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Hawker, George Charles (1818–1895)

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

George Hawker, by W. H. Nightingale, 1840

George Hawker, by W. H. Nightingale, 1840

State Library of South Australia, 7471

George Charles Hawker (1818-1895), politician and grazier, was born on 21 September 1818 in London, the second son of Edward Hawker (1782-1860), and his first wife Joanna Naomi, née Poore. His father retired from the navy on half-pay in 1830 and attained flag rank in 1837. Through John Macarthur he was granted land near Braidwood in New South Wales; he bought sections in New Zealand and in South Australia, a colony for which he was later active in securing a colonial bishop.

George was educated at schools on the Continent and in England and at Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., 1841; M.A., 1854). With his brother Charles he arrived at Adelaide in September 1840 in the Lysander. Their brother James Collins (1821-1901) had arrived with Governor George Gawler in 1838 and worked on surveys before returning to England where, finding his brothers had just left, he sailed to join them. George had gone north with Edward Eyre and impressed by the country asked his father for help. The admiral replied generously and the brothers bought 2000 Macarthur merino ewes from Thomas Icely near Bathurst and overlanded them to the Barossa Valley. Aboriginals stole their sheep but Hawker retaliated forcefully and made peace on his own terms. When their Barossa run was bought he moved north and found good water in December 1841 at Bungaree. By 1848 the brothers had leased 500,000 acres (202,345 ha); James sold his share to George and took up Moorundi on the Murray River, Charles settled on the Anama section and George later bought 130,000 acres (52,610 ha) of Bungaree when the run was auctioned by government. In 1854 he brought John Noble from England as his overseer. As shepherds were replaced by wire fences Noble took charge of the merino stud. Hawker had already bought Rambouillet rams from France but on Noble's advice turned to rams from Wanganella and with them Bungaree became famous for its hardy and large-framed sheep, capable of walking long distances to water. Noble served the family well for nearly sixty years.

In 1851 Hawker failed to win Stanley in the Legislative Council but in 1858-65 represented the Victoria district in the House of Assembly. He was Speaker and chairman of committees from April 1860 to December 1864 despite a temperance pledge which was imperfectly observed. With his family he went to Germany for a cure. Apart from a brief visit to the colony in 1868 he lived at Heidelberg until 1874. He represented the Victoria district in 1875-84 and North Adelaide in 1884-95. He was treasurer under Arthur Blyth for eleven days in 1875, chief secretary under (Sir) James Boucaut in March-June 1876 and commissioner of public works under Boucaut in 1877-78 and under (Sir) William Morgan in 1878-81. His special interests were pastoral affairs and railways. When Morgan retired Hawker was asked to form a ministry but refused; for this and similar actions he was accused of 'pusillanimity' and later shocked his colleagues by voting with the 'labour party'.

At Bungaree Hawker planted a fine garden and orchard. He was prominent in the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society and in the 1850s and 1860s won prizes for his exhibits. In 1889 he visited India to look at irrigation methods and on them published several articles in the South Australian Register. He was a councillor of the Zoological Gardens. A keen supporter of horse-racing, coursing and cricket he was a founding member of the Hamley Racing Club and later a steward of the South Australian Jockey Club. He also liberally supported St Andrew's Anglican Church, Walkerville.

On 16 December 1845 Hawker had married Bessie Seymour; of their fifteen children, six sons and six daughters survived. Hawker died at his home The Briars, Medindie, on 21 May 1895 and was buried at North Road cemetery. Before his death he had been informed that he would receive a knighthood in the birthday honours; his widow's appeal for a posthumous award was approved by the Queen in September 1895. Hawker left an estate worth £305,800; his collection of paintings and statues was left first to his wife and then to the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Select Bibliography

  • J. C. Hawker, Early Experiences in South Australia (Adel, 1889)
  • W. Hawker, Reminiscences of George Charles Hawker (Adel, no date)
  • Register (Adelaide), 2 Feb 1863, 22, 23 May 1895
  • Observer (Adelaide), 3 Nov 1903
  • CO 13/111, 149.

Citation details

'Hawker, George Charles (1818–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hawker-george-charles-3734/text5873, published in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 23 September 2014.

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

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