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Oscar John de Satgé (1836–1906)

by D. B. Waterson

This article was published:

Oscar John de Satgé (1836-1906), pastoralist, was born on 20 November 1836 in England, the second son of Ernest Valentine, first vicomte de Satgé de St Jean, and his wife Caroline, daughter of Sherrington Sparkes, later high sheriff of Brecon. His father had been 'created' vicomte by the duchesse de Berry in 1830 on her appointment as regent for 'Henri V' but was exiled for involvement in a royalist revolt. The family, of Catalan origin, had long held seigneurial rights to the Château Thoren, Pyrénées Orientales, while the marriage of de Satgé's grandfather, Cosme (1769-1849), 12th baron de Thoren and préfect of Ariège, to Franciose Fausta Ballalud de St Jean, allied it to a connexion of antiquity and significance. De Satgé's brothers, Ernest Valentine Léon, later 2nd vicomte, and Henri Antoine, both married daughters of Edwin Tooth.

De Satgé was educated at Rugby in 1849-52. He arrived in the Essex at Melbourne in May 1853. An introduction to Charles La Trobe won him a clerkship in the Goldfields' Commission. He later served at Bendigo and as a parliamentary clerk but decided in December 1854 to seek pastoral experience. He joined his brother at stations on the Darling Downs, and drove cattle to Ipswich and a thousand miles (1609 km) to Victoria. In 1856-57 he worked on St George Gore's Yandilla property and in 1858 on Llangollen station near Cassilis. In 1861 he invested in a group of Peak Downs runs; his elder sister Ernestine, and his partner, Gordon Sandeman were married in 1862. In 1863 de Satgé sold most of his leases but retained Wolfang Downs in partnership with James Milson, with whom in 1872 he bought Coreena station, near Aramac. The partners disposed of Wolfgang in 1875 for over £100,000. After a visit to Europe and India in 1876-78 de Satgé returned to develop Coreena; he sold it in 1881 for £70,000 and devoted the proceeds to the acquisition, with Milson and other partners, of Carandotta, a three-million-acre (1,214,070 ha) lease on the Georgina River and Augustus Downs on the Leichhardt River. Continuing his successful central Queensland policies de Satgé promoted a vigorous scheme of heavy stocking with extensive well-sinking and fencing. Capital was poured into the venture but, although the black soils were fertile and the seasons after 1881 generally agreeable, a disastrous drought in 1892 revealed the shaky foundations of the whole enterprise. Over 90,000 sheep and 10,000 cattle died and the Bank of New South Wales took over. De Satgé had retired to England in 1882 and at Madehurst, Sussex, on 3 August married Beatrice Elizabeth Fletcher; they had one son and two daughters. Apart from visits to Australia in 1883, 1888 and 1893 to inspect his properties, he lived at Elysee, Shorncliffe Road, Folkestone. He died there on 26 September 1906, leaving an estate worth £443.

In the Queensland Legislative Assembly de Satgé had represented Clermont in 1869-70 and 1870-72, Normanby in 1873-77 and Mitchell in 1881-82. First elected as a squatters' delegate to pass the 1869 pastoral leases bill, his superior social position, his comprehensive knowledge of the problems of the central and western Queensland squatters and his successful role as a Clermont 'roads and bridges' politician made him an effective pastoral leader. 'These', as he later nostalgically asserted, were 'the good old days when squatting constituencies returned representatives interested in the pursuit instead of Radicals ready to wage war against capital'. In February 1881 he attained momentary colonial fame by his determined opposition to (Sir) Thomas McIlwraith's land-grant railway proposals and his later political victory in the crucial Mitchell constituency through which the line was to run. He was never prominent in the debates or in issues outside his pastoral province although his membership of the Queensland Pastoralists' Protection League in the 1860s and active involvement in metropolitan affairs earned him a perhaps undeserved reputation as an armchair manipulator and a powerful influence on pastoral land policies.

De Satgé's valuable and racy reminiscences, Pages from the Journal of a Queensland Squatter (London, 1901), reveal him as an able and shrewd pastoralist with much practical and financial skill. To his 'pure merino' contemporaries he was remarkably kind, intelligent and public spirited. A great club man, moving naturally by lineage, family connexions, occupation and wealth in the highest colonial social circles, he was a friend and confidant of governors. Politically inflexible and often imperceptive, distrustful of the colonial politicians and often resented by egalitarians, de Satgé with his distinguished appearance, courtly charm and perfect manners, was both an ornament and an example to the 'pure merinos' whose aspirations were so fully embodied in his person.

Select Bibliography

  • Etat Présent de la Noblesse Française (Paris, 1866)
  • Pastoral Review, 15 Dec 1906
  • Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate and Cheriton Herald, 29 Sept 1906
  • Brisbane Courier, 28 Nov 1906
  • family records (privately held).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

D. B. Waterson, 'de Satgé, Oscar John (1836–1906)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • de Satge, Oscar John

20 November, 1836


26 September, 1906 (aged 69)
Folkestone, Kent, England

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.