Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Raine (1786–1837)

by M. J. Sheehan

This article was published:

John Raine (1786?-1837), speculator and merchant, was the brother of Captain Thomas Raine. He was educated at Westminster School and articled to solicitors in Chancery Lane, London. Bearing a letter of recommendation from Lord Erskine, he arrived at Hobart Town with his wife, mother and brother in November 1819 in the Regalia, of which he said he was the 'principal freighter'. He went on to Sydney and there chartered the ship and equipped her for whale fishing from the Derwent. After the partial failure of this enterprise he sent her to Macquarie Island to collect sea-elephant oil, which in August 1821 he took to England in her, together with sixty-one bales of wool, the first exported from Van Diemen's Land, where up to this time it had been badly neglected. Before leaving he had begun to run voyages with passengers and merchandise between Sydney and Hobart, and these he carried on with several ships until his death. He also received a grant of 2000 acres (809 ha) in the Derwent valley.

When Raine reached London, where he stayed in Coram Street, Brunswick Square, he received from the Society of Arts and Commerce their 1823 silver Ceres medal, for his efforts with the wool, and their large silver medal for the sea-elephant oil. He claimed that he deserved another for tanning leather and sought an allotment at Hobart on which to set up a steam-engine to run a flour and timber mill and to pump water from the Derwent for the town supply, but this was refused on the advice of Commissioner John Thomas Bigge. However, in September 1822 he succeeded in his application to be made a notary public with permission to practise in British dependencies. He sailed for Sydney in his ship Thalia in May 1823.

For the rest of his life Raine lived chiefly in New South Wales, though making occasional visits to Hobart. In April 1825 he was granted twenty acres (8 ha) at Parramatta on which to build his much desired steam flour-mill. This he ran in conjunction with a bakery, a general store and a stage coach service to Sydney. His farm, though only fifty acres (20 ha), was said to be a model and in 1827 he leased Samuel Marsden's Ranghaoo estate, changing its name to Westgrove. Though twice refused admission as an attorney Raine set himself up as a notary public with Edward Smith Hall, was a Quarter Sessions juror, a subscriber to the Benevolent Society, the School of Industry and the Dispensary, and a supporter of the Parramatta races. But he was often involved in litigation both in Van Diemen's Land and in New South Wales and in 1828 was drawn into a quarrel over a dam which a neighbour built on Raine's land without giving him compensation. Raine threatened to divert the dam water and when John Macarthur sent a party to stop him 'acts of violence' followed. Raine sued Macarthur but though the court dismissed the case, for 'Raine was not free of blame', Macarthur, who had taken part in the riot and tried to shelter himself as a magistrate, was ordered to pay Raine's costs. In 1829-30 Raine suffered severely from the depression in the colony and had to sell much of his land and livestock and to transfer the mill to his mother. In 1834 a libel action led to his being briefly imprisoned. After this he resumed his seafaring activities. He made several voyages to the Derwent and died at sea on 20 December 1837 when his ship Schah was driven ashore by a heavy swell after a fierce gale; Raine's cabin-door could not be opened and the ship was abandoned. Reporting his death, Bent's News described him as a 'strange eccentric man … Liberal to the extreme, he expended several fortunes in speculation'. Raine was married and had at least one son John (b.1817) and one daughter Elizabeth (b.1820).

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 3, vols 3-4
  • J. K. S. Houison, ‘The Darling Mills, Parramatta’, Journal and Proceedings (Parramatta and District Historical Society), vol 3, 1926, pp 123-33
  • manuscript catalogue and newspaper indexes under John Raine (State Library of New South Wales)
  • CSO 1 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

M. J. Sheehan, 'Raine, John (1786–1837)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 23 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




20 December, 1837 (aged ~ 51)
at sea

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