Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Archibald Fisken (1829–1907)

by J. Ann Hone

This article was published:

Archibald Fisken (1829-1907), pastoralist, was born on 27 August 1829 near Bothwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland, son of Archibald Fisken (1797-1854) and his wife Eliza, née Inglis. The family with an uncle, Peter Inglis, and his wife, arrived in the Dauntless at Port Phillip in 1840. Inglis bought a station near Ballan and the Fiskens made their home with him. Young Archibald attended the Scots' School in Melbourne and then was tutored at the station. At 17 he was given charge of his uncle's cattle stations, Lal Lal and Warrenheip. He won repute as a stockman for mustering and driving home, with two assistants and small loss, several hundred Lal Lal cattle which had strayed into rugged country beyond the Goulburn River. He also became known as a fearless whip and daring horseman; he liked to hunt kangaroos and to race horses, once riding the mare Alice Hawthorn at Flemington. He became an honorary life member of the Ballarat Turf Club.

The gold rush to Ballarat brought Fisken labour problems but he made a fortune by slaughtering meat for the diggings. With his profits he bought the two stations from his uncle on terms which he soon paid off. Later land selectors reduced his holdings but he retained 10,000 freehold acres (4047 ha) bought at auction. On Lal Lal he built a homestead and became recognized as one of Victoria's best judges of cattle. In 1871 at Ballarat he joined C. W. Gibson's stock and station agency, later named Fisken, Valentine & Co. In 1873 he left his son Archibald to manage Lal Lal, bought Corrabert in Toorak and moved to Melbourne where he could give better attention to his many commitments in Australia and Scotland. At Ballarat he had helped to promote the Agricultural Society, Meat Preserving Co., the Warrenheip distillery and several mining companies, serving in most of them as a director. In Melbourne he supported the Farmers' Club, the National Agricultural Society and Pastoralists' Associations. He became prominent in the wool trade, a director of the Australasian Mortgage and Agency Co. and the Commercial Union Assurance Co. He had shares in several stations and was an active trustee for such large proprietors as Sir Samuel Wilson. He was also a member of the Australian and Melbourne Clubs.

In 1852 Fisken became a justice of the peace and attended the County Court and many Petty Sessions in the Ballarat area. He was also one of the first returning officers for North Grant and Ballarat East, first chairman of the Buninyong Road Board and first president when it became Shire Council; at Buninyong he served as chairman in Victoria's first Local Land Board. A staunch Presbyterian, he was an active member of Scots Church, Collins Street, Melbourne, and a trustee of church property. His colonial experience, courtesy and humour made him an invaluable committeeman. After a serious operation he died in East Melbourne on 13 June 1907, survived by his wife Charlotte Emily, née McNamara (1842-1913), whom he had married in July 1859, and by three of their seven children. His estate was valued at over £53,000.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • A. Henderson (ed), Early Pioneer Families of Victoria and Riverina (Melb, 1936)
  • Pastoral Review, 17 Sept 1895, 15 Dec 1905
  • 'Obituary: Mr. Archibald Fisken', Pastoralists' Review, vol 17, no 4, June 1907, p 337
  • Argus (Melbourne), 14 June 1907.

Additional Resources

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Fisken, Archibald (1829–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 16 April 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]


27 August, 1829
Bothwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland


13 June, 1907 (aged 77)
East Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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.

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.

Passenger Ship
Key Organisations
Key Places
Stately Homes