Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Henry Buckley (1813–1888)

by Mary O'Keeffe

This article was published:

Henry Buckley (1813-1888), pastoralist, businessman and public servant, was born on 21 June 1813 in Yorkshire, England, the youngest son of Benjamin Buckley, woollen manufacturer, and his wife Martha, daughter of Thomas Becket, a landowner of Dewsbury, Yorkshire. He was educated at the Moravian Boys' Boarding School, Fairfield, near Manchester, probably when Charles La Trobe, later lieutenant-governor of Victoria, was a master there. In 1832 he visited the United States and next year returned to England. In 1834 he sailed from Liverpool as a merchant and cabin passenger in the Medora and arrived at Sydney in November. He sold his merchandise, bought livestock and squatted near Queanbeyan where in 1837 he bought 1640 acres (664 ha), built a home and called it Arrable. In 1838 he acquired several other runs on the Monaro by depasturing licence. Despite costly actions for trespass he was 'a grazier of some substance' by 1840, but in 1844 he sold his freehold and leases. He returned to Sydney and with H. Noble as partner set up a wine and spirits business in Pitt Street. He also bought a share in W. E. Rowland's china and glass warehouse in Market Street. These ventures were both short lived and he started his own business. In 1846 he signed a petition for the early closing of shops.

About 1849 Buckley moved to Brisbane where he bought several town allotments and was agent for the Australasian Steam Navigation Co., the Australian Mutual Provident Society and several fire insurance companies. He was active in local affairs, including the agitation for separation, and in 1853 became a magistrate. Nehemiah Bartley, Opals and Agates (Brisbane, 1892), describes him as he appeared at this time 'in China buff crape coat, Panama hat, nankeen “continuations” and green silk umbrella' which was then the Moreton Bay dress, to suit the climate.

Buckley represented Stanley County in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales in 1856-59 and was returned in May 1860 for East Moreton to the first Queensland parliament but resigned on 29 September when appointed the first auditor-general under Queensland's new Audit Act. In the economic crisis of 1866 he had the misfortune to strike personal financial difficulties as a result of the insolvency of a man for whom he had stood guarantor, and in June 1867 he was himself declared insolvent. He handed in his resignation but added in a private letter to the premier, Arthur Macalister, that he hoped his affairs would soon be in order and that no immediate action would be taken. None was, and the letter of resignation was later returned to him. At that time Macalister was replaced as premier by (Sir) Robert Ramsay Mackenzie who suggested to Buckley that he resign and, after hearing what had already been done, asked to place the letter of resignation before parliament. Buckley gave it to him. According to the treasurer, Thomas Stephens, he asked if it was a fresh tender of resignation, and was so assured; as such it was accepted. Buckley petitioned against this, declaring that the government had accepted certain verbal conditions he had added. A select committee on his petition found that no absolute resignation was ever tendered by Buckley and that he had been both unjustly and illegally deprived of his office as auditor-general, but their report was rejected by parliament on 15 July 1869. Meanwhile a select committee had inquired into the management of the Auditor-General's Department and found that Buckley had carried out his duties with ability and in a zealous and faithful manner; although many reforms were urgently needed, they were the result of increased experience and the growing exigencies of the public service of Queensland and did not involve censure on Buckley. The committee unsuccessfully recommended that his services should not be overlooked and that his claims for re-employment under the government should be entertained.

Buckley stood for South Brisbane in the 1870 elections but did not win. In 1874 he was appointed accountant in insolvency; he held the position until he died aged 74 in the Brisbane Hospital on 14 April 1888. In Sydney on 3 March 1838 he had married Susannah Abbott. They had no children, but adopted Barbara Graham, the daughter of a deceased friend; she married Edward Drury.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1867-69
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1867-69
  • Australian, 21 Mar 1840
  • Empire (Sydney), 13 May 1856
  • NSW depasturing licences 1838-44 (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

Mary O'Keeffe, 'Buckley, Henry (1813–1888)', 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]


21 June, 1813
Yorkshire, England


14 April, 1888 (aged 74)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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