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Thomas Armstrong (1835–1886)

by J. Ann Hone

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ARMSTRONG FAMILY: William (1829-1895), Robert Grieve (1833-1886), Thomas (1835-1886), and John (1837-1899), pastoralists, were sons of John Armstrong and his wife Vair, née Scott. The family arrived in Port Phillip from Scotland in November 1839. In 1841 John Armstrong senior was employed by Anne Drysdale to plough and shepherd, his wife to cook and wash, and the two eldest boys to shepherd. He had brought livestock with him, worked hard, acquired more sheep and soon took up Bush station near Geelong, later becoming one of the best stud-masters in Victoria. His sons were given admirable grounding for their pastoral careers.

William was born on 4 December 1829 at Moffat, Dumfriesshire, Scotland. He helped his father and then worked on Allandale near Ararat for two years and at Devon Park near Dunkeld for three years. In 1846 he took up Avon Plains with Dr Alexander Thomson and in 1851 bought Hexham Park. He gradually acquired freehold of 23,000 acres (9308 ha). He specialized in breeding Lincoln sheep, won prizes for longwools at all local shows and was renowned as a judge. As interest in local shows waned, exhibition from Hexham Park ceased and the Lincoln flock was kept merely for crossbreeding. He acquired more property in the Western District, including Shadwell Park of 4000 acres (1619 ha) and the 5400 acres (2185 ha) of Pirron Yalloak, one of the best fattening properties in Victoria. He invested in the pastoral expansion of Queensland but was defeated by drought; with his brothers he owned several properties in New South Wales which brought better rewards. Armstrong was president of the Australian Sheepbreeders' Association in 1885 and president of the Hexham sheep show for some years. He was a council member of the Victorian Pastoralists' Association in the early 1890s, a member of the Mortlake Shire Council from 1864 to 1890 and its president in 1870-71, and a justice of the peace. When he died on 7 April 1895 this warm-hearted and modest man was mourned by his wife, Helen Scott, daughter of James Armstrong, and by four sons and four daughters. His son Walter and son-in-law Roderick Robert Urquhart had rented Hexham Park since 1889 and it remained in their hands.

Robert Grieve was born on 26 August 1833 at Moffat. He followed in his brother William's footsteps but later went to New Zealand for two years. On his return he leased North station from the Manifold brothers, and Salt Creek station near Mortlake, which he made his home. He joined William in his northern pastoral ventures. He was a member of the Mortlake Shire Council from 1864 to 1886 and president in 1871-72. A staunch Presbyterian, he was an elder at Woorndoo Church and a strong advocate of teetotalism. He was never robust and died after a prolonged illness on 1 June 1886, survived by his wife Nicholas Elliot, née Armstrong, and by seven of their thirteen children.

Thomas settled in New South Wales after serving the same pastoral apprenticeship as William and Robert. Thomas bought East Charlton station and in 1876 acquired Noorong station, 75,000 acres (30,352 ha) at Moulamein. There he established a fine merino stud and exhibited them with great success at the Deniliquin shows. He was a member of the Deniliquin show committee and a founder of the Australian Sheepbreeders' Association. In the late 1870s Thomas was engaged in acquiring freehold of his run. He died on 29 March 1886. He too had married a cousin, Janet, daughter of James Armstrong; they had five sons and seven daughters.

John Armstrong managed Gunbar station near Hillston. He had a special love for horses and his father's ability to pick good sheep and cattle. He died on 7 August 1899.

An uncle, James Armstrong, was born on 24 November 1810 at Cavers, Roxburghshire, arrived in Port Phillip in 1848 and joined his relations on Bush station. About 1854 he bought a station with William James Reid in the Swan Hill district but after four years returned to Hexham. He farmed for a time and then bought The Lakes estate at Mortlake. In January 1831 he had married Margaret Lorraine; they had three sons and eight daughters. At his death on 1 January 1900 James had 135 living descendants, including 38 great-grandchildren.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • A. Henderson (ed), Australian Families, vol 1 (Melb, 1941)
  • P. L. Brown (ed), Clyde Company Papers, vol 3 (Lond, 1958)
  • Warrnambool Standard, 5 June 1886
  • Mortlake Dispatch, 5 June 1886, 10 Apr 1895
  • 'The Late John Armstrong', Australasian Pastoralists' Review, vol 9, no 6, 15 Aug 1899, pp 327-28
  • Pastoral Review, 16 Apr 1909.

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Armstrong, Thomas (1835–1886)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 21 May 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

Life Summary [details]




29 March, 1886 (aged ~ 51)
Moulamein, New South Wales, Australia

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