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Synnot, Monckton (1826–1879)

by Mary Turner Shaw

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

Monckton Synnot (1826-1879), pastoralist and businessman, was born in December 1826 in County Armagh, Ireland, fifth son of Captain Walter Synnot and his second wife Elizabeth, née Houston. In 1836 Walter arrived in Van Diemen's Land with his wife and nine of their ten children. A year later two elder sons crossed to Port Phillip, followed in 1838 by the next two, Albert and the 12-year-old Monckton. They brought sheep with them and became pioneer landholders at Little River near Geelong, where they remained in various partnerships for about ten years. By 1852 they had scattered and Monckton, after a brief sortie with Albert to the Californian and Victorian goldfields, was the only one left in the Little River district, as sole owner of the 26,500-acre (10,724 ha) Mowyong, later called Bareacres. On 25 February 1853 at St Kilda, Melbourne, he married Annie Emily Wedge Lawrence. He later bought the South Brighton sheep station in the Wimmera where, in 1862, he was a member of the first Horsham District Roads Board, and a councillor in 1862-63.

The prize-winning superfine merino wools of the Western District had been extolled by the Thomas Shaws, C. H. MacKnight, J. L. Currie and others, but in the mid-1860s Synnot's letters to the papers queried their real value and gave rise to a drawn-out and sometimes bitter battle of words. Selling South Brighton in 1868, he bought the large Terrick Terrick station near the Murray River, and for a few years had some share with his brothers Albert, George and Nugent in Gunbar and Cowl Cowl in the Riverina. In 1873 he moved to Melbourne, bought large central city premises from the merchants and flour-millers, William Degraves & Co., and set up the Flinders Wool Warehouse in Flinders Lane: in this he followed the lead of his elder brother George who, opening in Geelong as a stock and station agent, had held one of the first auction sales of wool there in November 1858.

Synnot entered Melbourne wool-broking in prosperous and expansive times, when many firms were offering warehouse services, selling wool by auction or privately, or arranging and often financing its shipping for sale overseas. A pioneer of the wool trade with the East, he visited China, sent a consignment of woollen yarns to Hong Kong and arranged for silk and cotton weavers at Ning-Po to produce samples of woollen cloth, which were exhibited throughout Australia and New Zealand and at the Paris Exhibition of 1878. His efforts failed at first, but later that year when the first Japanese Trade Commission visited Australia his ideas bore some fruit.

Synnot died on 23 April 1879 at Elsternwick, aged 52, and was buried in St Kilda general cemetery. The eldest of his seven sons, Monckton Davey Synnot, and three of the younger ones carried on as wool-brokers. Both father and his son, Monckton, were tall, handsome, genial and convivial, with the Irish tendency to enjoy a brisk argument, but the senior Monckton was the only one to take any part in public affairs.

Select Bibliography

  • R. V. Billis and A. S. Kenyon, Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip (Melb, 1932)
  • A. Henderson (ed), Australian Families, vol 1 (Melb, 1941)
  • W. R. Brownhill, The History of Geelong and Corio Bay (Melb, 1955)
  • A. Barnard, The Australian Wool Market, 1840-1900 (Melb, 1958)
  • L. J. Blake and K. H. Lovett, Wimmera Shire Centenary (Horsham, 1962)
  • Economist, 1862, 1863, 2 Feb 1866
  • Argus (Melbourne), 16 Sept 1877, 8 Jan 1878, 8 Sept 1883.

Citation details

Mary Turner Shaw, 'Synnot, Monckton (1826–1879)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/synnot-monckton-4683/text7749, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 18 December 2014.

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

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