of the Australian Sheepbreeders' Association, Thomas Cumming was secretary of the first show held in Melbourne in 1877, a position he retained until 1907. He helped to establish the Skipton Sheep Show which for some years dominated the merino breeding of the Western District of Victoria. At the second Melbourne Show Cumming won four firsts, six seconds and a third in six classes, all the six championships for rams and ewes, three out of four special prizes for rams and two out of three for ewes. In 1881 he decided to sell Stony Point and buyers came from all over Australia. The stud realized £28,600; Philip Russell paid 1460 guineas for one ram. Cumming held Hyde Park with Robert Simson and joined his brother John in the purchase of Arumpo and Burtundy stations. His success as a breeder continued and his stud flocks at Arumpo won prizes at the Deniliquin, Skipton and Melbourne shows.

Cumming served on the Mortlake Shire Council for years, represented Western Province in the Legislative Council in 1881-88 and was a strong supporter of Gillies. In 1889-95 Cumming was inspector of stations for Goldsbrough Mort & Co. He was one of the first members on the Closer Settlement Board, became chairman of the Lands Purchase and Management Board in 1905 and in 1907 was appointed to the Licences Reduction Board. He retained an active interest in his school and was president of the Old Scotch Collegians Club in 1896-97. He died on 30 July 1918, survived by his wife Selina, daughter of Thomas Dowling, whom he had married on 15 August 1865 at Jellalabad, Victoria, and by five sons and three daughters, one of whom married Sir Rupert Clarke.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), The Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 3 (Melb, 1905)
  • A. Henderson (ed), Early Pioneer Families of Victoria and Riverina (Melb, 1936)
  • H. B. Austin, The Merino: Past, Present and Probable (Syd, 1943)
  • Leader (Melbourne), 10 July 1880
  • Argus (Melbourne), 22 Sept 1883
  • 'Pastoral Celebrities: Mr. Thomas F. Cumming', Pastoral Review, 15 Dec 1906, p 838
  • 'Obituary: T. F. Cumming', Pastoral Review, vol 28, no 8, Aug 1918, p 740
  • Goldsbrough Mort & Co. records (Australian National University Archives).

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Cumming, Thomas Forrest (1842–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cumming-thomas-forrest-273/text5017, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 20 November 2017.

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

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