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Suttor, Sir Francis Bathurst (1839–1915)

by Ruth Teale

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Francis Bathurst Suttor (1839-1915), by unknown photographer

Francis Bathurst Suttor (1839-1915), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 17011

Sir Francis Bathurst Suttor (1839-1915), pastoralist and politician, was born on 30 April 1839 at Bathurst, New South Wales, son of William Henry Suttor and his wife Charlotte, née Francis. Educated at The King's School, Parramatta, at 19 he managed his father's properties near Bathurst. In 1863 he took up Redbank and Katella near Wellington, and later Bradwardine at Bathurst. In 1868 he bought 100 merino ewes from C. C. Cox of Brombee and the use of the sire Brombee Pet for two months. By in-breeding and rigorous culling at Katella he maintained the high standards of Mudgee sheep. In 1881, with ewes bought from James Gibson, he founded at Bradwardine a second stud of Tasmanian merinos that proved successful in shows. In 1889 he joined a Bathurst syndicate that imported two Vermont rams and formed another stud flock of American-Australian merinos. A popular judge at agricultural shows, he also imported a Cleveland Bay sire and bred coaching horses.

In January 1875 Suttor was elected as a free trader to the Legislative Assembly for Bathurst after a bitter campaign against Edmund Webb. Abandoning his support for denominational education, he became minister of justice and public instruction in Sir Henry Parkes's 1877 ministry; he brought Parkes support in the Bathurst district. In the Parkes-John Robertson coalition he was successively minister of justice and public instruction, postmaster-general, acting secretary for mines, and minister of public instruction. He introduced the Public Instruction Act of 1880. Later he fell out with Parkes and turned to protection, convinced that it would arrest falling rural prices: the change maintained his cabinet potential in the confused fiscal politics of 1885-94. In 1886 he became postmaster-general under (Sir) Patrick Jennings. In January 1889 he was minister of public instruction under (Sir) George Dibbs, but lost his seat at the general elections in February after intervention by Parkes and Webb; also losing East Macquarie, he offered to resign but was nominated at the request of Dibbs to the Legislative Council.

In 1891-1900 Suttor again held Bathurst and was minister of public instruction until 1894 in Dibbs's second ministry. He was acting colonial secretary for five months in 1892 and represented the government at the Colonial Conference in Ottawa in 1894. Though rejecting Parkes's federal proposals in 1891, by 1898 he had joined Edmund Barton's conservative federalists. He resigned his seat in June 1900 to become vice-president of the Executive Council and representative of the government in the council. Knighted in 1903, he was from that year until 1915 president of the Legislative Council.

In 1907-15 as president of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales Suttor revitalized the Sydney Royal Show. He was vice-president of the New South Wales Sheepbreeders' Association and its president in 1903-15; he was also president of the Stockowners' Association of New South Wales, a director of the Australian Joint Stock Bank and the Mutual Assurance Society of Victoria, president of the Council of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children and the Royal Life Saving Society, trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Australian Museum, a member of the Senate of the University of Sydney, and a patron of Australian literature, especially of Miles Franklin. Long an Anglican synodsman in Bathurst, he was chairman of committees in 1903 and an episcopal elector in 1911.

Despite political differences, Suttor remained close to his brother 'Willie'. 'Dignified and splendidly courteous' with a merry twinkle in his eye, he was 'generous minded and fearless in his views'. He died on 4 April 1915 at his residence at Darling Point and after a state funeral was buried in the Anglican section of South Head cemetery. Predeceased by his wife Emily Jane (1841-1911), daughter of T. H. Hawkins of Walmer, Bathurst, whom he had married in July 1863, he was survived by three sons and five daughters. His estate was valued for probate at £34,107. His bust by Nelson Illingworth is owned by the Legislative Council, Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Digby (ed), Australian Men of Mark, vol 2, no 4 (Syd, 1889)
  • C. McIvor, The History and Development of Sheep Farming from Antiquity to Modern Times (Syd, 1893)
  • Bathurst Times, 2 Jan 1875, 2 May 1914, 5 Apr 1915
  • Bulletin, 28 Aug 1880, 6 July 1903
  • Bathurst Free Press, 16, 18 July 1898
  • Pastoral Review, 16 Apr 1910, 15 May 1915
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Apr 1914, 5, 6 Apr 1915
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 2 May 1914
  • Miles Franklin letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Suttor family papers and letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • CO 201/600/58, 110, 610/41
  • private information.

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Suttor, Sir Francis Bathurst (1839–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/suttor-sir-francis-bathurst-952/text7731, published in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 1 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

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