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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Murray-Prior, Thomas Lodge (1819–1892)

by H. J. Gibbney

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

Thomas Murray-Prior, c1865

Thomas Murray-Prior, c1865

State Library of Queensland, 54899

Thomas Lodge Murray-Prior (1819-1892), pastoralist and politician, was born on 13 November 1819 at Wells, Somerset, England, son of Thomas Murray-Prior, officer of Hussars at Waterloo, and his wife Elizabeth Catherine, née Skynner. Educated at Brussels under Rev. William Drury and in England by private tutors, he served in H.M.S. Donegal in 1837-38 but resigned and on 24 May 1839 left for Sydney. While acquiring colonial experience at Dalwood near Maitland he met Leichhardt and in June 1843 travelled with him to Moreton Bay. From August 1844 to 1850 he held Broomelton in the Logan District in partnership with Hugh Henry Robertson Aikman. On 3 September 1846 at Cecil Hills near Liverpool he married Matilda Harpur.

Murray-Prior sold Broomelton in September 1853 and in 1854 bought Hawkwood in the Burnett District. He lost 8000 sheep from scab and in 1858, worried by the massacre of the Fraser family at Hornet Bank station, he sold out and took up a banana plantation at Ormiston near Cleveland. In November 1864 he bought Maroon station in the Fassifern district where he settled. He failed to win election for East Moreton in 1860 and joined the public service as postal inspector in 1861 and as postmaster-general in 1862. When that office was transferred to the political arena he was nominated to the Legislative Council on 10 April 1866. He served as postmaster-general in the Herbert ministry from July to August 1866, under Mackenzie from August 1867 to November 1868 and Palmer from 1870 to 1874. In 1863 Rachel Henning had written, 'I suppose it does not require any great talent to be a Postmaster General. I hope not, for such a goose I have seldom seen. He talked incessantly and all his conversation consisted of pointless stories of which he himself was the hero'.

In November 1868 Murray-Prior's wife died and on 18 December 1872 in Sydney he married Nora Clarina Barton, aunt of the poet A. B. Paterson. Murray-Prior died at Whytecliffe in the Nundah district on 31 December 1892, survived by seven of the twelve children of his first marriage and by seven of the eight children of his second. His eldest daughter Rosa Caroline (1851-1935) married Arthur Campbell Mackworth Praed in 1872 and won literary fame.

Described as suave, courtly and cultured, Murray-Prior collected pictures, some of which are in the Brisbane Art Gallery. He was noted for his strong loyalty to the throne probably because of his claim to be descended from the Emperor Charlemagne.

Select Bibliography

  • R. C. Praed, My Australian Girlhood (Lond, 1902)
  • M. J. Fox (ed), The History of Queensland, vol 1 (Brisb, 1909)
  • The Letters of Rachel Henning, D. Adams ed (Syd, 1963)
  • M. Aurousseau (ed), The Letters of F. W. Ludwig Leichhardt (Cambridge, 1968)
  • I. Hannah, ‘The royal descent of the first postmaster-general of Queensland’, Queensland Geographical Journal, 55 (1953)
  • E. C. Davies, ‘Some reminiscences of early Queensland’, JRHSQ, 6 (1959)
  • Brisbane Courier, 2 Jan 1893
  • F. E. Lord, ‘Brisbane's historic homes’, Queenslander, 18 Sept 1930.

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Murray-Prior, Thomas Lodge (1819–1892)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 19 September 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 5

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