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Archibald Douglas Sligo (1866–1938)

by John Ritchie

This article was published:

Archibald Douglas Sligo (1866-1938), printer and mining entrepreneur, was born on 20 December 1866 at Dunedin, New Zealand, eldest son of Alexander Sligo, bookbinder, and his wife Jane, née Douglas. Educated at the Normal and High schools in Dunedin, he completed his apprenticeship to a compositor on the Otago Daily Times, worked for the Otago Witness and played football. With a fellow Dunedin printer Alexander Mackay, he sailed for Tasmania. In 1890 they set up premises in a building that had previously been a billiard saloon and a skittle-alley in Main Street, Zeehan. Enticed by mineral discoveries on the island's west coast, the two young men quit printing for prospecting and joined the Zeehan branch of the Amalgamated Miners' Association.

To enhance his knowledge of the adjacent countryside, Sligo ranged on foot, carrying swag and billy. Buoyant, optimistic and pertinacious, he lost heavily by investing and retaining shares in ventures in the Red Hills district, fancying it to be a second Mount Lyell. His reports helped to promote the west coast's mineral wealth and won him a degree of recognition in the mining world. For his part in the 1897-98 movement to deepen the sand-bar at the heads of Macquarie Harbour, thereby facilitating entrance by steamers of up to 1000 tons, he was appointed to the Strahan Marine Board. In time he became chairman of Renison Associated Tin Mines, a representative for the ore-buyers O. T. Lempriere & Co. and for Broken Hill Associated Smelters Pty Ltd, a promoter of the Mount Farrell silver-lead mine at Tullah, and a director of several other mining companies.

Sligo served Zeehan in its declining years as a justice of the peace, a member of the Licensing Bench and a town councillor; he officiated as chairman of the Fire Brigade Board and of the Municipal Commission, and belonged to the committee of the Red Cross Society; when the National Club was opened in 1917—to provide a place where people might meet, read and enjoy recreation—he financed the undertaking and retained his position as treasurer for the rest of his life; he made gifts to schools and donated prizes on sports-days. From 1899 he was chairman of the Zeehan School of Mines and fought to prevent its closure during the 1930s Depression. Through good times and bad, amid the competing thrusts of individualism and wider loyalties, he epitomized community pride and promoted a sense of self-worth among his fellows. In his heyday his face showed sensitivity: his hair—oiled, brushed back and parted on one side—crowned a wide brow, determined eyes and a strong jaw. Clean-shaven, save for a neatly trimmed moustache, he was also clean-cut: he dressed in a three-piece suit and wore a large, striped tie and a carefully folded, white pocket handkerchief. In style, as in deeds, he embodied the values of Samuel Smiles.

In his final years Sligo gave more time to gardening (his favourite hobby), enlarged his collection of mineral specimens and formed a partnership with Mrs C. J. Coulson in Queenstown and Zeehan newsagencies. Afflicted with chronic bronchitis, Archie was admitted to Zeehan Hospital where he died, unmarried, on 11 January 1938. He was buried with Anglican rites. The cortège that made its way to his graveside embraced mining agents who rode in motor cars and seventy humble people who went on foot. Sligo's estate, sworn for probate at £5768, included his 622 shares in the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia and his house in Smith Street.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania, vol 1 (Hob, 1900)
  • G. Blainey, The Peaks of Lyell (Melb, 1954)
  • Zeehan and Dundas Herald, 3 July 1893
  • Mercury (Hobart), 12 Jan 1938
  • Examiner (Launceseton), 12, 14 Jan, 18 July 1938
  • Advocate (Burnie), 12-14 Jan 1938
  • K2/12-19 (University of Tasmania Archives).

Citation details

John Ritchie, 'Sligo, Archibald Douglas (1866–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 14 July 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]


20 December, 1866
Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand


11 January, 1938 (aged 71)
Zeehan, Tasmania, Australia

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