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Mott, George Henry (1831–1906)

by Bruce Pennay

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

George Henry Mott (1831-1906), newspaper editor and proprietor, was born on 13 May 1831 at Hammersmith, London, son of Isaac Henry Robert Mott, a medical practitioner, and his wife Rebecca, née Jackson. After attending Hammersmith Grammar School, George worked with a firm of brokers. On 18 December 1852 at St Andrew's Church, Holborn, he married Allegra Haidee Charnock, against the wishes of her father, a barrister. They referred to their marriage as 'a runaway match'—two weeks later they sailed for Australia as unassisted migrants, reaching Melbourne with George's younger brother Arthur in the Elizabeth Wilthen in June 1853.

Mott (as he was known in Australia) was employed in the office of the Argus and then moved to the Melbourne Morning Herald, becoming in 1854 its correspondent at Castlemaine. Next year he bought an interest in a Beechworth newspaper and in October 1856 established the Border Post at Albury, New South Wales. In 1859 he founded the successful Murray Valley Vineyard Co., but he was primarily interested in newspapers, and, by 1863 was printing with different mastheads at Chiltern and Beechworth in Victoria, while remaining proprietor and editor of his paper at Albury.

In 1869 Mott sold his interests, intending to move to Fiji as a provisional director of the Polynesia Co. South Pacific, but was deterred by news of a massacre of settlers there. He acquired the Hamilton Spectator instead. In Melbourne from 1885 to 1894 he was managing director of Gordon & Gotch Ltd. He lived at Kew and in 1888 started the Kew Mercury, in which he published his 'Reminiscences of a Victorian Journalist' in 1895. Next year he retired.

Mott succeeded in establishing newspapers that were credible movers of information and opinion, using them to argue for local causes and the better provision of local services. In and around Albury he established the cross-border district as a print community. A lively speaker, he was secretary of the Customs Abolition and the North East Railway leagues, an early champion of a federated Australia—with Albury as 'the Federal City'—and a persistent advocate for what became the route of the railway between Sydney and Melbourne. In 1868 he had failed to win the parliamentary seat of Murray Boroughs, but became mayor of Albury for a year. At Hamilton he agitated for the extension of the railway and formed the gas company. He served on Kew Borough Council for four years.

In October 1856 Mott had been prominent in the unsuccessful campaign—which he claimed to have initiated—for the Riverina district to become a separate colony. He won the support of Rev. John Dunmore Lang who had championed the separation of the Port Phillip and the Moreton Bay districts. Mott argued that it was 'a physical impossibility for us to be properly governed from a centre so distant as Sydney', but preferred separation to annexation with Victoria in energetic campaigns in 1863-64 and 1866-67.

Allegra died in 1905 and George on 7 January 1906. Both died at Kew and were buried in the Anglican cemetery there. Of their fourteen children, five sons and three daughters survived them. Their sons established newspapers in Western Australia, regional Victoria and in suburban Melbourne; Hamilton started the Border Morning Mail (Albury) which, as the Border Mail, was still in the hands of his descendants a century later.

Select Bibliography

  • The Story of a Runaway Match (Melb, 1894)
  • C. A. Mott, The Runaway Family (Wodonga, Vic, 1980)
  • R. Kilpatrick, Country Conscience (Canb, 2000)
  • L. Frappell, Lords of the Saltbush Plains (Melb, 2003)
  • Border Post, 7 Jan 1863, p 2, 30 Mar 1863, p 2, 20 Jan 1869, p 2
  • Border Morning Mail, 9 Jan 1906, p 3
  • Mott papers (Border Morning Mail archives, Wodonga, Victoria).

Citation details

Bruce Pennay, 'Mott, George Henry (1831–1906)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mott-george-henry-13115/text23731, published in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 21 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

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