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James Ivory (1820–1887)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published:

James Ivory (1820-1887), pastoralist and diarist, was born on 10 June 1820 probably at Edinburgh, one of the four sons of James Ivory, Scottish judge, and his wife Anne, née Laurie. In October 1840 he arrived in Sydney with a friend, David Graham, and in January 1843 they took out a squatting licence for Eskdale run near Ipswich in Queensland. They slowly acquired more land until about 1848 when the partners separated, Graham taking up the Tabragalba run leaving Ivory with Eskdale. In 1853 Ivory was joined by his brother, Francis Jeffrey, and in September 1854 left for Scotland where in 1855 he married a cousin Harriette Jane Oakley Laurie at Burntisland, Fife.

Ivory returned to Queensland in July 1856 without his wife and infant son. His affairs prospered and he took up land at Bundamba where by 1879 he held over 18,000 acres (7284 ha). He experimented with pastures, began to grow sugar cane and other tropical crops and invested heavily in the cotton boom of the early 1860s. He sailed again for Scotland in August 1862 and returned in August 1864. In February 1868 he bought the valuable Bremer Mills property and soon went to Scotland for his wife and family. While waiting in Sydney for a ship he saw the shooting of the Duke of Edinburgh at Clontarf. Ivory left for Queensland in October 1868 with his wife and two young children, leaving his eldest son, James, at school in England, but ten years' separation had alienated his wife and almost from the time he reached Brisbane he was beset by family friction. James arrived in 1875 and sided with his mother but was later forbidden the house while a nephew who joined him in the late 1870s was imprisoned for fraud. Despite the discovery of coal on his property, Ivory's affairs steadily became more confused and, when he died at Ipswich on 11 March 1887, his trustees had to seek a private Act to enable them to wind up his estate.

Ivory was cultured and intelligent, interested in music, literature and foreign affairs. Despite a strong puritanical streak he drank moderately and raced his own horses. From the early 1850s he wrote long letters in diary form to his family in Scotland and the surviving 1275 pages in the Mitchell Library are an invaluable record of a Queensland squatter from 1862 to 1883.

His brother, Francis Jeffrey, was born in 1831 probably in Edinburgh and worked on Eskdale till 1856 when he and another brother, Alexander Laurie, bought Eidsvold station from the Archer brothers. From December 1873 to November 1878 Francis represented the Burnett in the Legislative Assembly; in 1879 he was called to the Legislative Council. In 1881 he was appointed clerk assistant in the assembly and in 1893 became serjeant-at-arms as well. When gold was discovered at Eidsvold, the property was heavily mortgaged and in 1887 was taken over by the Australian and New Zealand Mortgage Co. Ivory died in Brisbane on 21 January 1896, leaving a block of land, a life insurance policy and some uncollected debts to his wife Hester Mary, née Edwards, whom he had married in 1881.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1890, 1, 454
  • Piper papers, vol 2 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • depasturing licences (State Records New South Wales)
  • yearly returns of licences for occupation (State Records New South Wales)
  • cattle mortgage books (Queensland State Archives)
  • pastoral rent registers (Queensland State Archives).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Ivory, James (1820–1887)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 30 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]


10 June, 1820
Edinburgh, Mid-Lothian, Scotland


11 March, 1887 (aged 66)
Ipswich, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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