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John Horace Deane (1842–1913)

by Anne Allingham

This article was published:

John Horace Deane (1842-1913), miner, pastoralist and politician, was born on 24 January 1842 at Cootehill, County Cavan, Ireland, son of George Deane, farmer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Mahood. Educated at the local school, he worked in farming and building until his migration to Queensland. Landing from the Beejapore at Rockhampton in June 1863, Deane went to the Peak Downs diggings near Clermont and, after failing as a prospector, became a storekeeper and carter at Lilydale. In 1866 he overlanded with his team to the New Cape River rush; once again he was a storekeeper and carter. As Cape River declined, he moved east to Townsville where for several years he was a successful publican and butcher.

Moving to the Ravenswood goldfield in 1868, Deane erected one of the first North Queensland batteries on the Broughton River. For a time his Defiance Mill was the main crushing centre for the Ravenswood-Charters Towers region. He soon moved his mill to Charters Towers and settled there. Before the advent of the large mining companies, his financing of small prospecting syndicates gave him interests in valuable properties including the Alabama, the St Patrick's, the Black Jack and the Papuan. He continued carting but in 1875 also established a foundry and, following experiments, became one of the founders of the Charters Towers Pyrites Co. which treated tailings until the process was superseded by the cyanide process.

As the big mining companies began to dominate Charters Towers in the 1880s, Deane moved into the pastoral industry in spite of a growing marketing crisis in beef. He was among the foundation directors of the Alligator Creek Meat Export Co. at Townsville in 1890 and a shareholder in the Ross River plant. In partnership with fellow Irishman Joseph Woodburn, he also purchased the Bluff station, twenty miles (32 km) south of Charters Towers, and in 1893 Woodburn, Deane and F. Hamilton founded the Burdekin Meat Export Co. at Sellheim on the Burdekin River west of Townsville. A partner for seventeen years, Deane was resident manager until his retirement in 1912. Initially the Burdekin works functioned as a boiling-down plant. Experiments in meat canning failed and the production of meat extract had limited success. From the early 1900s, however, its export of frozen carcases brought some security to the beef industry in the region.

Deane won the Legislative Assembly seat of Townsville in November 1878 as a member of the McIlwraith faction, but resigned in favour of John Murtagh Macrossan in February 1879. Appointed to the Legislative Council in July 1889, he was an undistinguished member, often absent from sittings, but he was a strong advocate of both northern separation and Federation. He served on the Dalrymple Divisional Board and Shire Council in 1879-1912 and chaired it several times including the inaugural term. A member of the Thuringowa Divisional Board from 1893 to 1899, he was government representative on the Townsville Harbour Board from August 1899 to October 1913 and chairman of its works committee in 1904-11. At Charters Towers he had served on the hospital committee and been a member of the Towers Jockey Club. Deane Street was named after him.

In 1912 Deane retired to Townsville where his property included several shops in Flinders Street. He moved from his home Rossleigh on Ross River to Crows Nest on Melton Hill. He died there on 27 October 1913 and was buried in the old West End cemetery, with Church of England rites. His estate, valued for probate at £17,091, was left to his widow Mary Ann, née Gologly, whom he had married at Rockhampton on 10 December 1864, and to their surviving three daughters and son.

John Deane was respected for his public service, his administrative ability and his business acumen. He had a predilection for pyjamas instead of a business suit, and his twenty-two stone (140 kg) figure led one historian to describe him as 'Falstaffian'. To an old political acquaintance however, he was 'altogether a very fine specimen of a pioneer'.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Black (ed), Queensland Pioneer Book (Charters Towers, 1931)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1913, p 2222
  • Cummins and Campbell's Monthly Magazine, June 1936
  • Townsville Evening Star, 27 Oct 1913
  • Northern Miner, 28 Oct 1913
  • North Queensland Register, 3 Nov 1913
  • Queenslander, 11 Nov 1913
  • minutes, 8 Mar 1893–22 Sept 1897 (Thuringowa Divisional Board, held by Queensland State Archives), and 10 Aug 1899–13 Nov 1913 (Townsville Harbour Board), and 14 Jan 1902–9 Jan 1912 (Dalrymple Divisional Board, and Shire Council, Charters Towers).

Citation details

Anne Allingham, 'Deane, John Horace (1842–1913)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 20 April 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]


24 January, 1842
Cootehill, Cavan, Ireland


27 October, 1913 (aged 71)
Townsville, Queensland, Australia

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