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Curr, Edward Micklethwaite (1820–1889)

by Harley W. Forster

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

Edward Micklethwaite Curr (1820-1889), by unknown photographer

Edward Micklethwaite Curr (1820-1889), by unknown photographer

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H15062

Edward Micklethwaite Curr (1820-1889), squatter and author, was born on 25 December 1820 in Hobart Town, Van Diemen's Land, eldest son of Edward Curr, merchant and landholder, and his wife Elizabeth, née Micklethwait(e). He was educated at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, from 17 December 1829 till 10 August 1837 and then went for a year to northern France to learn French, being boarded out in the village of Quincy. He returned to London in November 1838 and sailed in January 1839 for Circular Head. Later that year he visited Melbourne with his father. In December 1840 Edward senior bought a run on the 'Major's Line', near Heathcote, Victoria, and between February 1841 and 1850 Edward junior managed for his father the Wolfscrag, Tongala, Lower Moira, Colbinabbin and Coragorag sheep runs and, in partnership with his brother William, conducted the Corop (Gargarro) run. His western Goulburn Valley runs were in the tribal areas of the Bangerang, Ngooraialum and Pinpandoor Aboriginals, at that time numerous, and Curr evinced a warm sympathy for them and a keen interest in their lives. His observations on the Aboriginals, on early Melbourne and on squatting life were published in Recollections of Squatting in Victoria (Melbourne, 1883, abridged and reprinted, 1965).

In 1850-51, after his father's death, the runs were sold, and in February 1851 Curr sailed for England with two younger brothers. Then ensued an extended tour of Europe and the Middle East, part of it on horseback. Observations made during this tour formed part of the background to his Pure Saddle Horses (Melbourne, 1863). On 31 January 1854 he married Margaret Vaughan from County Kildare, Ireland; they had five sons and three daughters.

Curr returned to Victoria in August, but the gold rush had made changes not to his liking and he stayed only one month in Melbourne before sailing for Auckland, New Zealand, where he imported horses from New South Wales and wrote articles on the land question. A return to pastoral activities in the Burdett district of Queensland and at Uabba on the Lachlan River between 1856 and 1861 was unsuccessful. After taking more horses to New Zealand, Curr returned to Victoria in November 1862 as an inspector of sheep, becoming chief inspector on 17 May 1864. In June 1872 he played a leading part in eradicating an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in cattle near Werribee. Another important task, eradicating scab from the Victorian flocks, was accomplished by June 1876. He had in 1865 won a prize of £150 for An Essay on Scab in Sheep (Melbourne, 1865; Hobart, 1870). On 16 January 1871 Curr became chief inspector of stock in Victoria, continuing to live at Alma House, Chapel Street, St Kilda, with his wife and family.

In his later years he wrote many reports and articles on stock matters, but his major work, apart from his Recollections, was done with assistance from newspapers and interested laymen throughout Australia. In his four-volume The Australian Race: Its Origins, Languages, Customs (Melbourne, 1886-87), as with an earlier work by R. Brough Smyth and assistants, the published information was only as reliable as the observations made by his helpers at Curr's request. His portrayal of station life in the western Goulburn Valley and his work on the Aboriginals of Victoria are of merit. His approach to these people, now almost extinct, and to his fellow squatters reveals sympathetic understanding, and his writings increase the knowledge of early Victoria. He died on 3 August 1889 at St Kilda, and was buried in the Roman Catholic section of the St Kilda general cemetery.

A painting in oils is held by the family.

Select Bibliography

  • Royal Commission on Foot and Mouth Disease: Reports, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 1872, 3 (58, 76)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 5 Aug 1889
  • Victorian Dept of Agriculture, Archives (Public Record Office Victoria)
  • autobiographical notes (privately held).

Citation details

Harley W. Forster, 'Curr, Edward Micklethwaite (1820–1889)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/curr-edward-micklethwaite-3301/text5025, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 23 November 2017.

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

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