Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Russell, George (1812–1888)

by P. L. Brown

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

This is a shared entry with Philip Russell

Philip Russell (1796-1844) and George Russell (1812-1888), pastoralists, were half-brothers, sons of Philip Russell (1766?-1834), a tenant farmer in Fife, Scotland, who married his first cousin, Isabella Russell (d.1807), and then his paternal aunt's granddaughter, Anne Carstairs (d.1826). Their father's position and resources ensured them sound basic schooling, religious, social, and agricultural training, but not independent holdings in Scotland.

Philip Russell, born on 30 June 1796, emigrated to Van Diemen's Land in 1821 with Captain Patrick Wood, formerly of the East India Co., to manage Wood's prospective farming concerns. He thus helped to establish the Dennistoun estate near Bothwell, but relinquished immediate control when his elder brother, William, arrived in 1839 and became Wood's tenant. Philip then concentrated upon his own property, Strathbarton, near Apsley. George Russell joined Philip in 1831, and farmed for five years under his supervision. He followed John Batman's exploratory lead to Port Phillip in March 1836, and returned there in October as manager of the pastoral Clyde Company, a joint stock concern formed in Scotland by Captain Wood, with Philip Russell as resident Australian partner. In 1839 George Russell moved his headquarters from the Moorabool River at Batesford, near Geelong, westward to the Leigh River, where in 1842 he secured his Golfhill homestead by purchase from the Crown. Philip, who married Sophia Jennings, first cousin to Joseph Gellibrand, died there childless in July 1844. George was by then a partner in the Clyde Company. In 1846 he extended its operations to Terinallum, near Mount Elephant.

The company was dissolved in 1857-58. Its sales showed a final return of £258,000 for £78,000 invested. George Russell, whose share was a sixth, bought the central Golfhill freehold of 8500 acres (3440 ha), which he eventually enlarged to 28,000 (11,331 ha), or about two-fifths of the former licensed run. He had other pastoral properties, but lived at Golfhill, and died on 3 November 1888 in the present homestead. Euphemia Carstairs, the first cousin whom he married in Scotland in 1852, died in its predecessor in 1867, leaving seven daughters and a son. The bachelor son inherited Golfhill, but arranged for the youngest child, Janet, later Mrs John Biddlecombe (1866-1954), to take over before his death in 1898. Mrs Biddlecombe ran Golf Hill, as it was later spelt, substantially intact, with a celebrated Hereford stud, until her last years, then accepted its subdivision for soldier settlement.

George Russell—'The Governor' to his disciples—first followed his brother Philip. Both were sagacious, high-principled, hard-working, helpful breakers of new ground. 'What numbers of young men there are all more or less connected with the Russells!' wrote Philip's widow from Sydney in 1855; 'What results have followed from one or two acting as pioneers!' Robert Russell, founding minister of Evandale, Tasmania, and Alexander Russell, of Mawallock station, Victoria, were George's full brothers. William Lewis of Stoneleigh, and Philip Lewis of Elderslie, Victoria, were Philip's full nephews. Philip Russell of Carngham, Victoria, and his brothers Thomas of Barunah Plains, and John of Native Creek No. 2, were first cousins of both pioneers. Robert Simson of Langi Kal Kal and his brothers, James, John, and Colin, all of Victoria, were their first cousins once removed.

There is a joint memorial in George Russell's autobiography, and in the Clyde Company papers that he began to assemble while Philip was still his mentor. These are accessible through Mrs Biddlecombe's decision to sponsor their publication as representative records.

Select Bibliography

  • P. L. Brown (ed), The Narrative of George Russell (Lond, 1935)
  • P. L. Brown (ed) Clyde Company Papers, vols 1-5 (Lond, 1941-63)
  • private information.

Citation details

P. L. Brown, 'Russell, George (1812–1888)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/russell-george-2850/text3617, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 20 December 2014.

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

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