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John Riddoch (1827–1901)

by Leith G. MacGillivray

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with George Riddoch

John Riddoch (1827-1901), by Thomas J. J. Wyatt, 1869

John Riddoch (1827-1901), by Thomas J. J. Wyatt, 1869

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 9866

John Riddoch (1827-1901) and George Riddoch (1842-1919), pastoralists, were born on 27 October 1827 and on 10 August 1842 at Turriff, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, sons of John Riddoch, farmer, and his wife Helen, née Duncan. After the family migrated to Victoria in 1851-52, John junior was a carter, gold digger and buyer on the River Ovens goldfields. He used the money made from gold to become a Geelong shopkeeper and wine merchant. On 12 May 1854 he married Eliza King at Geelong. After borrowing heavily, in 1861 he paid £30,000 for Yallum Park, near Penola, South Australia. Here he built an Italianate mansion, surrounded with exotic trees and a forty-acre (16 ha) deer park; a genial host, he entertained princes, dukes, governors and Anthony Trollope. John was a loyal friend and patron of Adam Lindsay Gordon who wrote some of his poetry, including 'The Sick Stockrider', at Yallum.

George attended Mr Ross's Geelong Seminary before moving to South Australia in 1861. He partnered John in Nalang in the upper South-East, Weinteriga on the Darling River, New South Wales, and was Yallum's overseer. He was a member of the local road board in South Australia and the sheep and vermin board in New South Wales. On 26 August 1873 at Maryvale, Wimmera District, Victoria, he married Ann Eliza Wilson.

Through astute buying, by 1891 the Riddoch brothers held the freehold to over 75,000 acres (30,352 ha) of their run; it extended to the Coonawarra Fruit Colony (which John had founded in 1891) in the north, Glencoe in the west and almost to Mount Gambier in the south. As flock-masters of merinos and cross-breds, which suited the wet South-East, and as large-scale experimental farmers and graziers, they were staunch members of the South Australian Pastoralists' Union. Sometime president and vice-president, George negotiated shearers' wages and conditions in the 1890s; he represented the union in the Federated Employers' Council of South Australia and was a delegate to intercolonial conferences of the Federal Council of Pastoralists' Unions.

Both brothers sat in the South Australian parliament. John represented Victoria in the House of Assembly in 1865-70 and 1871-73. George held that seat in 1893-96, and represented Southern in the Legislative Council in 1901-10. Quiz commented in 1903 that he was unimpressive as a legislator, though fluent. With his waxed handlebar moustache and goatee, he was 'one of the best dressed members of the House of Fossils'. The government commissioned him in 1899 to investigate drainage and irrigation overseas; he published Irrigation and other matters in Egypt, America and India (1905).

In 1898 the Riddochs had sold Nalang and Weinteriga and dissolved their partnership in Glencoe. George took 20,000 acres (8094 ha) at the run's northern end near Kalangadoo, where in 1905 he built Koorine; he was locally known by some as the laird of Glencoe. Both brothers were members of the Adelaide Club and the South Australian Caledonian Society. They exemplify second-wave Scottish pastoralists in the South-East, buying the best land, making fortunes and living like the squirearchy, as they could not have at home. The Riddochs were Freemasons; George was president of the Mount Gambier Agricultural and Horticultural Society and a member of the National Defence League.

John Riddoch, 'the squire of Penola', was chairman of the district council, benefactor of Penola's Presbyterian church, its institute and library, and of the Mount Gambier Institute in which, in 1868, he had placed an art gallery; named after him, it houses his portrait by Tennyson Cole. He died on 15 July 1901 and was buried at Penola. His wife, three daughters and a son survived him and his estate was sworn for probate at almost £250,000.

George Riddoch died on 23 April 1919, predeceased by his wife and only child, a daughter. An Anglican, he was buried at Mount Gambier and his estate amounted to £121,471.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Cockburn, Pastoral Pioneers of South Australia, vol 2, (Adel, 1927)
  • G. and G. Clifford, The Grass is Green (Adel, 1980)
  • A. L. Gordon, The Last Letters, H. Anderson ed (Melb, 1970)
  • Australasian Pastoralists' Review, 15 Sept 1892, 15 Aug 1901, 16 May 1919
  • Quiz (Adelaide), 11 Dec 1903
  • Border Watch, 21 Nov 1891, 17 July 1901, 25 Apr 1919
  • Observer (Adelaide), 20 July 1901, 26 Apr 1919
  • L. G. MacGillivray, Land and People: European Land Settlement in the South East of South Australia, 1840-1940 (Ph.D. thesis, University of Adelaide, 1982)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Leith G. MacGillivray, 'Riddoch, John (1827–1901)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

John Riddoch (1827-1901), by Thomas J. J. Wyatt, 1869

John Riddoch (1827-1901), by Thomas J. J. Wyatt, 1869

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 9866

Life Summary [details]


27 October, 1827
Turriff, Aberdeenshire, Scotland


15 July, 1901 (aged 73)
Penola, South Australia, Australia

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