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Moore, Thomas Bather (1850–1919)

by Ian McShane

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Thomas Bather Moore (1850-1919), prospector and explorer, was born on 26 November 1850 at New Norfolk, Van Diemen's Land, fourth child of John Anthony Moore, surgeon from Northumberland, England, and his wife Martha Anne, née Read, of New Norfolk. After elementary schooling in the colony, Moore completed his education at Windermere College in the English Lake District under the guardianship of an uncle. He returned to Tasmania in 1868.

In 1873 Moore participated in a tin-mining venture in Victoria and next year commenced his exploration of Tasmania's west coast by examining the area south of Mount Bischoff for tin and gold. He followed this with eighteen months in New South Wales and some time in north-east Tasmania. On 1 January 1877 with his brother James and James Andrew he left New Norfolk to investigate recent mineral discoveries around Mount Heemskirk. His route, cutting across the Tyndall Plateau, became a supply line for the west coast, but his prospecting claims proved disappointing, as did those he worked at Heemskirk next summer for the Corinna Co.

Moore spent February to May 1879 on a solitary, unbacked prospecting venture covering the area from Macquarie Harbour to Port Davey and the region south of the Arthur Range. One of the first white men to have seen the range from the south, he reported his journey to the Lands and Survey Department, noting mapping corrections, particularly in the river system. He found no worthwhile mineral traces, but the trip presaged many journeys over the next forty years, often undertaken on behalf of the government.

On 9 January 1889 at the Church of All Saints, Hobart, Moore married Jane Mary Solly. They settled at Strahan where Moore became inspector of roads and works for the west coast. Unable to conform to the constraints of bureaucracy, however, he resigned in 1891 to resume prospecting and track-cutting. From 1904 he was head of the outside prospecting party of the Mount Lyell Mining & Railway Co. He came to know the west better than any other man and the map is sprinkled with his nomenclature. His most notable achievement was blazing a track (now the Lyell Highway) from Lake St Clair through to the West Coast Range.

Moore was a competent botanist and geologist, and a founder and life member of the Queensland branch of the Royal Geographical Society. His expeditions were always undertaken with the anticipation of adding to the scientific corpus. He was the first to write on the glacial formation of the Tyndall Range (in a paper to the Royal Society of Tasmania, 1893); he collected plant varieties for Sir Ferdinand Mueller and is credited with the discovery of Coprosma moorei and three liverworts; and his fossil specimens were acknowledged by R. M. Johnston in his Geology of Tasmania. Handicapped by lack of formal education, he magnified his achievements in an endeavour to establish his reputation. Nevertheless his work amply justified his use of the signature 'T. B. Moore F.R.G.S., explorer'.

Dark-complexioned, of medium height and sturdy build, Moore was admired for his bushman's skill and endurance: he frequently walked twenty miles (32 km) through virgin bush in a day, packing a heavy load. But he was an authoritarian employer and quarrels in his camp were frequent. Sadly, his acceptance of the solitary life led to estrangement from his family. When knee trouble and chronic bronchitis obliged him to accept a desk job with Mount Lyell he sought refuge in hard drinking and the company of other bushmen.

Moore died on 14 August 1919 at Queenstown, survived by his wife, one son and three daughters. An active church member for much of his life, he was buried with Anglican rites at Strahan.

Select Bibliography

  • C. J. Binks, Explorers of Western Tasmania (Launc, 1982)
  • Votes and Proceedings (House of Assembly, Tasmania), 1878-79, 35 (85), p 8, 1886, 9 (138), p 3
  • Examiner (Launceston), 15 Aug 1919
  • Moore papers (privately held).

Citation details

Ian McShane, 'Moore, Thomas Bather (1850–1919)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/moore-thomas-bather-7642/text13361, published in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 1 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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