Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Hurley (1796–1882)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published:

John Hurley (1796-1882), innkeeper, pastoralist and politician, was born in Limerick, Ireland, son of John Hurley and his wife Mary, née Hassett. In October 1823 he was sentenced in Limerick to seven years' transportation for insurrection and in 1824 reached Sydney in the Prince Regent. By 1828 he had been assigned to Captain Terence Murray on whose Lake George grants he worked and became superintendent. He was freed from servitude in 1830 and by 1832 had become an innkeeper at Campbelltown. He operated coaches from the King's Arms and was also agent for others in 1839. In 1841 he moved to the Royal Hotel and by 1844 had other hotels in the area.

Hurley bought land near Campbelltown where he bred horses and had a stud of Clydesdales at Mount Gilead. 'So favourably was his name known for the quality of his stock, that his horses were eagerly sought for the Indian market'. A keen sportsman, he sent his horses to local race meetings and from 1836 was judge at the Campbelltown races.

Under the 1836 Act Hurley took out his first pastoral lease in 1837 and later others between the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Rivers. By 1849 he had 40,000 acres (16,188 ha) at Houlahan's Creek and 50,000 acres (20,235 ha) known as the Cootamundra run on which the town was founded in 1861. Hurley also provided its coach service. Apart from visits to his runs he lived in Campbelltown where he was a member of the first District Council and Roads Trust. In 1859 he was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Narellan but defeated in 1860; he held the seat in 1864-69 and in 1874-80. In the assembly he was a 'roads and bridges' member. He never introduced a bill and although he claimed to have voted in most major divisions in the 1860s he rarely did so in the 1870s. He called himself a liberal and free trader and advocated 'pensions to the old and infirm', triennial parliaments and amendments to the Land Acts.

After defeat in the 1880 election Hurley retired to his home, Alpha House. He was known as 'a friend of the poor' and was reputed to have assisted Caroline Chisholm. Aged 86 he died at Campbelltown on 27 November 1882 from senile decay. Predeceased by his wife Mary, née Byrne, whom he had married at Campbelltown on 10 January 1837, he was survived by three sons and three daughters, to whom he left £25,303.

Select Bibliography

  • W. F. Morrison, The Aldine Centennial History of New South Wales, vol 2 (Syd, 1888)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1866, 1, 737
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 16 Dec 1869
  • manuscript and printed catalogues, and newspaper indexes under John Hurley (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Hurley, John (1796–1882)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 23 May 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]


Limerick, Ireland


27 November, 1882 (aged ~ 86)
Campbelltown, Sydney, New South Wales, 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.

Passenger Ship
Convict Record

Crime: insurrection
Sentence: 7 years