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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Livingston, John (1857–1935)

by Leith G. MacGillivray

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

John Livingston (1857-1935), by Swiss Studios, 1900s

John Livingston (1857-1935), by Swiss Studios, 1900s

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23617642

John Livingston (1857-1935), stock-dealer and politician, was born on 19 September 1857 near Mount Gambier, South Australia, second son of the fourteen children of John Livingston, stockholder, and his wife Catherine, née Steele. His father had arrived in South Australia in 1846 and later bought Curratum in the south-east, where he built a school and engaged tutors to educate his children and those of his workmen and neighbours; he died in Victoria in 1886. John Livingston junior was educated at Curratum and then worked as a drover, stock-dealer and station manager in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. He married at Mount Gambier, on 11 June 1884, Eliza Dunn Paltridge, daughter of a local grazier and granddaughter of John Dunn.

In 1880 Livingston and Frank Paltridge had explored the mineral and farming potential of the Gascoyne River area of Western Australia; after Frank's death Livingston returned to South Australia. About 1890 he bought and lived briefly on the property Colleringa near Bourke, New South Wales, but returned to Mount Gambier to manage Burrungil for Paltridge & Co. In the mid-1890s he was farming at Benara and was an early member of the district council there. In 1898 he opened an auctioneering business at Mount Gambier and was mayor in 1899 before being elected that year to the House of Assembly for the seat of Victoria (later Victoria and Albert). He soon sat on a select committee investigating codlin moth regulations and later was active in bringing about a railway extension from Mount Gambier to Glencoe. He was defeated in 1906 but later that year won the House of Representatives seat of Barker, which he held as a conservative until 1922 when he resigned. In 1911 he had been a member of the parliamentary party which attended the coronation of King George V in London and next year, with two colleagues, he published an account of these travels, Three Australians Abroad. As a back-bencher he spoke occasionally on agricultural matters and consistently opposed plans to develop Canberra.

At Mount Gambier Livingston was chairman of the local branch of the South Australian Farmers' Union and president of the Stock Owners' Association. He was also an active council-member of the Mount Gambier School of Mines. He judged stock at agricultural shows and encouraged innovations that he had witnessed in Europe and America, especially with regard to production of beet sugar and the planting of pine forests, an industry developed by his sons John Malcolm and Frank, famous yachtsmen.

In 1894 as a director of the Mount Gambier Freezing Co., Livingston had prepared one of South Australia's first shipments of fat lambs; 500 were frozen at Newport, for export to London. He continued to work as an auctioneer until his retirement in 1925.

He valued his Scottish associations: a president of the Caledonian Society, later in life he had his portrait painted by John Longstaff in tartan kilt and cap; it is still in the family's possession. Livingston died in Melbourne on 4 September 1935. Survived by his wife, five daughters and two sons, he was buried in Lake Terrace cemetery, Mount Gambier.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Cockburn, Pastoral Pioneers of South Australia, vol 2 (Adel, 1927)
  • Border Watch, 21 Dec 1901, 1 Aug 1903, 5, 23 Sept 1935
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 7 Aug 1914, 5 Sept 1935
  • Argus (Melbourne), 5 Sept 1935
  • Sun-News Pictorial (Melbourne), 5 Sept 1935
  • Naracoorte Herald, 10 Sept 1935
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 14 Sept 1935
  • private information.

Citation details

Leith G. MacGillivray, 'Livingston, John (1857–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 20 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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