Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Benjamin Buchanan (1821–1912)

by John Niland

This article was published:

Benjamin Buchanan (1821?-1912), company director, was born probably in Glasgow, Scotland, son of Benjamin Buchanan and Mary Cameron. In the early 1840s he was employed in Sydney's commercial community and took an active part in the early closing movement. For some time he was a clerk with Aspinall Brown & Co.; by the 1850s he had become a partner in the merchant firm of Smith, Campbell & Co., and later senior partner in Buchanan, Skinner & Co. On 13 June 1857 at St Mark's Church, Alexandria, he married Louise Harriet, daughter of Edye Manning.

Buchanan served as an auditor for the Sydney Railway Co., where he developed a close and strong association with Thomas Mort who was then on the board, and in 1860 he was admitted to partnership in Mort & Co. There his expertise in financial matters attracted attention and led to directorships on a number of boards, including those of the Liverpool and London Fire and Life Insurance Co., the Sydney Exchange Co., the Peak Downs Copper Mining Co., the Illawarra Steam Navigation Co., and the New South Wales Fresh Food and Ice Co. Buchanan also served on the management committee of Mort's Dock, and in 1872 became a director of Mort's Dock and Engineering Co. He helped to form the Union Club in 1857 and served as one of its three trustees for more than twenty years. In 1883 he went to England to manage the London agency of Mort & Co. Five years later when this company amalgamated with R. Goldsbrough & Co., he became a director on the London board of Goldsbrough, Mort & Co., at a salary of £1000. In March 1899 he was incapacitated by a serious accident; nearly blind, dependent on crutches and in constant pain he lived at his home in Ulster Terrace, Regents Park, London, never complaining but 'very anxious to free from blame the coachman who drove against him'. He died, aged 90, at his home on 16 March 1912, predeceased by his eldest son Albert Charles, and survived by his wife, his son George and his daughter Mary who had married Charles Eric Rudolph Schwartze. His probate in Sydney was sworn at more than £33,000.

For his placid and conciliatory nature, Buchanan is said to have been sought in 1860 as a partner by Thomas Mort to smooth out relations with the other partners. Mort also sought his help in handling labour problems, most notably in the 1874 iron trades dispute, during which Buchanan became the first president of the Iron Trades Employers' Association.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Barnard, Visions and Profits (Melb, 1961)
  • J. R. Niland, The Movement for a Shorter Working Day in New South Wales, 1855-1875 (M.Com. thesis, University of New South Wales, 1967)
  • Goldsbrough Mort & Co. records (Australian National University Archives).

Citation details

John Niland, 'Buchanan, Benjamin (1821–1912)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 14 April 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]


Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland


16 March, 1912 (aged ~ 91)
London, Middlesex, England

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