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Duncan McIntyre (1831–1866)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published:

Duncan McIntyre (1831-1866), by unknown engraver , 1865 (after a photograph by A. McDonald)

Duncan McIntyre (1831-1866), by unknown engraver , 1865 (after a photograph by A. McDonald)

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN25/07/65/9

Duncan McIntyre (1831-1866), pastoralist and explorer, was born in Argyll, Scotland, son of James McIntyre, farmer, and his wife Mary, née MacDougall. He was probably orphaned when young and adopted by a relation, Archibald McIntyre, whose son Donald was often supposed to be Duncan's brother. McIntyre arrived in Port Phillip about 1849 with his foster parents and worked as station superintendent at Bullock Creek, Glengower, near Castlemaine, with another relation, Donald Campbell. On 5 March 1862 at St James's Cathedral, Melbourne, he married Mary Clyde Morris.

In mid-1863 Duncan and Donald McIntyre decided to seek a run in the new country round the Gulf of Carpentaria. Travelling overland, they found the Upper Darling in flood in January 1864 and learned that Queensland had imposed a quarantine restriction on stock imports. While awaiting an entry permit McIntyre spent five months exploring the Paroo, Bulloo and Barcoo Rivers, then took a small party to Cooper's Creek. As his permit had not arrived he took one European and three Aboriginals on an exploring trip to the Gulf. On his way he found two very old horses and two trees marked with 'L' many years earlier. In December 1864 he left Donald to take up the station and returned to Victoria where he reported that he had found traces of the long-lost Leichhardt.

Although sceptics suggested that both trees and horses may have been connected with William Landsborough rather than with Leichhardt, his report convinced Ferdinand Mueller who organized a committee of wealthy ladies, raised finance in both Melbourne and Europe, and commissioned McIntyre to lead the Ladies' Leichhardt Search Expedition for a fee of £1500.

Leaving final arrangements to his second-in-command, Dr James P. Murray, McIntyre left for the north and on 21 August 1865 at Mount Murchison took over seven men, forty-two horses and seven camels from Murray. After a long dry stage they reached Cooper's Creek on 26 November but found it dry and had to return to the previous camp in some distress. While McIntyre searched for water, Murray lost his head, served medicinal brandy to the men and lost most of the horses and much equipment. On his return McIntyre discharged Murray and other culprits. After a long rest he left for the Gulf on 9 February 1866 reaching Gibson's station in the Gilliat River late in March. From 20 April to 4 May he camped sixteen miles (26 km) from Burketown and often visited the township where an epidemic of a peculiarly virulent fever was raging. He reported on 4 May that he was following rumours of a white man among the Aboriginals but on 23 May fell ill while on his way to a base camp on the Gilliat River. He died on 4 June 1866 and was buried on what later became Dalgonally station, held by Donald McIntyre till 1907.

McIntyre was accused of using the search committee to finance his own search for land and David Blair in his Cyclopaedia of Australia compared him with Robert O'Hara Burke. Neither of these views is fair. McIntyre was thoroughly honest and a far better bushman than Burke.

Select Bibliography

  • J. N. McIntyre, White Australia: The Empty North (Syd, 1920)
  • Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen, 1865, 1866
  • Age (Melbourne), 23 Dec 1864, 3 Jan 1865
  • Pastoral Times, 31 Dec 1864
  • Brisbane Courier, 12 Jan 1865, supplement
  • Illustrated Melbourne Post, 18 July 1865
  • Australian News for Home Readers, 25 July 1865, 25 Apr 1866
  • Weekly Herald (Brisbane), 2 June 1866
  • Australasian, 21, 25 July, 22 Sept, 8 Dec 1866
  • CO 234/15/257.

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'McIntyre, Duncan (1831–1866)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 24 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Duncan McIntyre (1831-1866), by unknown engraver , 1865 (after a photograph by A. McDonald)

Duncan McIntyre (1831-1866), by unknown engraver , 1865 (after a photograph by A. McDonald)

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN25/07/65/9

Life Summary [details]


Argyll, Scotland


4 June, 1866 (aged ~ 35)
Queensland, Australia

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