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Sir Colin Archibald Sinclair (1876–1956)

by John Atchison

This article was published:

Sir Colin Archibald Sinclair (1876-1956), pastoralist, company director and politician, was born on 24 December 1876 at Byron, near Inverell, New South Wales, eldest child of John Sinclair, Scottish pastoral superintendent and later grazier, and his native-born wife Christine, née Fletcher. He was educated at Inverell, the New England Grammar School, Armidale, and the University of Sydney (B.A., 1899; LL.B., 1905). He represented the university on the New South Wales Cricket Association (1903-12) and was honorary secretary (1909-11) of the Australian Board of Control for International Cricket Matches. Later, he became secretary and a life member of the Suburban and Country Golf Association of New South Wales.

Articled to Minter, Simpson & Co., Sinclair was admitted as a solicitor on 18 November 1905 and practised in Sydney before moving onto the land in the Collarenebri district about 1911. He worked closely with his father and three brothers to build a solid business in wool and fat-lamb production based on six properties between Burren Junction and Glen Innes. On 5 April 1916 at St Stephen's Church, Sydney, he married Edith May Grant.

Sinclair was a councillor (1917-38, 1943-47) and sometime vice-president of the Graziers' Association of New South Wales and helped to make it more democratic; he represented the State on its federal council. An active member of the Progressive Party, he became a lifelong council-member of the Country Party. He was vice-president of the Northern New State Movement and served on the 1924-25 royal commission into proposals for the establishment of new States. He, alone of the five members, believed a New England State could be practicable. Ridiculed and abused by Sydney political and commercial interests, he visited England. He remained conspicuous in the New State movement, arguing that the conclusions of the royal commission were unsound.

In June 1932 Sinclair achieved a virtual political miracle, when he captured Namoi, a Labor stronghold, and emerged as an adviser to (Sir) Bertram Stevens on land matters. In September he led an ambitious hike to Mount Kaputar (5000 ft, 1524 m), near Narrabri, hoping to generate tourism and relief employment. Sinclair Peak was one of five features named by him. Minister without portfolio from June 1937, next February he became secretary for lands. He energetically carried out aspects of E. A. Buttenshaw's revised closer settlement policy, purchasing 17,560 acres (7106 ha) from Goonoo Goonoo and Beaufort, near Matheson, in 1938, and a further seven estates in 1939. That year he was given responsibility for implementing the Rural Reconstruction Act and initiated a large-scale scheme, especially in the Pilliga region. In November 1940 he resigned, after questions in parliament about a possible conflict of loyalties arising from his appointment as a director of the Bank of New South Wales, despite Premier Mair's request to remain. He did not contest his seat in 1941. Remaining on the bank's board (president 1952-54), he expressed great confidence in Australia's future.

A council-member of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales from 1934, Sinclair as president (1943-54), steered it successfully through a difficult period. He was briefly a director (1936) and later local adviser of the Australian Mercantile Land & Finance Co. Ltd, a local director of the Union Trustee Co. of Australia Ltd from 1938 and of the Commercial Union Assurance Co. Ltd (1941-56), and a director of the McGarvie Smith Institute. A devout Presbyterian, he was a trustee of St Stephen's Church, a council-member of Scots College, Sydney, and the Fairbridge Farm Schools of New South Wales, and a patron of the Junior Farmer Movement. He worked for the Australian Aerial Medical Services.

Sinclair was knighted in 1953. A 'big, hale and very energetic man', he was remembered as being 'gracious and understanding'. Retiring to Edgecliff from his Glen Innes property about 1947, he played bowls and was a member of the Australian, Union, University and Royal Sydney Golf clubs. Survived by his wife, he died childless on 17 March 1956 in Sydney and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at £208,946.

Select Bibliography

  • U. Ellis, The Country Party (Melb, 1958)
  • R. F. Holder, Bank of New South Wales (Syd, 1970)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1940, 1, p 771, 1956, 1, p 19
  • Department of Lands (New South Wales), Annual Report, 1938, 1939
  • Pastoral Review, 16 Apr 1956
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 June 1932, 4 Nov 1940
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 18 Mar 1956
  • Inverell Times, 19 Mar 1956
  • Northern Daily Leader, 22 Mar 1956
  • Land (Sydney), 23 Mar 1956
  • Sinclair family scrapbook (History House, Glen Innes, New South Wales)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

John Atchison, 'Sinclair, Sir Colin Archibald (1876–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 26 May 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

Life Summary [details]


24 December, 1876
Byron, near Inverell, New South Wales, Australia


17 March, 1956 (aged 79)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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