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Henry Horatio Gill (1840–1914)

by E. R. Pretyman

This article was published:

Henry Horatio Gill (1840-1914), explorer, farmer, prospector and newspaper proprietor, was born in October 1840 and baptized on 26 July 1846 at St George's Church, Battery Point, Hobart Town, the eldest son of William Henry Gill and his wife Susannah, née McLowe. Henry's grandfather had been lord mayor of London in 1789 and his father an army lieutenant who had arrived in Van Diemen's Land in the Regalia on 30 December 1822 and later became chief clerk in the audit department.

After education at the Hutchins School, Henry found employment as a law clerk, probably intending to enter the legal profession, but he soon found that he preferred an outdoor life and took up farming. He then went to New South Wales where he joined several exploring parties. He returned to Tasmania about 1865, leased Llanavan, a large property near Cape Portland, and took up sheep-farming. He became a justice of the peace for the territory on 13 May 1867. On 3 September 1870 he was married at Llanavan by a representative of the Congregational Church to Sara Inez Jacobs. In 1869-71 he was a member of the George Town Board of Works, and in 1879 a councillor of the Rural Municipality of Spring Bay. Meanwhile he had become associated with Bernard Shaw and Renison Bell in discovering tin; he had himself discovered rich gold deposits near the Whyte River. He never lost his interest in mining. In 1906 with his partner, Thomas Batty, he was credited with the discovery of a diamond at Long Plains near Harvey's Creek.

In 1881 Gill was living at Colville Street, Hobart. He bought the Southern Star from its proprietors and on 17 November 1883 from 51 Collins Street launched the Tasmanian News, an evening paper bearing the motto publicum bonum privato est proeferendum. Over his name as editor and proprietor he wrote: 'We issue our first number with a larger list of subscribers than has ever assisted previous enterprise in the same direction here'. The paper ran for about twenty-eight years but by 1896 Gill had retired from journalism and his wife appeared as proprietor for some years after 1890. In 1887 he was induced to contest the Kingborough seat in the House of Assembly and was elected with a large majority. Sound and thorough in debate he kept himself conspicuous as a liberal and with Dr William Lodewyk Crowther was credited with responsibility for half the roads and bridges built in his large district. In 1897 he resigned and sailed for England to float a gold mining company.

In 1886 Gill and some members of parliament had attended the opening of the Fingal railway line; on their return journey on 29 June they were involved in an accident near Campania. At the inquiry he was publicly thanked for walking many miles to Brighton to bring help for the injured. His own injuries were not then apparent but he suffered later effects to the end of his life. He was a founder and first secretary of the Rechab Masonic Lodge and later worshipful master and deputy provincial grand master. He died on 4 March 1914 and was buried in the Cornelian Bay cemetery, survived by his wife and six children. According to an obituarist, 'he was a pure lover of his country, a believer in its possibilities, and an honest and conscientious public man'.

Select Bibliography

  • W. H. Twelvetrees, Diamonds in Tasmania (Mines Department circular, 4, Hob, 1918)
  • Critic (Hobart), 6 Mar 1914
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

E. R. Pretyman, 'Gill, Henry Horatio (1840–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 14 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

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