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Innes, Archibald Clunes (1800–1857)

by E. Flowers

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Archibald Clunes Innes (1800-1857), soldier and pastoralist, was born at Thrumster, Scotland, the son of Major James Innes, a distinguished soldier. He was commissioned an ensign in the 3rd Regiment on 23 September 1813 and served in the Peninsular war. He arrived in Sydney as captain of the guard in the convict ship Eliza in 1822. From January 1824 to May 1825 he served in Van Diemen's Land where he distinguished himself in recapturing escaped convicts. In December 1825 he was appointed aide-de-camp to the lieutenant-governor of New South Wales and became a magistrate in November 1826. He sought and gained the position of commandant of the penal settlement at Port Macquarie, being appointed in December 1826 in succession to Captain Gilman. About six months later he returned to Sydney as brigade major. In 1828 he resigned his commission and was appointed superintendent of police and magistrate at Parramatta, serving there until his resignation in 1829. In 1829, at one of the most magnificent weddings that the colony had then seen, he married Margaret, daughter of the colonial secretary, Alexander McLeay.

In 1830 Innes became police magistrate at Port Macquarie and was granted 2568 acres (1039 ha) and contracts to supply the convict population with food. This land he worked with convict labour, transforming the wilderness into the fabled Lake Innes, for many years the greatest pastoral property north of Sydney. On this establishment he built, on a typically grand scale, his home, Lake Innes Cottage. As his wealth grew he spread his interests. In his first few years at Lake Innes he produced the first sugar grown in the district. He acquired sheep and cattle stations all over northern New South Wales, among them Yarrows on the Hastings, Brimbine and Innestown on the Manning, Waterloo, Innes Creek, Kentucky and Beardy Plains. He bought Furracabad and the township on this station, the present Glen Innes, was named after him. In 1844 he planted thirty acres (12 ha) of vines and constructed large wine cellars; this venture soon failed. He was largely responsible for the building of a road from Port Macquarie to the New England district. An example of his panache at the height of his career was the hiring in 1842 of the steamship Maitland to take his wool from Port Macquarie to Sydney. At his apogee one of the wealthiest men in the colony, he became famous for the hospitality he dispensed to all travellers to his regions; a detailed account of a journey through the area by Governor Sir Charles FitzRoy and the vice-regal entourage is given by Colonel Godfrey Mundy in Our Antipodes (London, 1852). During the depression in the 1840s Innes's wealth was almost completely wiped out and he became bankrupt in 1852. He was then appointed assistant gold commissioner and magistrate at Nundle and later police magistrate at Newcastle, where he died on 29 August 1857.

Of his five children, two sons died in 1842; the surviving son, Gustavus Archibald Clunes Innes, became a Church of England minister and served in New South Wales and Victoria. The two daughters married and resided in the colony; his niece, Annabella Boswell, kept a journal in 1845-48 at Port Macquarie, which was published in Sydney in 1962. George Innes, a younger brother of Major Innes, received one of the first land grants in Bathurst plains in 1823, to which he gave the name Yarras.

Innes was largely responsible for transforming Port Macquarie from a penal settlement to a flourishing town. His activities led to the opening of the area between Port Macquarie and New England. His early success in his pastoral endeavours at Lake Innes, including his pioneering of the sugar industry, pointed to the future prosperity of this part of New South Wales. In a time and place when much existence was drab and bitter the doings and the mode of Archibald Clunes Innes wore a cheering brightness.

Two portraits in oils and one in crayon are in the Mitchell Library, Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 13-16, 18-21, 24
  • B. W. Champion, ‘Major A. C. Innes, 3rd Regiment of Foot’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 21, part 2, 1935, pp 103-16
  • E. S. Lauchland, ‘Homes We Visited: "Lake Innes", Port Macquarie’, Monthly Journal (Newcastle and Hunter District Historical Society), vol 2, part 1, 1947, pp 3-7
  • W. J. Goold, ‘The Tourists: Part 2: Port Macquarie-An Historic Outpost’, Monthly Journal (Newcastle and Hunter District Historical Society), vol 4, part 11, 1950, pp 161-71
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 6 Feb, 10 Sept 1824
  • Australian, 22 Feb 1840
  • Newcastle Morning Herald, 24 Jan 1953
  • Glen Innes Examiner, 16 Sept 1953
  • Innes papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

E. Flowers, 'Innes, Archibald Clunes (1800–1857)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/innes-archibald-clunes-2261/text2891, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 21 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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