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Askin Morrison (1800–1876)

by Peter Bolger

This article was published:

Askin Morrison, by J. W. Beattie

Askin Morrison, by J. W. Beattie

State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125647529

Askin Morrison (1800-1876), merchant, was born of Scottish ancestry on the family estate of Gortmore at Augher, County Tyrone, Ireland. He joined the Orelia in London for Hobart Town, landed with his merchandise on 9 May 1829 and soon made a handsome profit from the speculation. After selecting land at St Peter's Pass, near Oatlands, he continued his trading and developed lucrative connexions between the colonies, China and Britain. Two of his best-known voyages were those in the Cleopatra from Dublin and the brig Resource from Canton. He was reputed to have made a profit of £10,000 from a cargo of tea he brought from China in the brig Caroline. By 1835 he had given up sailing with cargoes and was settled as a Hobart merchant, owning and chartering ships for whaling, exporting wool and oil, and importing China tea and Mauritius sugar.

Morrison applied his profits in land ownership; he bought the beautiful property of Runneymede in an isolated but fertile valley twenty miles (32 km) east of Hobart and another at Rosny on the Derwent estuary. He acquired other farming land in the colony to the extent of not less than 12,000 acres (4856 ha), sharing with various partners such as John Walker, G. C. Clark and Duncan McPherson. His other speculations proved less successful than shipping and land ownership. His ferry Twins (sometimes called Kangaroo or Double Guts), a powerful but noisy double-engined steamer, ran across the Derwent at a loss for four years before he gave it to Captain Taylor in 1863. He also suffered loss from his part in the Mersey-Deloraine Tramway project, and a share in Peter Barnard & Co. of Launceston was said to have cost him £78,000. He was engaged in such varied business as the Sorell Steam Navigation Co. which intended to run a steam-powered barge up the shallow Coal River to near Richmond in 1854, the Hobart Town Gas Co., the Domain shipyard, the Union Bank, the Hobart Savings Bank, and the Hobart and Launceston Marine Insurance Co. His tender for the construction of the first Sorell Causeway was accepted by the government and he completed this valuable link between Hobart and the Tasmanian east coast.

Money and property brought their train of honour and office. Morrison was made a justice of the peace in 1837, was nominated by Lieutenant-Governor Denison to the Legislative Council, and after responsible government in 1856 represented Sorell in the House of Assembly until 1860. A leading figure in Hobart's business coterie and member of the 1846 commission for lighting and paving the streets, Morrison helped to form the Tasmanian Club, was a director of the Chamber of Commerce and treasurer of the Royal Exchange Association. Long prominent in Hobart he was neither voluble nor outstanding as an organizer, and though co-opted to serve as a councillor on the Royal Hobart Regatta Committee, the Acclimatization Society, the Art Treasures Exhibition, the Gardeners' and Amateurs' Horticultural Society and St Mary's Subscription Hospital, he was generally passive and retiring. His interests were widely dispersed but his special enthusiasm outside business was the breeding of fine horses. He lived partly at Runneymede and at times in his town house near his business on the New Wharf where the thoroughfare is named after him. In 1871 he sold his city business to Macfarlane Bros. He died in his town house on 29 May 1876, aged 76 and unmarried. From his lands at St Peter's Pass he left an annuity of £100 to his cousin Andrew Morrison, and legacies to other relations. He signed his will with a mark.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania, vol 1 (Hob, 1900)
  • F. C. Green, The Tasmanian Club, 1861-1961 (Hob, 1961)
  • A. Rowntree, Battery Point Today and Yesterday (Hob, 1968)
  • Mercury (Hobart), 31 May, 10 June 1876
  • W. Sorell papers NP 332/136 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

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Citation details

Peter Bolger, 'Morrison, Askin (1800–1876)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 18 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

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