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Francis Ormond (1829–1889)

by Don Chambers

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Francis Ormond (1829-1889), by unknown engraver

Francis Ormond (1829-1889), by unknown engraver

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, A/S09/04/81/117

Francis Ormond (1829-1889), grazier and philanthropist, was born on 23 November 1829 in Aberdeen, Scotland, only son of the three children of Francis Ormond (d.1875), mariner, and his wife Isabella, née Esson. The family moved to Liverpool where Francis had an elementary education at Tyzack's Academy. His father made several voyages to Australia and in command of the John Bull with free immigrants arrived at Melbourne in January 1840. On returning to England he bought the barque Tuscan and sailed for Port Phillip with his family. In the winter of 1843 he leased twenty acres (8 ha) at the site of Shelford on the River Leigh from the Clyde Co. for seven years, agreeing to improve the land and build a substantial inn. Known as Ormonds or the Settler's Arms, it was the first inn on the route from Geelong to Hamilton and prospered accordingly. As a stable-boy and bookkeeper young Francis helped with the inn, gained much experience with livestock and learned to manage the sheep runs that his father acquired. In 1851 the 'Skipper' sold the inn and near Skipton bought some 30,000 acres (12,148 ha) of Borriyalloak station, which Francis managed until he took over the property in 1854. Renewed pastures after the 1851 bushfires, expanding goldfields markets and his skill in breeding stock and managing stations provided the basis for the wealth that he later poured into philanthropic ventures. Among other properties he acquired sections of Bangal station across the river from Borriyalloak and bought in 1881 a large section of James Balfour's 45,000-acre (18,211 ha) Round Hill station, calling his part Kirndeen, and later other properties in New South Wales. He seems to have had no investments apart from land and livestock.

On 26 November 1851 at Geelong Ormond married Mary, daughter of Dr George Greeves. By 1853 he was a territorial magistrate and by 1876 had joined the migration of successful squatters to city mansions. At Toorak he helped to found the Presbyterian Church and became an elder. On 6 July 1881 his wife died at their home, Ognez, Toorak; his memorial donation to St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne enabled the completion of the central and western towers. On 1 October 1885 at the Presbyterian Church, Regent Square, London, he married Mary Irvine, daughter of Ebenezer Oliphant, a grazier. Neither marriage had issue but the Ormonds adopted a boy and two girls, whom they carefully educated and took on world tours.

Ormond's earliest ventures in educational philanthrophy were the provision of a Presbyterian theological scholarship in 1872 and the financing of printed sermons for rural distribution. His respect for education was closely associated with religion, morality and successful living. In 1877 he donated £300 to the appeal for a proposed Presbyterian college in the University of Melbourne for theological training and residence. Becoming involved in the scheme, he had paid for the completed original building by 1881 and later made additions till over £112,000 (over £40,000 during his life) of his money was invested in Ormond College. Another special interest was the education of working men, and in England and on the Continent after 1860 Ormond took particular note of institutions for technical education. In 1881 he began his long struggle to found a technical institute in Melbourne, but his toil and doggedness did not succeed until the Working Men's College was founded in 1887. He contributed £20,500 to this project and as its chairman spent much anxiety and effort. He was also a contributor to the foundation of the Gordon Institute of Technology in Geelong. Music was another special interest. In 1882 he subscribed to the foundation of the Royal College of Music in London and in the 1880s tried to found a college of music in Melbourne; when other assistance was not forthcoming he gave £20,000 to found the Ormond chair of music at the university.

In 1882-89 Ormond was a representative of South-Western Province in the Victorian Legislative Council. At Skipton he had helped in 1855 to found an Agricultural and Pastoral Association which was later absorbed by the society at Ballarat. He was appointed to the royal commission on education in 1881-84; he refused to be its chairman because of his known advocacy of religious education in state schools but served on the commission, signing three reports. He encouraged appointment of the Technological Commission which in 1886-88 recommended the introduction of technical education to state schools. He was also chairman of the Council of the Presbyterian Ladies' College. On his fifth visit to Europe Ormond had a rapid physical breakdown ascribed to overwork and died at Pau, South France, on 5 May 1889. His body was sent to Melbourne and after a service at Scots Church and a large procession to Spencer Street was taken by train to Geelong where he was buried on 7 September. He was survived by his wife who died in 1925.

Ormond left an estate of nearly £2 million, three-quarters of it in Victoria and the rest in New South Wales. His will provided £5000 each to the Melbourne Hospital, the Benevolent Asylum, the Orphan Asylum, Deaf and Dumb Asylum, Blind Asylum (Ormond Hall), Sailors' Home, Alfred Hospital, Children's Hospital, Geelong Hospital, Geelong Orphans' Asylum, Ballarat Hospital, Ballarat Benevolent Asylum, and £1000 each to St George's Presbyterian Church, Geelong, and Toorak Presbyterian Church, in addition to his large educational bequests.

Proud of his achievement in rising from stable-boy to wealthy Christian philanthropist, Ormond sometimes aroused the jealousy of other successful graziers. Liberal both in politics and religion, he tried to overcome those class divisions which appeared to threaten the colony he loved by educating the masses to enlightenment and consequent contentment, and by providing an example of social service to his wealthy peers.

A Melbourne suburb was named after him and Point Ormond after his father. Portraits are at Ormond College, a statue is in the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and a bust at the Gordon Institute, Geelong.

Select Bibliography

  • C. S. Ross, Francis Ormond (Melb, 1912)
  • P. L. Brown, Clyde Company Papers, vols 3-7 (1958-71)
  • C. F. Macdonald, ‘Francis Ormond’, Victorian Historical Magazine, 19 (1941-42)
  • D. Chambers, ‘Francis Ormond’, Ormond Papers, vol 1 (1965)
  • Australasian, 11 May, 14 Sept, 21 Dec 1889.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Don Chambers, 'Ormond, Francis (1829–1889)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 20 May 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

Francis Ormond (1829-1889), by unknown engraver

Francis Ormond (1829-1889), by unknown engraver

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, A/S09/04/81/117

Life Summary [details]


23 November, 1829
Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland


5 May, 1889 (aged 59)
Pau, France

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