Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Morris, George Francis (1834–1910)

by K. A. R. Horn

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

George Francis Morris (1834-1910), vigneron, was born in Warrington, Lancashire, England, son of William Gregg Morris, draper and Quaker, and his wife Emma, née Francis. He arrived in Melbourne, probably on 10 September 1852 in the John Taylor, and went to the Ovens River goldfields where he was moderately successful. He moved to the Buckland diggings as a store-keeper and thence to Beechworth where he bought into Scott & Co., general merchants. The firm prospered but in 1858 he sold his own share to it and visited Europe. Returning to Victoria he bought 220 acres (89 ha) of Gooramadda station near Wahgunyah and Rutherglen at an auction in April 1859 and added to this property until he became the largest landowner in the district. He used his land for cropping and grazing and later bred horses. He also owned four steam-threshing machines which he hired throughout his district and far into New South Wales. He became a noted pioneer of farm mechanization but is chiefly remembered as a vigneron.

In 1860 Morris had planted a few vines to test the suitability of his land for wine growing. The experiment was so successful that he bought more land and planted more vines until he was harvesting grapes from 700 acres (283 ha). These he supplemented by buying the produce of 1250 acres (506 ha) owned by smaller vignerons of the district. In the early 1860s Morris built a fine home called Fairfield and under the ballroom established his first cellar. Soon it was too small and by 1892 he had built another cellar of 39,000 sq. feet (3623 sq. m) above ground; it was fitted up with the most modern machinery driven by steam and held 750,000 gallons (3,409,568 litres). He travelled several times to Europe in the interests of Australian wines. In 1886 he was commissioner for Victoria at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London. On this and other visits he increased his own knowledge of wine-making to the advantage of the whole Victorian industry. At the same time he vigorously promoted the sale of Australian wines in London, where from his own vineyard he supplied as much as 100,000 gallons (454,609 litres) in one year.

Morris had an enviable record of service to local government. He was one of the nine original members elected to the Rutherglen Road Board on 8 October 1862. He served two separate three-year terms on the board but when it became the Rutherglen Shire Council in 1871 he was not elected. He served on the council in 1876-78 and 1881-98, when he left the district to live at Arral, Clendon Road, Toorak. He was five times president of the shire and appointed a justice of the peace on 16 September 1878.

Morris maintained his interest in the vineyard, and as late as 1906 he paid a visit to Europe, partly for the benefit of his health but more particularly to procure disease resistant vines to replace the ravages of phylloxera since 1897. On 1 January 1910 he had a cerebral haemorrhage from which he failed to rally. He died on the 8th and was buried in Brighton cemetery. He married three times: first, Sarah Anne Hughes of Melbourne; second, Lydia Irving; and third, Ellen Francis. He was survived by three sons and two daughters of the eleven children of his first wife.

Select Bibliography

  • North Eastern Historical Society, Rutherglen and its History (Rutherglen, 1968)
  • Federal Standard (Chiltern), 1862-98
  • Chiltern Leader, 7 Apr 1894
  • Age (Melbourne), 11 Jan 1910
  • Argus (Melbourne), 11 Jan 1910
  • Rutherglen Sun, 11 Jan 1910
  • Wine and Spirit News, 21 (1910)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

K. A. R. Horn, 'Morris, George Francis (1834–1910)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/morris-george-francis-4252/text6871, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 18 November 2017.

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

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2017