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Peck, Harry Huntington (1860–1943)

by David Peck

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Harry Huntington Peck (1860-1943), auctioneer and stock agent, was born on 9 October 1860 at Gisborne, Victoria, eldest son of American-born John Murray Peck and his wife Louisa Ellen, née Roberts. Harry was educated at Scotch College, Melbourne. He joined his father in the stock and station agency of Peck, Hudson & Raynor at the beginning of 1878, obtaining his auctioneer's licence in 1884 and holding it for a record fifty-four years; when the partnership was dissolved in 1887, the firm became J. M. Peck & Son. On 27 October 1887 at Essendon Harry married Annie Matilda Wilson. They lived at Hiawatha, adjoining his father's property at Pascoe Vale.

After their father's death in 1903, Harry and his brother R.O. (Dick), who had joined the agency in 1890, carried on the firm. In 1922 it was incorporated in the Australian Mercantile Land & Finance Co. Ltd. Harry managed its stock department until his retirement in December 1937, after which he was an adviser until 1940.

Regarded as the doyen of Victorian stock salesmen, Peck was greatly respected in the stock industry of his day, not only for his integrity but for his broad vision, his infinite capacity for work and attention to detail. Tall, with a commanding presence, distinctively dressed and usually sporting a flower in his buttonhole, he 'radiated the charm and vigour of a singularly magnetic and lovable personality'. For more than half a century he was a spectacular figure at Newmarket, Melbourne's huge central stockyards. He never refused help to those 'down on their luck'; though kindly and tolerant he was a shrewd but unmalicious observer of men and events. His sense of humour was displayed in his Memoirs of a Stockman (Melbourne, 1942), originally published in serial form in Stock and Land in 1939-41.

A member of the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria (1900-42), Peck was a senior vice-president and chairman of the Associated Stock and Station Agents of Melbourne in 1932-39. For thirty-five years he was chief sheep steward at the Melbourne Royal Show, recognized as the leading authority on and well-known judge of British breeds in Australia. He was a member of the federal council of the Australian Society of Breeders of British Sheep, was prominent in establishing its flock book and founded the Shropshire section. He took a particular interest in the development of an export lamb trade. Peck also was familiar with most of the cattle properties in Victoria and the Riverina.

Peck travelled widely within Australia, making trips to Central Australia in 1910, and again in 1920 with W. T. Manifold and W. K. Mackinnon by car. In 1926 he visited Britain and the Continent. He died on 24 July 1943 at Wangaratta and was buried in the family grave at Will Will Rook cemetery, Broadmeadows. The funeral service was held at the Ascot Vale Presbyterian Church where Peck had worshipped during his lifetime. A son and three daughters survived him. A portrait by Aileen Dent is held by the family.

Select Bibliography

  • Australasian Insurance and Banking Record, Jan 1938
  • private information.

Citation details

David Peck, 'Peck, Harry Huntington (1860–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/peck-harry-huntington-8006/text13951, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 20 September 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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