Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Keynes, Joseph (1810–1883)

by R. W. Linn

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

This is a shared entry with Richard Robinson Keynes

Joseph Keynes (1810-1883), by unknown photographer, c1875

Joseph Keynes (1810-1883), by unknown photographer, c1875

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 47042

Joseph Keynes (1810-1883), and Richard Robinson Keynes (1857-1928), sheep-breeders, were father and son. Joseph was born on 29 July 1810 at Blandford, Dorset, England, eldest son of Richard Keynes, Congregational minister, and his wife Harriet, sister of the evangelical Congregational preacher John Angell James. Joseph was educated by his father and decided to be a farmer. At 28 he was renting land at Blandford and noted as a talented sheep-breeder. Richard Keynes wrote to George Fife Angas in 1838 seeking information on South Australia for Joseph and his brother William. Quick to notice a Dissenter with practical skills, Angas offered William a workman's job and Joseph the position of overseer of his stock and land in South Australia in the partnership, Joseph Keynes & Co.

Joseph accepted, arrived in 1839 and managed the farm at Flaxman's Valley for Angas. In 1841 he leased the property north of Adelaide near Angaston which became Keyneton Estate and remains in the family. However his performance was not promising. His partnership with Angas was marred by inexperience and gullibility in commercial dealings and an inability to adapt to colonial life; it was dissolved in 1843 and Keynes declared his bankruptcy in 1846, leaving Angas with £9000 in debts, great resentment and injured pride.

But by 1850 the once despairing farmer had become a member of the 'squattocracy', with land in the Barossa Ranges, the Wakefield Survey and at Mount Remarkable and a high reputation as a merino sheep-breeder. From 1840 he had been a committee-member of the (Royal) Agricultural and Horticultural Society. In March 1850 he married Ellen Robinson; they had three daughters and one surviving son. But in 1862 Ellen deserted him for the local doctor and they were divorced in November. The scandal forced Keynes to England next year.

However, he returned in 1864 and on 8 March 1866 married Anne Taunton Stephenson, née Scammell, a widow. While offspring of his first marriage went to England for their education and protection from colonial gossip-mongers, Keynes systematically amassed thousands of acres, wealth and social respect, being a member of the North Rhine District Council from its formation in 1873 to 1883. He died on 14 May 1883 at Lockleys, Adelaide, and was buried in the Congregational cemetery at Keyneton, the town named for him.

Richard Keynes, born on 15 April 1857, returned to South Australia at 20 after education at Parkstone, Dorset, and an apprenticeship to London woolbrokers. Unlike his zealous father, Richard seemed disinclined to work Keyneton station and became overfond of Adelaide's social life and playing polo.

But his father's death brought the property's management on to his shoulders and he too became a notable sheep-breeder. He expanded the station's business to include the breeding of draughthorses and Shorthorn cattle. He too was on the North Rhine District Council, for thirty-seven years, twenty-nine as chairman. On 27 August 1884 Keynes had married Margaret Ruth Shannon; they had three sons and two daughters. The stud's wool had won prizes at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876 and the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in 1886, as well as at local and interstate shows. Richard Keynes died on 25 November 1928 and was buried next to his father in Keyneton cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Cockburn, Pastoral Pioneers of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1925)
  • Angas family and Keynes family papers (privately held).

Citation details

R. W. Linn, 'Keynes, Joseph (1810–1883)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/keynes-joseph-6944/text12057, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 31 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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