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Robert Dyce Reid (1829–1900)

by David Maxwell Whittaker

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with David Reid

David Reid (1820-1906) and Robert Dyce (1829-1900), pastoralists and politicians, were the first and third sons of David Reid, naval surgeon, and his wife Agnes, née Dyce. David was born probably at Plymouth, England, in December 1820 and came to New South Wales on 24 October 1823 in the Mariner with his parents and two sisters. The family settled at Inverary Park, near Bungonia. At first educated at home, he attended J. D. Lang's Australian College from 1831 and The King's School from 1834. Leaving school at 16, he took charge of his father's run in the Maneroo (Monaro) District but after meeting the overlander John Gardiner he decided to look for land south of the Murray River. Equipped by his father with some 500 head of cattle, 2 bullock wagons and teams and 6 assigned servants, he reached the Ovens River on 8 September 1838 the same day as Rev. Joseph Docker. David settled at Currargarmonge, near Wangaratta, held at first in his father's name and after 1840 as a family partnership; despite an attempted attack by Aboriginals he harvested the first wheat crop in December 1839. At the end of 1843 he took up land near Yackandandah. After his marriage to Mary Romaine Barber on 29 February 1844 at Marulan, New South Wales, he left the partnership and in 1847 took up a section of the family run of which Woorajay (Wooragee) formed a part. He built the first water driven flour-mill in the district on his Yackandandah run in 1845; his woolclip of 1848 was one of the first to be handled by R. Goldsbrough and was claimed to come from sheep descended from stock imported in the 1820s from George III's flock.

In 1852 gold was discovered in the May Day Hills, and the Ovens gold rush settlements of Beechworth, El Dorado, Woolshed, Sebastopol and Reid's Creek developed on Reid family land, ruining its pastoral value. For a time David sold meat to the miners and ran the mill, a store and a gold-buying business, but in 1853 sold his runs and turned profitably to cattle and horse-dealing and general trading between Melbourne and the Riverina and the diggings. In November 1856 he bought the lease of Barnawatha, south of Albury and built the Hermitage but much of the property was resumed for smallholdings. Going into politics, he held the Legislative Assembly seat of Murray from October 1859 to May 1862. At a recount after the 1861 election he was disqualified and did not stand again. In the early 1860s he bought Thelangerin on the Lachlan River, near Hay, financed an expedition to the north of Bourke and took up Delalah on the Paroo River. Foreclosed about 1864 he was forced to sell when land values were at their lowest. Near ruin, he took up his brother Robert's offer of land at Moorwatha near Howlong, New South Wales, and farmed there from 1865.

A magistrate for New South Wales from 1847, David was a foundation member of many local organizations in the Wangaratta and Albury districts. He was first president of the Agricultural and Pastoral Association in 1857 and in 1859 was a committee-man and trustee of the Ovens and Murray Agricultural and Horticultural Society. In the 1880s he was active in the formation of the farmers' union at Burrumbuttock and in 1893 was first vice-president of the Farmers and Settlers' Association of New South Wales. Always interested in racing, he was foundation president of the first race club in Albury and owned many horses; his bay Medora won at the first meeting held at Flemington, Melbourne, in March 1840. He was a Freemason. He died at Moorwatha on 7 May 1906 and was buried at Howlong, survived by his wife, six of their seven sons and two of their three daughters.

Robert Dyce was born on 3 August 1829 at Inverary Park. At 17 he joined the family in the Wangaratta district and later acquired Moorwatha in the Riverina. With his brothers he was involved in many local organizations and was the first vice-president of the Wangaratta Hospital committee. In 1874 he sold out before leaving for a tour of Europe. In a farewell address the residents of El Dorado affirmed their admiration for him as 'a man and a gentleman' who had always been 'more ready to assist than obstruct the Miner and the Free Selector'; who had accorded his services as magistrate with equal justice and faithfulness; whose views as president and councillor (from 1868) of the North Ovens Shire were sought and valued; and who had been active in encouraging outdoor amusements, 'more especially that of Racing, where so often we have with pleasure seen your colours in the front'.

After his return Robert made his home in Melbourne and in November 1876 was elected unopposed as member for Eastern Province in the Legislative Council. He 'affected to be a radical' and was minister without office in the Berry government from 5 August 1880 to 9 July 1881 and piloted the reform bill through the Upper House. On the defeat of Berry he resigned from the council to contest West Bourke in the Legislative Assembly. He won the seat of Fitzroy in February 1883 but was defeated in 1889, and represented Toorak from October 1894 to his retirement in September 1897. He was a member of the royal commissions on asylums (1884) and banking laws (1887). He died on 5 September 1900 at Armadale, Victoria, survived by his wife Caroline Esther, née Shadforth, and five daughters.

John, second son of David Reid and his wife Agnes, was born at Inverary Park in 1825 and joined the family partnership in the early 1840s. With Dr George Edward Mackay he built the first steam driven flour-mill in Wangaratta in 1856 and later took up Tabratong on the Bogan River in New South Wales. He married Mary Edith Smallman; they had three sons and two daughters. His home was at St Kilda, Victoria, and he died in Sydney on 1 February 1882 aged 62.

Curtis Alexander, youngest son of David Reid and his wife Agnes, was born at Inverary Park in 1838 and was in the family partnership. He made wine under the Reidsdale label. A good cricketer, he was the first paid secretary of the Melbourne Cricket Club in 1877-79. He married Sophie Dight. Aged 48, he died in Melbourne on 1 July 1886.

Their sister Agnes Cruickshank married Sir Francis Murphy and died in Melbourne on 27 January 1906 aged 88; and Emma Juana, born at sea in 1822, married A. B. Balcombe and died in Melbourne on 3 June 1907.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Joyce, A Homestead History, G. F. James ed (Melb, 1942)
  • W. A. Bayley, History of the Farmers and Settlers' Association of N.S.W. (Syd, 1957)
  • D. M. Whittaker, Wangaratta (Melb, 1963)
  • North-Eastern Historical Society, Newsletter, Apr 1968, Aug 1969
  • Australasian, 10 July 1886, 8 Sept 1900, 19 May 1906
  • Sydney Stock and Station Journal, 11 May 1906
  • Town and Country Journal, 16 May 1906
  • W. J. Griffiths, Surgeon David Reid, R.N., and His Descendants in Victoria (Melb, 1951, Genealogical Society of Victoria)
  • D. Reid, Notes of the Early Times in Australia … by an Old Pioneer, and David Reid papers (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

David Maxwell Whittaker, 'Reid, Robert Dyce (1829–1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


3 August, 1829
Bungonia, New South Wales, Australia


5 September, 1900 (aged 71)
Armadale, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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