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Triggs, Arthur Bryant (1868–1936)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Arthur Bryant Triggs (1868-1936), grazier and collector, was born on 30 January 1868 at Chelsea, London, son of James Triggs, carpet agent, and his wife Celia Anne, née Bryant. His younger brother H. Inigo Triggs became a well-known architect and garden designer; the architect Inigo Jones was a family connexion. Educated at Chiswick College, London, and Dr Harris's school at Worthing, Sussex, Arthur arrived in Sydney in 1887.

In May he joined the Bank of New South Wales; following a number of temporary appointments, in November 1888 he became accountant at the Yass branch. On 29 June 1892 Triggs married Maria Sophia Ritchie (d.1897) at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Yass. In July 1896 he took six months leave and, with Abraham Wade, bought 8000 wethers; acquiring Wade's interest, he sold them at a profit and in February 1897 resigned from the bank. On 6 March 1901 in the same church he married Mary Maria McBean (d.1945).

Operating on a definite plan, Triggs realized that stock could always be bought at profitable rates as long as he had the land to receive them. He bought and leased a string of stations from Bourke to Kiandra—including Fort Bourke, Wirchilleba, Tara, Merri Merrigal, Wollogorang, Douro, Willie Ploma, Wee Jasper and Talbingo—so that his travelling stock were never far from his next property. He gave close attention to subdivision and rabbit destruction, and usually ran from 250,000 to 500,000 sheep, as well as some cattle.

Using an elaborate system of book-keeping, Triggs operated from bank-like premises in Cooma Street, Yass, before moving his office to Sydney in 1915. Attributing his success to loyal staff, he recruited good men (like his chief inspector Hugh Stewart and secretary John Fraser), paid them well and trusted them implicitly. He often bought without inspection and was able to sell large mobs solely on his own report, or that of his staff, thereby building up a trusted clientele. He started many men on the land through financial assistance.

His scale of operations was important in maintaining sheep values in parts of New South Wales through his ready purchase of surplus stock. It was said that 'when Mr Triggs was prosperous, Yass was prosperous'. Drought, financial stringency and the outbreak of World War I forced him into bankruptcy in 1915 with debts of about £1.5 million. After wool prices rose, he was marketing 12,000 bales; by 1921 he had paid off all his creditors with 5 per cent interest which earned him a public testimonial from the citizens of Yass.

A Greek, Biblical and Shakespearian student, Triggs had an informed appreciation of literature and art. On visits to London he took advice at the British Museum and frequented William Spencer's bookshop. He collected valuable medieval manuscripts, Bibles, incunabula, autographs, Dickensiana, ancient coins, pictures and other objets d'art, mainly in Britain and Europe. His wife collected laces made for royalty. Triggs published a Catalogue of the Collection of Historical Documents and Autograph Letters (1924), but his cherished intention to establish a small Dickens museum at Yass went unrealized. Reading and numismatics were his main recreations; he belonged to the Australian and Warrigal clubs (Sydney) and the Junior Carlton (London); despite his friendship with Sir George Reid, he took little interest in politics.

Slightly built and of middle height, with a receding hairline from his thirties, Triggs was very much the cultivated and courteous Englishman, beloved by many for his quiet and genial nature. He was especially generous to the Yass hospital (of which he was president), to various local social works and to sporting bodies. He provided a holiday house at Manly for his managers and their families, and each Christmas entertained state wards and their guardians.

Triggs died of a coronary occlusion on 9 September 1936 at his residence, Linton, Yass, survived by a daughter of his first marriage, by his wife and by their two sons and two daughters. He was buried in the local cemetery. Probate of his estate was sworn at £21,460. In 1938 his rare collection of about 2500 coins was given by his widow to the Nicholson Museum of Antiquities, University of Sydney. An impressive gateway, paid for by public subscription, was erected in his memory at the entrance to Victoria Park, Yass, in August 1939. The contents of Linton were disposed of in a notable three-day auction conducted by J. R. Lawson in September 1945. Next year the house was acquired by the Commonwealth government as a war veterans' home.

Select Bibliography

  • W. T. Spencer, Forty Years in My Bookshop (Lond, 1923)
  • Catalogue of the Valuable Period Furniture, Rare Art Treasures, a Collection of Important Pictures, the Library of Valuable Books ... the Whole of the Costly Effects and Domestic Requisites Contained Throughout the Residence 'Linton' Yass, N.S.W (Syd, 1945)
  • J. R. Tyrrell, Old Books, Old Friends, Old Sydney (Syd, 1952)
  • K. V. Sinclair, Descriptive Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Western Manuscripts in Australia (Syd, 1969)
  • Pastoral Review, 15 Nov 1907, 15 July 1911, 16 Oct 1936
  • Home (Sydney), June 1921, Mar 1922
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 June 1922, 19 July 1927, 11, 12 Sept, 4, 11 Nov 1936, 13 Dec 1937, 12 May 1938, 17 Aug 1939, 27, 28 Nov 1945
  • Argus (Melbourne), 11 Sept 1936
  • Bulletin, 16 Sept 1936.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Triggs, Arthur Bryant (1868–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/triggs-arthur-bryant-8853/text15539, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 24 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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