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John Archibald Campbell (1854–1916)

by Margaret Carnegie

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John Archibald Campbell (1854-1916), pastoralist, was born on 28 June 1854 at Bullock Creek, Victoria, second son of Donald Campbell (1813-1868) and his wife Margaret, née Sinclair. Donald, a bounty immigrant who had arrived in Sydney on 8 November 1841 in the Trinidad from Elleric, Argyllshire, Scotland, was one of the many hard-working, ambitious Highlanders who fled from the great distress in Scotland after the Napoleonic wars. He overlanded to Gippsland in 1842 with sheep, discovering the first practical land route from Port Albert to Western Port, and squatted at Bullock Creek (near the site of Bendigo) in 1846, opening Campbell's (or Bullock Creek) Camping Ground and Inn. He married Margaret Sinclair on 6 February 1851 at the Free Presbyterian Church, Melbourne; their elder son Donald (b.1852) was drowned in 1860 at Glengower, near Clunes where Campbell had moved as manager for or partner of Hugh Glass sometime after 1854. Campbell built the Glengower Hotel to cater for the goldfields population; near-by Campbelltown was named after him in 1861. He died suddenly at Glengower on 26 January 1868, leaving an estate valued for probate at £18,000.

John Archibald was tutored privately before attending Ballarat College and then Scotch College, Melbourne, but he had to leave school after his father's death. He worked at the London Chartered Bank until he came of age, and then spent some four years inspecting country before buying, on 18 September 1879, Murrill Creek, near Narrandera, New South Wales. At St Kilda, on 18 November 1879 he married Jane (d.1939), daughter of John Gordon of Borambola, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. Selling out of Murrill Creek profitably he entered into partnership with his father-in-law in a large grazing property, Dungalear, at Walgett, shearing 100,000 sheep, which he purchased in 1885 when Gordon returned to England. In 1887 Campbell's wife took up shares in a company formed to buy Tubbo, Narrandera, from the estate of her uncle, John Peter; as managing director Campbell built it into one of the finest wool-producing properties in the colony. Noted for his fine merino wool, stud sheep and cattle, Campbell was also a keen judge of thoroughbred horses and bred the Grand National Hurdle winner, Wingarara.

Campbell was one of the originators in 1890 of the Pastoralists' Association of Victoria and Southern Riverina (president in 1902-06) and was a New South Wales representative on the Pastoralists' Federal Council of Australia. He was heavily involved in the negotiations with the Amalgamated Shearers' Union of Australasia (later the Australian Workers' Union) at the time of the 1890 shearers' strike, and was one of the ten signatories to the famous freedom of contract agreement on 7 August 1891. Although firm and determined, Campbell was also a liberal man, always in favour of doing 'a fair thing' by the shearers, leaving them no reasonable cause for complaint. President of the Pastoralists' Union of Southern Riverina from 1906, his forceful and masterful addresses were appreciated for their practical knowledge, and he took a leading part in the lengthy arbitration proceedings with the A.W.U. A vice-president of the Australian Sheepbreeders' Association, he was appointed in December 1915 to the local board of advice of Dalgety & Co. Ltd, and at the time of his death he was a growers' representative on the Central Wool Committee formed to arrange the sale of the Australian woolclip to the British government.

Campbell suffered from a duodenal ulcer. Saddened by the deaths on active service in France of two of his sons on 3 September and 7 October 1916, he died suddenly on 9 December at his home Ottawa, Irving Road, Toorak. Mourned throughout the pastoral industry, he was buried in Kew cemetery. He was survived by his wife, two sons and four daughters. His estate in Victoria was valued for probate at £21,115 and in New South Wales at £120,030.

Campbell's youngest son John Alan (1899-1939) who was educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School and Jesus College, Cambridge, was an outstanding oarsman. Before enlisting in the Royal Air Force he rowed in the Melbourne Grammar first crew from 1916 to 1918 when he was captain of boats. At Cambridge he rowed in the winning crews of 1920 and 1921 when he was president of boats. He represented England in the winning inter-allied peace regatta crew in Paris in 1919 and rowed in the Leander crew at the 1920 Olympic Games. He bought Dungalear from his father's estate in 1924 for £185,000, and later Soho, Drysdale, Victoria. At Melbourne Grammar on 6 February 1923 he married Beatrice Helen Chambers, who survived him together with their three children when he died on 5 February 1939 of pneumonia; he was buried in Boroondara cemetery, Kew. He left an estate in Victoria valued for probate at £42,836 and in New South Wales at £98,325.

Select Bibliography

  • E. J. Brady, Australia Unlimited (Melb, 1918)
  • G. C. Drinkwater and T. R. B. Sanders (eds), The University Boat Race (Lond, 1929)
  • J. J. Alderson (ed), Campbelltown, Victoria (Havelock, Victoria, 1967)
  • Pastoral Review, Dec 1893, May 1905, Aug 1906, Nov 1910, Dec 1916, Jan 1917
  • Scottish Australasian, Jan 1917
  • Argus (Melbourne), 11 Dec 1916
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 24 Oct 1936
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Margaret Carnegie, 'Campbell, John Archibald (1854–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


28 June, 1854
Bullock Creek, Victoria, Australia


9 December, 1916 (aged 62)
Toorak, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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