Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Aplin (1840–1901)

by E. M. Allingham

This article was published:

William Aplin (1840-1901), businessman, pastoralist and parliamentarian, was born on 27 April 1840 at Combe St Nicholas, Somerset, England, one of the three sons of William Aplin, farmer, and his wife Ann, née Tuck. He was educated at Bourton Academy, Dorset. He migrated to Brisbane in 1862, arriving in the Wanata in December. He went to Bowen next year and as a representative of Seaward, Marsh & Co., merchants, moved to Cleveland Bay soon after a settlement there was proposed. In June 1865 with W. Clifton, manager of Burns, Basset & Co., he formed the firm, Clifton & Aplin, store-keepers and agents, when Townsville was founded. At Bowen on 27 October he married Mary Jane (b. Wiltshire, 1837), daughter of Henry Bristol, farmer, and his wife Mary, née Gray. They lived at Edgecliffe, Melton Hill, Townsville, next door to Clifton. Their first home was blown away by a cyclone but they rebuilt on the same site.

Aplin's activity in local administration made him a public figure. He was a founding member of the Townsville Municipal Council and twice mayor, and a member of Thuringowa Divisional Board in 1879, 1886, 1889 and 1894-96, serving as chairman in 1882. Elected to the Dalrymple Divisional Board on 26 April 1883, he remained a member, except in 1887, until 1901. He was also a member of the first board of trustees of Townsville Grammar School in 1888, the Flinders District Hospital Committee, a vice-president of the North Queensland Pastoral and Agricultural Association and a trustee of the Townsville cemetery. He was appointed a member of the Legislative Council on 19 October 1880; although often absent, he gave much useful help in debates affecting 'the more distant parts of the colony', and retained his seat until 1901.

Aplin continued his mercantile pursuits successfully until 1881 when he bought Southwick on the Fletcher River from Robert Stewart, and became a pastoralist. His homestead became a centre of hospitality but the station did not run smoothly. In 1895 his cattle were infested by tick and died in large numbers from redwater fever. His wife died at Southwick on 20 November; of their five sons and four daughters, two children predeceased him. On 3 November 1897 he married Isabella Annie, daughter of James Campbell and his wife Isabella, née Mitchell, who was a sister-in-law of Sir Robert Philp. They lived briefly at Southwick as lessees of the Bank of New South Wales, and then moved to Invermay, Herston Road, Brisbane; they had no children. After leaving a friend's death-bed Aplin died suddenly at Warwick on 18 February 1901. He was buried in the Anglican section of the Toowong cemetery. His wife died on 31 October 1927, aged 65.

Of Aplin's two brothers, John migrated to North Queensland where he tried gold-mining and then bought an hotel at the mining centre of Cumberland. Later with two sons he turned to raising cattle at Huonfels near Georgetown.

Select Bibliography

  • R. W. Moore, The History of Townsville Grammar School (Brisb, 1959)
  • G. C. Bolton, A Thousand Miles Away (Brisb, 1963)
  • Townsville 100: 1864-1964 (Townsville, 1964)
  • Brisbane Courier, 19 Feb 1901
  • private information.

Additional Resources

  • wedding, Queenslander, 13 November 1897, p 966
  • funeral, Brisbane Courier, 21 February 1901, p 6

Citation details

E. M. Allingham, 'Aplin, William (1840–1901)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

William Aplin, n.d.

William Aplin, n.d.

State Library of Queensland, 65087

Life Summary [details]


27 April, 1840
Combe St Nicholas, Somerset, England


18 February, 1901 (aged 60)
Warwick, Queensland, Australia

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