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Montague, Alexander (1815–1898)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Alexander Montague (1815-1898), store-keeper, pastoralist and politician, was born at Cloughlin, County Tyrone, Ireland, son of James Montague, farmer, and his wife Mary, née Montague. Educated at a county school and a private seminary, he worked on his father's farm. He arrived in Sydney in 1841 and worked for the merchants Cooper & Holt until 1848 when he set up as a general store-keeper at Cooma cattle station in the Monaro district. One of the first to petition for the survey of the township he bought many town lots and built the first stores in Cooma. Business flourished and he acquired the Cooma run which he sold in 1857 at a profit. Later he took up Numarella and Mowle's Gully near Cooma, and Dooloodondoo in the Moruya district. In 1861 he built the first steam flour-mill at Cooma and formed a partnership to work a coal mine at Myalla. He was appointed a magistrate on 11 August 1864.

At first Montague mainly ran cattle and in 1864 sent three boatloads to New Zealand, but bad weather, pleuro-pneumonia and quarantine restrictions resulted in costly failure. He also sold stock in Victoria. In the 1870s his eldest son, James Hugh (1850-1924), took over the management of the properties. In 1884 Numarella's 15,400 acres (6232 ha) carried 10,200 sheep, 600 cattle and 120 horses; the property was also known as Green Hills and when sold to W. A. Lang in the late 1890s was renamed Carlaminda.

Nominated as a candidate for Monaro in the Legislative Assembly at a meeting on 22 June 1859, Montague received the largest show of hands but declined to contest the poll. For years he declined to stand for parliament because of business commitments but remained politically active: an early advocate of closer settlement and a supporter of Daniel Egan, James Martin and Thomas Garrett, he chaired a number of political meetings. He represented Monaro in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales in 1875-77. Regularly attending the House he showed himself to be liberal, progressive, in favour of free trade and, not surprisingly, the extension of the railway from Goulburn to Cooma. He was defeated at the next election by John Murphy (1821-1883), another Monaro grazier.

Montague was a founder of the Manaro Mercury and the Cooma Hospital. A keen horse fancier, he was president of the local agricultural society and for years a judge for the Monaro Jockey Club. Though kind, straightforward and honest he was also firm and strong-willed. He died at the Mill House, Vale Street, Cooma, on 7 October 1898 and was buried in the Catholic cemetery at Cooma. He was predeceased in 1876 by his wife Rosina (Rose), youngest daughter of Hugh O'Hare of Nimithy Vale, Monaro, whom he had married on 4 February 1850, and by three daughters; two sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • W. F. Morrison, The Aldine Centennial History of New South Wales, vol 2 (Syd, 1888)
  • F. F. Mitchell, ‘Back to Cooma’ Celebrations (Syd, 1926)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1875-76, 1, 18, 4, 964
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Feb 1850, 30 June 1859, 29 Dec 1874, 7 Jan 1875, 11, 14 Oct 1898
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 18 Sept 1875
  • Perkins papers (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Montague, Alexander (1815–1898)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/montague-alexander-4223/text6809, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 15 October 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

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