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Fetherstonhaugh, Cuthbert (1837–1925)

by J. Ann Hone

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

Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh (1837-1925), pastoralist, was born on 22 June 1837 in Dardistown, County Westmeath, Ireland, son of Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh and his wife Susan, née Curtis. In 1843 the family moved to Germany and returned to Ireland in 1848. Cuthbert attended school in Frankfurt and Wales and later Belfast Academy. In 1852 his father, two brothers and a cousin left Ireland for Victoria and in May 1853 Cuthbert followed in the Sussex.

In Melbourne Cuthbert worked first as a wharf clerk for £2 10s. a week but soon joined a brother as a carrying contractor and cleared £5 a week. He next went surveying on the Upper Goulburn River and then trapped horses with Hunter and Peter Snodgrass in the ranges. Persuaded by his mother to take more steady employment, he worked on Edward Henty's Muntham run for six years. With Tom Clibborn Fetherstonhaugh laid out the Coleraine steeplechase and won repute as one of the most dare-devil riders of the Western District.

Fetherstonhaugh left Muntham in 1862 and went to Queensland where with two partners he acquired Ban Ban near Gayndah on the Burnett River. Travelling further north Cuthbert was stricken with dysentery. On recovery, he bought the lease of Burton Downs, 300 miles (482 km) north of Rockhampton, in June 1863 but after a three-year struggle Burton Downs had to be sold. Although penniless and with diminished vitality, he remained adventurous. His reputed encounter with the bushranger Bluecap and his gang was recalled by Barcroft Boake, and he also figured as 'Rev. Herbert Heatherstone' in Rolf Boldrewood's The Colonial Reformer.

Fetherstonhaugh underwent a religious experience in 1865 and in 1872, encouraged by Dean Hussey Macartney, he studied for the Anglican ministry. After acting as lay-reader at Templestowe, Doncaster and Anderson's Creek near Melbourne, he was ordained at Wagga Wagga in July 1873 and then took charge of the Brookong-Jerilderie parish. Two of his sermons were published: Our Father in 1874 and Truth and Freedom in 1876. His stipend of £300 helped him to buy the books he had longed for but his reading led him to question beliefs he had accepted from childhood. Unable to accept major Anglican dogma, he resigned in May 1875 but served at Urana as an unsectarian minister. In 1876 he became manager of Canally station near Balranald and on 16 November in Melbourne he married Flora Agnes Murchison. Next year with partners he bought Goorianawa station in the Castlereagh district and managed it for seventeen years.

In 1886 Fetherstonhaugh helped to form the Commercial and Pastoral Association of New South Wales and in 1890 the Pastoralists' Union. In 1894 he began to advocate inland freezing works and a meat export company. In relevant journals and lectures all over the colony he sought support for his scheme and by August 71,000 shares and £40,100 in debentures had been taken up. In 1895 he visited Chicago to engage experts in canning. In 1898 when the Stockowners' Meat Export Co. was well established he turned to mining in the Gulf Country. Successful, he returned in 1902 to New South Wales, and worked as a government land valuer.

Fetherstonhaugh next bought Mungarie, east of Coonamble. In old age he left its management to his son Cuthbert and lived at Blackheath. His last great interest was the Free Kindergarten Union of New South Wales. In 1918 he published in Sydney his lively autobiography, After Many Days, which he continued as 'My religious experiences' (c.1919), a manuscript now in the Mitchell Library. He died on 10 June 1925 at Wellington, survived by his wife, two sons and one daughter. He left an estate worth £3252.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Boake, Where the Dead Men Lie and Other Poems, A. G. Stephens ed (Lond, 1913)
  • Australasian, 6 May 1876
  • 'Mr Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh', Australasian Pastoralists' Review, vol 4, no 2, Apr 1894, p 76
  • 'A Trip Through the North-East of N.S.W.: Interview with Mr. C. Fetherstonhaugh', Australasian Pastoralists' Review, vol 4, no 6, Aug 1894, pp 281-82
  • 'Return of Mr. C. Fetherstonhaugh', Australasian Pastoralists' Review, vol 5, no 9, Nov 1895, p 476
  • 'Pastoral Celebrities: Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh', Pastoralists' Review, vol 19, no 6, Aug 1909, p 605
  • A. W. P., 'Obituary: Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh', Pastoral Review, vol 35, no 7, July 1925, p 585
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 June 1925
  • Sydney Mail, 17 June 1925.

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Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Fetherstonhaugh, Cuthbert (1837–1925)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fetherstonhaugh-cuthbert-372/text5401, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 23 November 2014.

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

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