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Mollison, William Thomas (1816–1886)

by Gael Thomsen

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

This is a shared entry with Alexander Fullerton Mollison

William Mollison, by Samuel Calvert (after Eugene Montagu Scott), 1863

William Mollison, by Samuel Calvert (after Eugene Montagu Scott), 1863

State Library of Victoria, 49315126

Alexander Fullerton (1805-1885) and William Thomas Mollison (1816-1886), overlanders and pastoralists, were the sons of Crawford Mollison and his wife Elizabeth, née Fullerton. Alexander was born on 17 April 1805 in London. After some years in Jamaica and New York he arrived in New South Wales in May 1834. Two years later he visited Port Phillip, returned to Sydney and bought the rights of a pastoral run at Uriara on the Murrumbidgee River. In April 1837 attracted by Major Sir Thomas Mitchell's account of Australia Felix, he set off in search of a run, taking with him two overseers, 49 servants, 5000 sheep, 634 cattle, 28 bullocks and 22 horses. After travelling some 400 miles (644 km) he finally decided to settle on Tarringower on the Coliban, between Mount Macedon and Mount Alexander.

In 1838 Alexander was joined by his brother William, who was born in Sussex. Tarringower was subdivided and extended to Pyalong, which was occupied as a cattle station by the younger brother. An active worker for separation, Alexander had started by 1844 to take a keen interest in public affairs. In reply to a circular asking for suggestions sent out by the chairman of the Legislative Council committee on education, Sydney, he recommended a general school system for all classes and sects. He opposed compulsory attendance and considered that free education tended to demoralize and to be of less value than that which was paid for. In 1850 he organized the Merino Import Co. to import rams from Europe, hoping they would have 'a sensible effect on the whole flocks of Port Phillip'. In 1851 he was an energetic member of the Committee of the Australian Colonists, who represented squatters of various colonies and worked to increase emigration from Britain to Australia. In that year he went to England where with fellow squatters in 1853 he presented to the Duke of Newcastle their need for the pre-emptive rights provided by the 1847 Order in Council to be extended to the Port Phillip District. Except for a short visit to Victoria in 1859 Alexander remained in England until 1873, when he returned to live in Victoria.

William made his first appearance in public affairs when he was elected to the Legislative Council in 1853, after telling his constituents at Kyneton that he favoured liberal government, a National system of education for the country and a denominational one for the towns, and unlocking of the land with moderate compensation for squatters. In the Legislative Council he moved for an inquiry into the administration of justice upon the goldfields, probably being influenced by another brother, Crawford, sometime gold commissioner at Sandhurst. In 1858 William was elected to the Legislative Assembly, and in 1860 voted with William Nicholson's ministry on its land bill. He introduced the Oyster Fisheries Act, the Pleuro-Pneumonia Act, and the 1862 Scab Act. He retired from parliament in 1864, having been described by a contemporary as 'more than any other member, the exponent of the opinions entertained by the educated classes'. He gave £5000 for scholarships in modern languages at the University of Melbourne in 1884. He died in England on 9 November 1886.

'An honourable Christian gentleman' and 'a staunch supporter of diocesan institutions', Alexander died, after patiently suffering some years of ill health, at his home in Kew on 10 April 1885. His diary of the overland trips from Uriara to Port Phillip shows him to have been resourceful, of sound judgment, fair and just in his dealings and tolerant of others. The hopeful view he took of the future of the Aboriginal race was surprisingly modern.

Select Bibliography

  • T. F. Bride (ed), Letters from Victorian Pioneers (Melb, 1898)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 15 July 1850, 7, 21 June 1853, 11 Apr 1885
  • Illustrated Melbourne Post, 21 Mar 1863
  • C. Daley, ‘Early Squatting Days’, Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 9, no 1, July 1922, pp 1-25
  • A. F. Mollison, Diary of a Journey Made Between 11 April and 6 December 1837, from Uriara on the Murrumbidgee to Port Phillip (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

Gael Thomsen, 'Mollison, William Thomas (1816–1886)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mollison-william-thomas-2846/text3303, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 22 September 2017.

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

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