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Whish, Claudius Buchanan (1827–1890)

by G. C. Bolton

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

Claudius Buchanan Whish (1827-1890), sugar-planter and civil servant, was born on 5 January 1827 in London, son of General Sir William Whish, Royal Artillery, and his wife Mary, née Hardwicke. In 1851 he gained a commission in the 14th Light Dragoons, served in India, where he had family connexions, and was interpreter and bazaar master for the regiment, officer in charge of public works in one of the native states, and assistant quartermaster general of cavalry on General Jacob's staff during the Persian campaign of 1856. He became a captain and in 1857 visited New South Wales and South Australia to buy cavalry remounts for the Indian army.

Australia must have impressed him for on 15 August 1862 he arrived in Queensland in the Young Australia and established the Oaklands sugar plantation at Caboolture. Though Whish was not the pioneer of the industry in Queensland, he raised a better crop than his main competitor, Louis Hope, becoming the first sugar-planter to market commercial quantities and to produce high-quality rum. He was chairman of the local planters' association and, as he was experienced in non-European labour, he hired Pacific islanders. This made him unpopular among near-by townspeople and selectors, though after 1865 it helped to preserve his £5000 investment.

In 1867 Whish failed to win East Moreton in the Legislative Assembly, and in 1869 a select committee on Pacific island labour was told of whippings on his estate. This evidence gained little credence among the respectable. A justice of the peace and for many years an Anglican synodsman and diocesan councillor, he accepted a seat in the Legislative Council in June 1870. Though he was believed to be the first successful sugar-producer in Queensland, his estate lost money steadily and he resigned from the council in March 1872, sold his machinery and took a government position as surveyor of roads. Bankrupted in September 1873 with a deficiency of £5598, he was promoted inspector of road surveys for the southern division in 1875 and for the whole colony in 1880.

Late in 1889 Whish left for England on leave. He sailed in the Quetta which sank in Torres Strait on the night of 28 February 1890. His wife Anne, née Ker, whom he had married in Bombay about 1858, perished with him; they were survived by two sons and four daughters. He was one of the small but influential group of gentleman immigrants, such as George Dalrymple, H. M. Chester and Hope, who left India after the mutiny to seek their fortunes in the newly separated tropical colony of Queensland.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Thorne, The Queen of the Colonies (Lond, 1876)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1869, 2, 60
  • C. T. Wood, ‘Hope, Buhot, Whish’, Producers' Review (Brisbane), 15 July 1964, and ‘The sugar industry depicted in the Whish and Davidson diaries’, JRHSQ, 3 (1965)
  • Whish diaries (State Library of Queensland).

Citation details

G. C. Bolton, 'Whish, Claudius Buchanan (1827–1890)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/whish-claudius-buchanan-4833/text8065, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 23 December 2014.

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

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