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Thomas junior Shaw (1827–1907)

by Mary Turner Shaw

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Thomas Shaw junior (1827-1907), pastoralist, was born on 27 August 1827 at Birstall near Leeds, Yorkshire, England, son of Thomas Shaw, wool expert, and his wife Ann, née Turner. He came with his father to Sydney in 1843 and began his country education on Robert Campbell's station, Duntroon. At 20 he overlanded 700 head of cattle to Adelaide. He later joined his father who was then classing and buying sheep in the Western District of Victoria; by the early 1850s after some months on the goldfields and riding with the mails between Cressy and Mortlake, he undertook commissions for stock-owners and also handled and broke in their horses.

In February 1854 with Thomas Anderson, a partner of J. L. Currie, Shaw bought Wooriwyrite from Ebenezer Oliphant. In March he married Catherine McLaurin, whose sisters had married Oliphant and Anderson. Because he had little capital he was to manage the station but, after Anderson was killed that year in a riding accident, he carried on alone with some financial help from Oliphant who had returned to Edinburgh. He restocked Wooriwyrite with ewes bred by the Learmonths on his father's advice, and rams from the original Macarthur flock from Camden.

By the 1860s and 1870s his sheep were constantly in the prize lists and their fine wool was fetching top prices on the London market. Like his father he wrote colourful hard-hitting letters to the press hammering at the importance of quality in wool and 'selection' in breeding, and extolling the virtues of the 'Pure Australian Merino' bred by his neighbours at Larra and Ercildoun. Later he vehemently opposed the introduction of the Vermont strain which, he said, grew hair rather than wool. Another correspondent, 'Tom Cribb', in the Melbourne Economist, January 1866, described Shaw as 'pugnacious as a cock-sparrow' but conceded that 'his moral character was irreproachable, and his energy and vivacity made him an excellent colonist'. Billis and Kenyon believed that 'the consensus of opinion among breeders at that time would have placed the name of Shaw with the most honoured'.

He was active and articulate, and in 1859 founded what became the important Skipton show, and was its honorary secretary until its decline in 1873. He was the first president of the shire of Mortlake in 1863, a councillor and several times president of the shire of Hampden, and in 1890 was a foundation councillor of what is now the Graziers' Association of Victoria. He was a justice of the peace, stood unsuccessfully for parliament, lent a useful hand in many interests of his district and of his friends, and acted widely as a judge of sheep.

Shaw built a house for his mother and sisters on his own land near Mortlake, where his sister Jemima married Rev. Dr W. H. Fitchett, helped build the Methodist church and provided its parsonage. He also presented Mortlake with a museum and a temperance hall, both of enduring bluestone like the large new homestead he built for his own family in 1885, three years before his wife's death. A two-year trip overseas is described in A Victorian in Europe, published in 1883. He lived simply and, unlike his father, 'signed the pledge' and remained an earnest but cheerful teetotaller. Jovial and kindly, he was sometimes more honest than tactful and prone to disconcert his household by leaving without notice on trips of undisclosed duration or destination. He died at Hawthorn on 30 July 1907 on his way home from dealing with a friend's estates in Queensland. Of his seven children his younger son Thomas was left as manager of Wooriwyrite. His estate was sworn for probate at £3651.

His elder brother Jonathan (1826-1905) came out with his mother and five sisters about 1852, settled in Geelong and joined his father as a sheep-classer. He successfully took over and extended the practice there and in the Riverina, and he also became head woolsorter to Hastings Cuningham & Co.

Select Bibliography

  • G. A. Brown, Sheep Breeding in Australia, 2nd ed (Melb, 1890)
  • P. L. Brown (ed), Clyde Company Papers, vol 6 (Lond, 1968)
  • Mary Turner Shaw, On Mount Emu Creek (Melb, 1969)
  • T. Anderson journal, 1850-54 (State Library of Victoria)
  • J. L. Currie, scrapbook (State Library of Victoria)
  • Shaw family papers (held by author).

Citation details

Mary Turner Shaw, 'Shaw, Thomas junior (1827–1907)', 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]


27 August, 1827
Birstall, Yorkshire, England


30 July, 1907 (aged 79)
Hawthorn, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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