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Edward David Ogilvie (1814–1896)

by Martha Rutledge

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Edward David Stewart Ogilvie (1814-1896), by Tom Roberts, 1894-95

Edward David Stewart Ogilvie (1814-1896), by Tom Roberts, 1894-95

State Library of New South Wales, Original : ML 687

Edward David Stewart Ogilvie (1814-1896), pastoralist, was born on 25 July 1814 at Tottenham, Middlesex, England, son of William Ogilvie, naval officer, and his wife Mary, née White. With free passages William sailed with his family in the convict ship Grenada for Sydney, arriving on 23 January 1825. He settled at Merton, a 2000-acre (800 ha) grant on the Upper Hunter and later extended his holdings to the Liverpool Plains. Educated by his mother, Edward was soon working on his father's stations and later managed the sheep. In 1840, after the ex-convict Richard Craig had refused to let them join Dr John Dobie's party which he was guiding to the Clarence, Edward pushed on with his brother Frederick and an Aborigine and reached the Clarence at Tabulum ahead of Craig. Downstream Edward took up fifty-six miles (90 km) on both sides of the river and later named the runs Yulgilbar. On his return to Merton to collect their flocks he found an easier route by Tenterfield.

The two brothers and a 'new chum' C. G. Tindal settled at Yulgilbar. The Aborigines were hostile but Edward became fluent in the local dialect and at a parley explained that he only wanted the grass and gave them complete hunting rights on his run including honey. They soon joined with Aborigines in wrestling matches and races and found their 'sable friends no mean antagonists'. Ogilvie planted lucerne and clover and was soon making palatable wine. In 1847 he was appointed a magistrate and bought an 'old edition of Blackstone'. However, Tindal told his father that Ogilvie 'like many good managers, is too fond of having everything done his own way'. By 1850 Yulgilbar was about 300 sq. miles (777 km²) and included Fairfield, a 100,000-acre (40,469 ha) cattle station in the mountains. When Ogilvie lost his European hands to the goldfields he employed Aborigines and Chinese and negotiated with William Kirchner, consul for Austria, Hamburg and Prussia, to import German shepherds. In 1853 he started buying freehold blocks on his runs.

In August 1854 Ogilvie sailed for Europe; he described his experiences, visits to the war front in the Crimea and his enchantment with Florence in his Diary of Travels in Three Quarters of the Globe, which he published in London in 1856 under the pseudonym 'An Australian Squatter'. For two years he travelled widely buying stock and engaging German craftsmen for Yulgilbar. At Donnybrook Church near Dublin on 2 September 1858 he married Theodosia, daughter of Rev. William de Burgh. He returned with his wife in 1859. Next year the foundation stone for the 'Big House' was laid: completed in 1866 for a cost of £8000 it was built from local serpentine and sandstone round a courtyard with a crenellated roof and two towers. Ogilvie was his own architect.

In the 1860s Ogilvie found the country too wet for sheep and successfully switched to cattle. Unpopular in Grafton, he developed the new town of Lawrence and built his own wharf to facilitate shipping his cattle to Sydney. He was a director of the Clarence and Richmond Rivers' Steam Navigation Co. His business activities in Lawrence were managed by Thomas Bawden who later went bankrupt. Ogilvie had to pay despite Sir William Manning as counsel. In 1863-89 Ogilvie was a member of the Legislative Council where he contributed little. Increasingly quarrelsome, he fought with successive managers, and with the Department of Lands over boundaries, pursuing lawsuits against any who annoyed him. He took active measures to discourage selectors on Yulgilbar but could do little about the miners. An early member of the Australian Club, he was a founding member of the Linnean Society of New South Wales in 1875.

In late 1884 Ogilvie took his wife and eight daughters to England; Theodosia died on 23 March 1886 at Torquay. Fascinated by heraldry and his ancestry, he made several visits to Florence and became a close friend of the poet, Robert Browning. Ogilvie and his children were all musical. On 21 December 1890 he married Alicia Georgiana Loftus Tottenham, whose sister was the wife of (Sir) Alexander Onslow. They lived at the Villa Margherita, Florence, and entertained in the grand manner. Threatened by the 1893 depression and banking crisis, they returned to Yulgilbar. Ogilvie died at Fernside, Bowral, on 25 January 1896 and was buried at Yulgilbar with Anglican rites. He was survived by two sons and eight daughters of his first wife and by his second wife. His estate was sworn for probate at nearly £116,000; he left Yulgilbar and a third of its income to his sixth daughter Mabel, wife of Charles Lillingston.

Portraits by Pietro Milani at Florence in 1859 and by Tom Roberts at Yulgilbar in December 1894 are held by his descendants and in the Mitchell Library.

Select Bibliography

  • L. T. Daley, Men and a River (Melb, 1966)
  • G. Farwell, Squatter's Castle (Melb, 1973)
  • Select Committee on Scab in Sheep, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Council, New South Wales), 1854, 2
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1872-73, 1, 51, 1875-76, 2, 919, 1876-77, 3, 343, 1878-79, 1, 183, 1879-80, 5, 784
  • R. L. Dawson, ‘Pioneering days in the Clarence River district’, JRAHS, 20 (1934)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 4 June 1842, 22 Jan 1923
  • Town and Country Journal, 15 July 1871
  • K. Bland, Notes About my Grandparents (State Library of New South Wales)
  • M. Bundock, Memoir of E. D. S. Ogilvie, Clarence River Historical Society records, box 1 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Tindal family letter-books and Yulgilbar station diaries (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Ogilvie family papers (University of New England Archives).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Ogilvie, Edward David (1814–1896)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 15 July 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

Edward David Stewart Ogilvie (1814-1896), by Tom Roberts, 1894-95

Edward David Stewart Ogilvie (1814-1896), by Tom Roberts, 1894-95

State Library of New South Wales, Original : ML 687

Life Summary [details]


25 July, 1814
London, Middlesex, England


25 January, 1896 (aged 81)
Bowral, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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