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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lake, George Hingston (1847–1900)

by Nancy Robinson Whittle

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

George Hingston Lake (1847-1900), administrator, newspaper proprietor and politician, was born on 10 December 1847 in London, youngest child of Henry Lake, plasterer, and his wife Ann, née Trehane. He arrived in Adelaide from Devon in 1853 with his family and was educated at public and private schools.

In the 1860s the Lakes took up pastoral land in south-west New South Wales. George Lake is reputed to have been the first to take a team through the Barrier Ranges, reaching Menindee via Cumbummbuck Creek on which the later town of Silverton developed. Five years of drought discouraged him, and he returned to South Australia to study law while articled to his brother James.

Lake abandoned law to work for four years as an accountant with the Port Adelaide timber merchants and contractors, Lake & Reynolds. In 1878 he moved to the rapidly growing frontier settlement of Jamestown in the northern highlands of South Australia where he became an insurance agent, general merchant and manager of a Clare solicitor's office. When the corporation of Jamestown was formed that year Lake was appointed town clerk, with (Sir) John Cockburn as mayor. Cockburn later said of him, 'He was as good a Town Clerk as was ever found in S.A. He performed his duties with an intelligence and vigilance unsurpassed'. He was a genial, unassuming man who was an active Anglican. In 1881 he bought the Jamestown Review, resigned as town clerk, and changed the paper's name to the Agriculturist and Review. Country readers expected a wide reportage of news and editorials of 'fire and brimstone'. They got both from Lake.

Seven years later he became the first secretary, and later manager, of the South Australian Farmers' Co-operative Union, formed at Jamestown by a determined band of producers seeking better returns. Lake's newspaper office became the headquarters of an organization which grew from being a pioneer co-operative enterprise, to a large-scale business with branches throughout the colony. Of that difficult formative period, a leading bank manager later said, 'The Farmer's Union was the best managed little company in the colony'.

Spurred on by his friendship with Cockburn, by this time premier and chief secretary, Lake won the junior seat of Burra, as a 'moderate Protectionist', in the 1890 House of Assembly election. Handing over as editor (but retaining the ownership of his paper), Lake continued as secretary-manager of the rapidly expanding Farmers' Union until 1895. By 1896 his health was failing and he declined to re-contest the Burra seat. During his six years as a politician he had been a comparatively undistinguished back-bencher. The South Australian Register described him as 'painstaking', following in the footsteps of his solicitor brother who had represented Barossa in 1871-75.

Lake died of cerebro-vascular disease on 31 October 1900 at Malvern. His wife Marion, daughter of William Rogers, a member of the Upper House, and one son survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • W. F. Morrison, The Aldine History of South Australia, vol 2 (Adel, 1890)
  • The South Australian Farmers' Co-operative Union Limited (Adel, 1919)
  • N. Robinson, Change on Change (Leabrook, SA, 1971)
  • Parliamentary Debates (South Australia), 1890, p 183
  • Pictorial Australia, 1890, p 62, 141
  • SA Farmers' Union, Farm, 1 Sept 1932, 5 June 1963
  • Agriculturist and Review, 25 July 1883, 4 July, 10 Oct 1888, 16 Apr 1890, 7 Nov 1900, 4 June 1909
  • Register (Adelaide), 1 Nov 1900
  • private information
  • South Australia Farmers' Union files, Robinson Collection (National Trust Museum, Jamestown, South Australia).

Citation details

Nancy Robinson Whittle, 'Lake, George Hingston (1847–1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 24 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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