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Edward Timothy Hooley (1842–1903)

by Wendy Birman

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Edward Timothy Hooley (1842-1903), explorer, pastoralist and writer, was born on 30 September 1842 at sea in the Bolivar, son of Daniel Hooley and his wife Ellen, née Barry. The family went to Van Diemen's Land where the father was overseer on a pastoral property for three years before moving to a farm near Coleraine, Victoria. Educated at a school in Portland, Hooley gained much practical knowledge of agriculture and bushcraft working with his father. He became a sheep and cattle dealer but in 1864 joined the Camden Harbour Pastoral Association, formed in Melbourne for acquiring leases in north-west Australia. With sheep, cattle and horses Hooley sailed in the chartered schooner Stag. The arrival at Camden Harbour was disastrous: the country was parched and the sheep died from poisonous plants. Hooley turned to exploration and made a short trip to the head of the Harding and Sherlock Rivers. He then joined T. C. Murray, crossed the Fortescue River and with difficulty forced a passage through the rugged Hamersley Range, naming both Mount Murray and Mount Anderson. Impressed by the pastoral quality of the country, the two men went to Perth to acquire more sheep. Hooley reported his findings to the surveyor-general, John Septimus Roe, and for his services was granted a lease of 100,000 acres (40,469 ha) by the government. He soon bought 2000 sheep and shipped them to Champion Bay, hoping to open a stock route to the north. Leaving the Geraldine mine in May 1866, he followed Francis Gregory's track of 1858 with seven men, including two Aboriginal prisoners and two teams of horses, and for the first week, Dr Bompas, who accompanied them as naturalist. The party proceeded along the Murchison to the Gascoyne, then struck north past the Lyons and Henry Rivers. Hooley named Gregory's Spring and Mount Roe and arrived at Nickol Bay after a journey of three months and a loss of only eight sheep. Appreciative settlers presented him with a fine gold watch.

Interested in new developments, Hooley was attracted to the pearling industry. In 1868 he rode 1300 miles (2092 km) from Point Walcott to Albany on horseback to join a ship for Melbourne. In April 1868 in his schooner Liberty, 54 tons (51.97 tonnes), he arrived at Fremantle accompanied by his wife Jane, née Maze, whom he had married on 4 December 1861 at the Catholic Church in Portland, and by their daughter. He intended to use the schooner for coastal trading and pearl fishing but was faced with labour problems, drought, low wool prices and hostile Aboriginals on his isolated property.

Hooley abandoned his property in the Ashburton district after repeated attacks by Aboriginal people; one such was described as the ‘Battle of Minderoo’ in a poem written by  a white participant. It described a punitive expedition in 1869 authorised by the Resident Magistrate at Roebourne, Robert John Sholl, following the spearing of a white shepherd named Griffiths.  Hooley and Sholl’s son Robert Frederick Sholl, were among those who took part. By the resident’s account, at least 21 “natives” were killed. The property, Minderoo, was later taken up by members of the Forrest and Burt families.

Hooley soon accepted an offer to manage a stock company at Guildford and then, with William New as partner, established a sheep station at Williams, south of Perth. Although it was reasonably successful Hooley yearned for the north and in 1882 overlanded to the Ashburton. On the way he lost almost half of his 6500 sheep and cattle but settled at Mount Hubert and took up an additional 400,000 acres (161,876 ha) at Mount Mortimer and a cattle run near the Henry River.

Five years later in Perth Hooley became manager of John Monger's mercantile company; when it was absorbed by Dalgety's he became joint manager and later managing director until ill health forced his retirement in 1900. Appointed to the Legislative Council in December 1891, he ceased to be a member when it became wholly representative, but represented Murchison in 1894-97 and De Grey in 1897-1900 in the Legislative Assembly. In 1880 he had served on a commission to investigate the pearl-shell fishing grounds, and was appointed to the board of advice for administrating the Scab Act of 1879. Hooley was a justice of the peace, director of several companies and member of the committee advising the government on Western Australian representation at the Melbourne Exhibition in January 1888. A keen sportsman, he was often handicapper at race-meetings and served for a term as chairman of the Turf Club. His publications include the novel Tarragal, or Bush Life in Australia (London, 1897) and numerous articles in local papers, under the pseudonym 'Bucolic'. After retirement he and his wife went to Switzerland where he died at Vevey on 3 August 1903. He was survived by his wife, one of his twin sons and five daughters. In December 1964 a plaque was erected at The Elms in William Street, Perth, to commemorate his contribution to Western Australia.

Select Bibliography

  • F. W. Gunning, Lure of the North (Perth, 1952)
  • R.E.C., ‘Some Early Dalgety Personalities’, Pastoralist and Grazier, Apr 1960
  • Inquirer (Perth), 1 Mar, 29 Apr, 6 May 1868
  • Perth Gazette, 17 Apr, 1 May 1868
  • Herald (Fremantle), 13 Mar 1869
  • West Australian, 31 Oct 1882, 12 Aug 1884, 7 Mar 1885, 22 Mar, 22 May 1886, 19 Aug 1887, 1 July 1890, 5 Aug 1903, 18 June 1949, 14 June 1968
  • WA Bulletin, 28 July 1888
  • Dalgety's Review (Perth), 25 Aug 1949
  • Northern Times (Carnarvon), 21 Jan 1965
  • J. B. Downes, The Western Australian Pearling Industries (thesis, Teachers College, 1941, copy in State Library of Western Australia)
  • J. Crawford, The Story of the Williams District (State Library of Western Australia)
  • Journal of Expedition with Stock, Perth-Point Walcott (State Library of Western Australia)
  • P. Gifford, ‘The Battle of Minderoo’, Studies in Western Australian History, 32, 2018.

Citation details

Wendy Birman, 'Hooley, Edward Timothy (1842–1903)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 19 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

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