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Finch-Hatton, Harold Heneage (1856–1904)

by D. P. Crook and David Denholm

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

Harold Heneage Finch-Hatton (1856-1904), imperial federationist, was born on 23 August 1856 at Eastwell Park, Kent, England, the fourth son of George William Finch-Hatton, tenth Earl of Winchilsea and fifth Earl of Nottingham, and his wife Fanny Margaretta, daughter of Edward Royd Rice of Dane Court, Kent. His forebears included eminent statesmen and jurists. Educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, Harold went to Queensland at 19 to visit his elder brother, Henry Stormont (1852-1927), who succeeded to the two earldoms in 1898 and held leaseholds in the Nebo district southwest of Mackay. In 1868 the Finch-Hattons' kinsman, Lionel Knight Rice, had begun to acquire the cattle runs later known collectively as Mount Spencer. At separate times in 1881 Henry and Harold became partners with Rice and the station manager, Charles Walter Toussaint. Apparently the partnership was reduced to the two Finch-Hattons by March 1888.

In 1881 Harold had joined the rush to the Mount Britten goldfield, forty-five miles (72 km) west of Mount Spencer, and invested £16,000 in a pioneer mining undertaking which returned him only some £10,000. In 1883, probably with his brother, he returned permanently to England, although Henry seems to have visited Australia in the mid-1880s. Harold's Advance Australia! An Account of Eight Years' Work, Wandering, and Amusement, in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria (London, 1885) gave a vivid impression of life on station and diggings and preserved much squatter-lore on many subjects including the Aboriginals. Convinced that the sugar industry could survive only with cheap coloured labour, he advocated government control of the Kanaka trade, not for humanitarian reasons but to free the planters from the politically damaging slur of slave trading. He strongly opposed the Griffith ministry on its Kanaka policy and predicted the rise of a northern separationist movement if the government decided to ban the coolie traffic.

In England Harold failed three times to win a seat in the House of Commons but was returned unopposed for the Newark division of Nottinghamshire in July 1895. His maiden speech on 28 April 1896 demonstrated the limits of ultra-conservatism; he resigned in April 1898, unable to stomach the concessions made to the Liberal Unionists by the Salisbury government. He was the founding treasurer, but otherwise a passive member, of the Imperial Federation League. For a time he was sole member, and then chairman, of the London committee of the North Queensland Separation League. He was also secretary of the Pacific Telegraph Co., formed to link Vancouver and Australia. When not in London he lived at Harlech and was high sheriff of Merionethshire in 1903. Unmarried, he died of heart failure in London on 16 May 1904.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1886, 1 429
  • Times (London), July-Sept 1884, 13-26 May 1898, 18 May 1904
  • Australasian, 16 Apr 1887
  • run registers (Queensland State Archives).

Citation details

D. P. Crook and David Denholm, 'Finch-Hatton, Harold Heneage (1856–1904)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/finch-hatton-harold-heneage-3515/text5405, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 19 December 2014.

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

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