Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Arthur Francis Hull (1862–1945)

by Tess Kloot

This article was published:

Arthur Francis Basset Hull (1862-1945), public servant and naturalist, was born on 10 October 1862 at O'Brien's Bridge, Hobart Town, son of Hugh Munro Hull, coroner and later clerk of the House of Assembly, and his wife Margaret Basset, née Tremlett. Educated at the High School, Hobart, he was lamed by infantile paralysis at 15 and had to wear a surgical boot and use a walking-stick for the rest of his life.

In 1883-89 Hull was a clerk in the registry of the Supreme Court. Secretary and treasurer of the Orpheus Club in the 1880s, he performed as a tenor and in plays; he worshipped and sang at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church. He also tried his hand at short stories and verse in A Strange Experience (1888). At the Congregational Church, New Town, he married Laura Blanche Nisbet on 29 April 1891; she bore a son and died in 1893.

Hull moved to Sydney and on 12 October 1892 became a clerk in the General Post Office. On 1 July 1900 he transferred to the Department of Public Works as secretary to the labour commissioners. Sued for breach of promise of marriage by Bertha Cligny de Boissac in March 1899, Hull had been unable to pay £500 damages and was forced into bankruptcy. At Annandale on 15 January 1902 he married a 53-year-old widow Caroline Ann Lloyd, née Baker. He was discharged from bankruptcy in March and later visited Britain and Europe. On his return he joined the Department of Mines as a clerk in January 1903; he retired in 1921.

A keen amateur scientist, Hull was active as secretary for many years and president of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales in 1917-19, 1928-29 and 1938-39. He was a member of the Taronga Zoological Park Trust from 1926. He was also president of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union in 1919-20 and of the local Linnean Society in 1923-24 and published in their journals; he discovered the nest and eggs of the Gould Petrel Pterodroma (Oestrelata) leucoptera and in 1909 published an important work, 'Birds of Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands', in the Proceedings of the Linnean Society (vol. 34, 1909).

However Hull's greater interest was conchology, particularly loricates (Chitons). He pursued these around Australia, Santa Cruz and New Caledonia, becoming very agile over rocky terrain. With Tom Iredale he published a Monograph of Australian Loricates (1927) and other articles with Charles Hedley. His name was commemorated in the genus Bassethullia and several species. He gave a duplicate set of his specimens to the Australian Museum, Sydney, where he was honorary ornithologist in 1917-45.

From his boyhood Hull collected stamps and was an honorary fellow of the (Royal) Philatelic Society, London, from 1887. He published Stamps of Tasmania (London, 1890), The Postage Stamps … of New South Wales (London, 1911) and The Postage Stamps … of Queensland (1930). He contributed many articles on stamps, envelopes, wrappers, postcards and coins to journals, and edited the Australian Philatelist. In his later years he collected and annotated revenue stamps. He received many philatelic honours.

Short in stature with brilliant, piercing brown eyes, Hull was 'silver-haired … dapper in his grey suit' and 'crisp in manner'. Somewhat autocratic when dealing with committees, he was always kind to anyone willing to learn. Visitors to his home at Queenscliff, Sydney, remember his dining-room as a veritable museum holding collections of stamps, coins, eggs, skins, shells and books. His wife had divorced him in 1912; at Manly on 3 December 1926 he married a 56-year-old divorcee Diana Farley, née Cater. Survived by his third wife and son of his first marriage, Hull died on 22 September 1945 and was cremated with Anglican rites. His portrait, painted by W. Hayward Veal in 1941, is held by the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.

Select Bibliography

  • H. M. Whittell, The Literature of Australian Birds (Perth, 1954)
  • Australian Stamp Monthly, 15 (Dec 1944), p 755
  • Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, Proceedings, Oct 1945-46, p 15
  • Emu, 45 (Apr 1946) pt 3, p 255
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18 Mar 1899, 1 Jan 1936, 26, 29 Sept 1945
  • G. Whitley collection (Australian Museum, Sydney)
  • bankruptcy file 10/23251 (State Records New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Tess Kloot, 'Hull, Arthur Francis (1862–1945)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 30 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


10 October, 1862
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia


22 September, 1945 (aged 82)

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.