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Hastings Cuningham (1825–1908)

by Frances Fearon

This article was published:

Hastings Cuningham (1825-1908), wool-broker, was born on 30 August 1825 in Calcutta, the fourth son of William Cuningham, a major in the East India Co., and his wife Rebecca, née Armstrong, of Nuddea, Bengal. He was educated in Scotland and at 17 went to Port Phillip. With his brother, Alexander Fairlie, he leased Mount Mercer cattle station, near Meredith, from February 1843 to September 1846 when the licence was continued by his brother alone. From February 1846 Cuningham, with John Thomson senior and junior, held Mount Emu station near Skipton until January 1854, the last year alone. He returned to Mount Mercer from April 1858 to November 1860, also holding the licence for Sandhills from April 1856 to September 1862; it was then held in the name of Hastings Cuningham & Co. until 1866. From April 1869 to March 1873 he held Murrabit station with his business partner, John Kane Smyth. He also owned land in the Mount Gambier and Mallee districts.

In 1862 Cuningham entered the wool-broking business with William Macredie as partner. The original aim of the firm was to provide a local market as an alternative to the method of consignment and sale in London, an important step in the movement which was to change the Australian wool market from being a province of London speculators into an efficient national concern. To this end they offered dual facilities as wool-brokers and consignment agents. As early as 1869 they were selling wool by auction, a necessary preliminary to the development of a local market. Another prerequisite was the provision of financial facilities, for the banks were committed to the consignment system.

Other partners were admitted in 1868. In 1878 the firm became a limited company. In 1880 Cuningham went to Britain to seek capital; his visit led to the transformation of Hastings Cuningham & Co. into the Australasian Mortgage and Agency Co. Ltd, with its central office in Edinburgh. Two-thirds of the shares were reserved for allocation in Australia and quickly taken up. Cuningham was a pioneer in the export of refrigerated meats. After a close connexion with the first shipment in 1873 which was unsuccessful he was associated with the 1879-80 Strathleven shipment.

On 29 January 1849 he married Agnes Henrietta, sister of Edward Micklethwaite Curr. Of their fifteen children, the eldest surviving son succeeded to the family baronetcy and adopted the name of Fairlie-Cuninghame. After his wife's death Cuningham married Frances Nolan. He died at St Kilda on 19 September 1908.

Select Bibliography

  • H. M. Franklyn, A Glance at Australia in 1880 (Melb, 1881)
  • R. V. Billis and A. S. Kenyon, Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip (Melb, 1932)
  • A. Barnard, The Australian Wool Market, 1840-1900 (Melb, 1958)
  • 'Obituary: Mr. Hastings Cuningham', Pastoralists' Review, vol 18, no 8, Oct 1908, p 681.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Frances Fearon, 'Cuningham, Hastings (1825–1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 18 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]


30 August, 1825
Kolkata, West Bengal, India


19 September, 1908 (aged 83)
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death


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