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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Dowling, Thomas (1820–1914)

by J. Ann Hone

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Thomas Dowling (1820-1914), by unknown artist

Thomas Dowling (1820-1914), by unknown artist

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an2291479

Thomas Dowling (1820-1914), pastoralist, was born on 6 December 1820 at Colchester, Essex, England, son of Rev. Henry Dowling, and his wife Elizabeth, née Darke. He went with his brother to Van Diemen's Land in 1838, was educated in Hobart Town and became a farmer. On 18 August 1842 he married Maria Jane Ware. In 1849 he crossed to Port Phillip, spent some time with his brother-in-law, Jeremiah George Ware, at Koort-Koort-Nong station and then either owned or rented a dairy at Lake Coragulac. In 1853 he bought Jellalabad station, 16,000 acres (6475 ha) near Darlington, and with this area Dowling remained associated until his death. He built up a fine merino flock using rams from J. L. Currie's Larra stud and from the Bellevue and Parramore studs in Tasmania. Jellalabad merinos became widely known for the fine texture of their wool.

Dowling was appointed a magistrate for the Southern Bailiwick in 1854 and held the first police court at Timboon (Camperdown). He took his duties seriously and attended the police court every fortnight though this entailed a forty-mile (64 km) ride over bush tracks. He was a member and chairman of the Road Board and in 1864 was elected to the Mortlake Shire Council of which he was president for twenty years and a member for fifty years. Dowling strove successfully for the establishment of schools in Darlington and Camperdown and was a trustee of the Darlington recreation reserve and the Darlington cemetery. He was treasurer of the Municipal Association of Victoria for over twenty years. In 1886-1904 he represented Nelson Province in the Legislative Council, where he advocated the surplus wealth tax as a means of removing all other forms of taxation.

Dowling remained active until his death on 8 July 1914. In Mortlake and Darlington he was the 'grand old man of the district and the last of the original squatters'. The removal of his strong grip on local affairs after his reign of fifty years must have seemed like the passing of an era. His wife had died in 1908 and he married Eliza Jane. She survived him with seven of the eleven children of his first marriage and many grandchildren.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • Leader (Melbourne), 3 July 1880
  • Terang Express, 10 July 1914
  • Colac Reformer, 11 July 14
  • Mortlake Dispatch, 11 July 1914.

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Dowling, Thomas (1820–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 20 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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