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Arthur Henry (Harry) Cunningham (1879–1942)

by Anne Allingham

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Arthur Henry Wickham (Harry) Cunningham (1879-1942), pastoralist, was born on 29 June 1879 at Woodhouse station, near Ayr, Queensland, son of Edward Cunningham, grazier, and his wife Caroline, née Hann, sister of William and Frank Hann. Harry Cunningham was educated at Barker College, Sydney, and returned to North Queensland; when his father died in 1898 he managed Woodhouse station, owned by Gilchrist, Watt and Cunningham. Much of the property was resumed and in 1902 the group purchased Strathmore on the Bowen River. Cunningham assumed management of both properties and settled permanently at Strathmore. On 12 May 1910 at Croydon, Sydney, he married Nellie Maud Wharton, of Birralee station. They had three sons and one daughter.

Cunningham was a member of the Wangaratta Shire Council from 1903 until 1942 and its chairman for twenty-six years; he was also involved in the Kennedy Stockbreeders and Collinsville Graziers associations, the Kennedy Hospital, Bowen Harbour Board, and the Townsville and Bowen show societies. A keen horseman, he was a long-time member and later patron of the Townsville Turf Club. During World War I his experience on the Bowen war council generated a scheme to assist returned servicemen by means of the profits from a cattle property.

Following negotiations with the Queensland government and the minister for repatriation in 1918-19, Cunningham inspected and purchased four properties on the lower Burdekin and consolidated them into Scartwater. The station was gradually stocked by donations of cattle and from funds contributed by sporting and other bodies. A board of five trustees included the local parliamentarian, the crown solicitor and Cunningham as managing trustee.

All returned servicemen and women resident in a defined area of North Queensland prior to enlistment were eligible, at first only for interest-free loans to establish themselves in business or on the land; the first grant of £500 was made in 1929. After 1936 the scheme was extended to help to educate dependants of ex-servicemen and women, and since then Scartwater and A. H. W. Cunningham scholarships have been awarded annually. The Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia awarded Cunningham its certificate of merit and gold badge in 1933. Since his death, benefits of the trust, managed by his son, have extended to veterans of other wars. To the end of 1976 loans totalled $733,375, and scholarships had supported 690 secondary and 345 tertiary students, representing a total value of $621,665.

Cunningham died on 8 January 1942 in Bay View Hospital, Townsville, of injuries received in a motor accident. He was buried in Townsville cemetery with Anglican rites. His estate was sworn for probate at £124,129.

Select Bibliography

  • M. J. Fox (ed), The History of Queensland, vol 2 (Brisb, 1921)
  • The Story of Scartwater (priv print, 1956
  • copy, Oxley Lib, Brisb)
  • G. C. Bolton, A Thousand Miles Away (Brisb, 1963)
  • Cummins and Campbell's Monthly Magazine, Feb 1942
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 17 Nov 1951
  • Cunningham and Scartwater Trust papers (privately held)
  • Scartwater Trust records (privately held).

Citation details

Anne Allingham, 'Cunningham, Arthur Henry (Harry) (1879–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


29 June, 1879
Ayr, Queensland, Australia


8 January, 1942 (aged 62)
Townsville, Queensland, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.