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Raine, Thomas (1793–1860)

by H. E. Maude

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Thomas Raine (1793-1860), mariner and merchant, was born on 21 June 1793, the youngest son of Richard Raine, barrister, and his wife Mary, née Beatty. He was educated at Westminster School and joined the merchant marine; when he sailed for Australia in 1814 as a junior officer in the convict transport Surry, an epidemic of typhus left him the only surviving officer. As acting master he sailed the ship to China for a homeward cargo and on the way examined part of the Great Barrier Reef, Raine Passage and Raine Island being named after him.

Confirmed as captain, Raine made five more voyages to Australia in the Surry between 1816 and 1823, four with convicts; his humane treatment of them earned him the commendation of Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Between voyages he engaged in a variety of mercantile enterprises, establishing the first shore whaling station on the Australian mainland at Twofold Bay in 1818 and speculating in shipping elephant-seal oil from Macquarie Island to London and wheat from Chile to New South Wales. In 1819, with Macquarie's encouragement, he proposed to establish a packet service between England and Australia, but this proved abortive. On a return voyage from Valparaiso in 1821 he took off Henderson Island three survivors of the Essex, which had been sunk by a whale in mid-ocean. Later he made a second expedition to Macquarie Island and at the request of Edward Wollstonecraft drew up a detailed report on its resources.

In 1822, after he had taken Governor Macquarie back to England, Raine founded, in partnership with a ship's surgeon, David Ramsay, the Sydney firm of Raine & Ramsay, general merchants, shipowners and agents. Although he continued to act as captain of the Surry until 1827, she did not carry convicts again after 1823 and Raine became increasingly involved in the colony's affairs. He was a director of the Sydney and Van Diemen's Land Packet Co., and a prominent supporter of Sydney's benevolent and sporting institutions. He extended his business interests to include the timber trade, pork and coconut oil from Otaheite, sugar, spices and rum from Mauritius and the East, and flax and ships' spars from the establishment he formed at Hokianga, in the north-west of New Zealand, in 1828, the year after he had sent a trial shipment of Australian cedar to England. To finance these and other enterprises Raine & Ramsay were largely dependent on bills drawn on the Bank of New South Wales, on inadequate security according to a board of inquiry in May 1826, when they were the bank's largest debtors. This criticism was followed by Raine's resignation from the board of directors, to which he had been elected in December 1824. During the next eighteen months the intensifying general depression and the bank's restriction of credit increased the firm's difficulties, and in October 1828 the partnership with Ramsay was dissolved. In December Raine, who had been elected a director of the bank again in January, was one of those chosen by lot to retire and he did not seek re-election; early in the New Year he was bankrupt. However, in March an arrangement with his creditors was soon followed by his resumption of business at the New Zealand establishment, where in due course he built three trading vessels which helped to restore his fortunes.

In 1831 his wife had settled near Bathurst, where seven years before Raine had been granted land. There in 1832 he built Rainham, now owned by the Boyd family, and engaged in wheat and dairy farming, built the first flour-mill in the district, and established Boree station farther out, whence (Sir) Thomas Mitchell and Richard Cunningham set out in 1835 on their expedition to the Darling River; during these years he gradually disposed of his mercantile concerns and was able to make further payments to his creditors.

While the combination of ship's captain and merchant adventurer was not uncommon in early Sydney, Raine stood out among his colleagues for his imagination in visualizing the commercial possibilities of new localities, products and trade routes and his technical ability to exploit them. His failure in business was caused through the lack not of enterprise or competence but of the necessary capital to carry his ventures over the difficult period of the late 1820s. Once bankrupt, Raine wisely realized his assets and invested what was left in country properties which he developed with success, becoming a well-known and respected figure in the Bathurst district. His accounts of Pitcairn and Macquarie Islands and journal of the Surry show him to have been an exceptionally accurate observer and recorder; that he was also a man of liberal and humanitarian principles is evinced by his behaviour towards his convict passengers, who on being disembarked after his first voyage as captain 'cheered repeatedly and expressed the liveliest gratitude for their good treatment'.

Raine had two children by Jane Wright at Parramatta in 1822 and 1825; at St James's, Sydney, on 6 April 1826 he married Fanny Eleanor, daughter of General Worsley; they had three sons and seven daughters. After the death of his wife and two of his children he returned in indifferent health to Sydney, where he died on 6 June 1860. He was an active Presbyterian and one of the founders of the Scots Church in Sydney in 1824.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 9-10, 12-16
  • ‘Captain Raine's Narrative of a Visit to Pitcairn's Island in the Ship Surry 1821’, Australian Magazine, vol 1, no 3, July 1821, pp 80-84, and vol 1, no 4, 1821, pp 109-14
  • R. H. Goddard, ‘Captain Thomas Raine of the "Surry": 1795-1860’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 26, part 4, 1940, pp 277-317
  • E. Ramsden, ‘Captain Thomas Raine of the "Surry": Some Observations on Mr Goddard's Article’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 26, part 6, 1940, pp 499-502
  • ‘Captain Raine’, Australian Genealogist, vol 4, part 4, Oct 1942, pp 46-47
  • Bank of New South Wales Archives (Sydney)
  • Thomas Raine papers (University of Sydney Library).

Citation details

H. E. Maude, 'Raine, Thomas (1793–1860)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/raine-thomas-2570/text3511, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 17 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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