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Nichols, Hubert Allan (1864–1940)

by Scott Bennett

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Hubert Allan Nichols (1864-1940), politician, was born on 26 July 1864 at Macquarie Plains, Tasmania, son of George Nichols, farmer, and his wife Harriet, née Weeding. Incorrectly registered as Harry, he used the name Hubert throughout his life in the belief that the mistake had been rectified.

The Nichols family farmed at Claremont, Goulds Country, and then at Oatlands where Hubert was educated at a private school. In 1882 they moved to Blackwood Park in the Castra back-country where the stockily built youngster earned his keep scrubbing out new land and splitting palings. He was contracted in 1887 to open up the Nietta district, but his bush career was cut short when he was run over by a wagon drawn by a bolting bullock team. For the following thirteen years Nichols was employed successively at Latrobe, Devonport and Ulverstone as newspaper canvasser, collector and general reporter with the North-West Post; he also wrote on Tasmanian affairs for British newspapers. Later, he became a land and estate agent. On 7 May 1890 at Ulverstone Nichols married Emma Goold (d.1897), who bore him three sons. On 24 January 1899 at the Wesleyan Methodist church at Hamilton-on-Forth he married Ellen Melinda Wellard; they had two sons and three daughters.

In April 1901 Nichols unsuccessfully contested a House of Assembly by-election for West Devon; fifteen months later he won the Legislative Council seat of Mersey which he held until defeated in May 1924. In 1925 he contested Darwin in both the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly elections, but returned to the Legislative Council as member for Meander in July 1926. He lost the seat in May 1935. Throughout his parliamentary career Nichols supported development of the north-west coast, particularly the Sprent and Nietta districts. A firm believer in the railway, he worked tirelessly as secretary of the successful Ulverstone-Nietta Railway League, and later fought hard to retain the Nietta line and to extend the main north-west line to Stanley.

Outside parliament Nichols served on the West Devon and Leven licensing benches, the Ulverstone Fire Brigade Board and the Leven Municipal Council with several terms as warden. He was also president of the West Devon Agricultural Society in 1909-32 and belonged to the Council of Agriculture, the Tasmanian Show Council, and the Tasmanian Farmers', Stockowners' and Orchardists' and the Tasmanian Dairymen's associations. As a member of the Tasmanian Potato Marketing Board, he promoted sales of the coast's staple crop and helped to produce improved seed. Competitive woodchopping engrossed him. For many years Tasmanian handicapper, 'Chopper' Nichols wrote rules for the United Axemen's Association, which were accepted throughout Australia and New Zealand, and fostered the Ulverstone Carnival, one of Australia's premier meetings and long the venue for several world titles. In 1901 he established the Axemen's Journal.

Nichols died of heart disease on 21 August 1940 at Ulverstone, survived by his wife and six of his children; he was buried in Ulverstone cemetery. A staunch Anglican, he was kind and generous, 'an easy mark for a hard luck story'. Many were in his debt when he died.

Select Bibliography

  • Advocate (Burnie), 13 Oct 1914, 22 Aug 1940
  • Examiner (Launceston), 22, 24 Aug 1940
  • private information.

Citation details

Scott Bennett, 'Nichols, Hubert Allan (1864–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/nichols-hubert-allan-7842/text13619, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 25 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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