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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lancaster, Samuel (1852–1918)

by Kay Rollison

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

Samuel Lancaster (1852-1918), farmer and politician, was born on 6 August 1852 at Wigglesworth Hall, Wigglesworth, Yorkshire, England, son of Thomas Lancaster, farmer, and his wife Elizabeth Bowers, née Anderton. The Lancasters migrated to Victoria in 1860. Samuel was educated at Lancefield and spent two years in a general business at Echuca. When 21 he selected land with his father and uncle at Kyabram. Among the earliest settlers in the Goulburn Valley, they began with mixed farming but turned to fruit-growing when the area was irrigated in the 1880s. At Darraweit Guim on 12 March 1879 Samuel married Annie Amelia Francis with Wesleyan forms.

Lancaster's public activities centred on the Goulburn region. He was a member of the Rodney Shire Council in 1886-1918 and president in 1894-95, 1902-03 and 1911-12. He was a founding member of the Rodney Irrigation Trust and a commissioner of the Kyabram Urban Water Trust. He was for twenty-five years a justice of the peace. In 1900 he unsuccessfully contested the Legislative Assembly seat of Rodney. Then in November 1901, after Federation and a severe drought had revived demands for a smaller State parliament and retrenchment in government spending, he helped to found the Kyabram Reform League; its retrenchment and reform policy quickly gained popularity throughout Victoria. In April 1902 Lancaster chaired a large reform conference in Melbourne which set up the National Citizens' Reform League, backed by Melbourne conservative and free-trading interests, with Lancaster as president. After initial rebuffs from the Peacock government, a new ministry led by (Sir) William Irvine agreed in May 1902 to implement a policy satisfactory to the league. When Irvine called an election in October the league fully supported him. Lancaster again contested Rodney and was easily elected, as were a number of other league candidates.

In parliament Lancaster proved a faithful government supporter. He rarely spoke, and then only to urge greater retrenchment. When the drought broke, however, government finances improved and retrenchment became less popular. The league continued to co-operate with (Sir) Thomas Bent who succeeded Irvine in February 1904, but much of its force was gone. Lancaster's political career similarly declined: he was defeated in the election of June 1904 and again in 1907 and 1911.

Lancaster came from a strongly Methodist family. He was a prominent lay preacher and president of a local temperance organization, the Gilgila Band of Hope. He lived on his property, Gilgila, at Lancaster, a settlement named after his father, and was highly esteemed in the district for his active interest in local welfare schemes. He died of pneumonia on 26 December 1918. Survived by his wife, four daughters and two sons, he left an estate valued for probate at £32,157. He was buried in Kyabram cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • W. H. Bossence, Kyabram (Melb, 1963), and Tatura and the Shire of Rodney (Melb, 1969)
  • J. Rickard, Class and Politics (Canb, 1976)
  • Weekly Times (Melbourne), 19, 26 Apr 1902
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 26 Apr 1902
  • Argus (Melbourne), 28 Dec 1918
  • K. Rollison, Groups and Attitudes in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, 1900-1909 (Ph.D. thesis, La Trobe University, 1972).

Citation details

Kay Rollison, 'Lancaster, Samuel (1852–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 30 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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