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Hugh Murray Strachan (1851–1933)

by R. J. Southey

This article was published:

Hugh Murray Strachan (1851-1933), woolbroker, company director and pastoralist, was born on 5 February 1851 at Geelong, Victoria, seventh child of James Ford Strachan, merchant, and his wife Lillias, daughter of Hugh Murray. Educated at the local National Grammar School, Geelong College and Melbourne Church of England Grammar School (1867-69) which he represented as an oarsman, Strachan then worked briefly as a clerk for Turnbull Smith & Co., Melbourne importers, before spending a year in western Victoria and two years in Europe to broaden his education. In 1874, in partnership with James and Lewis Howatson, he purchased Boondarra, on the Lachlan in New South Wales, and later acquired adjoining Tarrawonga, and Marlbed, north of St Arnaud, Victoria.

On his father's death in 1875, Strachan took over the Geelong and Melbourne merchant firm of Strachan & Co. and merged with John Wilson & Co. to become Strachan, Murray, Shannon & Co. On 3 February 1876 Strachan married with Presbyterian forms English-born Elizabeth Campbell Shannon at Hampden. Through Charles Shannon and William Murray, there were interlocking partnerships with Sanderson, Murray & Co., London, and John Sanderson & Co., Melbourne. In due course Strachan also became a partner in John Sanderson & Co. In 1882 Strachan sold his pastoral holdings and invested in the Mackay sugar industry, but by 1888 had lost virtually all he possessed. His financial exposure and what his partners interpreted as a deterioration in his business judgement, brought on by pressure and anxiety, forced him to resign from John Sanderson & Co. in 1887, although he continued for a while on a salary. The partnership of Strachan, Murray, Shannon & Co. was dissolved.

In 1889 Strachan took into partnership T. E. Bostock whose intelligence and energy amply compensated for his lack of capital. Strachan, Bostock & Co. was fortunate in concentrating on woolbroking at Geelong precisely when local wool sales were beginning to develop at the expense of the London auctions. In 1897-98 the business merged with Shannon, Murray & Co. Incorporated as Strachan, Murray & Shannon, its issued capital was £50,000. Strachan, who succeeded Shannon in 1911, remained chairman until his death. The business became a public company in 1919, was listed on the Melbourne Stock Exchange in 1926 and shortened its name to Strachan & Co. in 1931. By this time it handled one-quarter of the wool auctioned at Geelong.

A director of the Union Trustee Co. of Australia (1905-33), the National Bank of Australasia (1912-33) and the Australian Mutual Provident Society, Victoria (1915-33), he possessed a wide knowledge of rural affairs, and contributed letters and articles to the Melbourne Argus and to the Pastoral Review. In Some Notes and Recollections (Melbourne, 1927) he traced his family's part in Victoria's early pastoral and mercantile development; he also published privately A Short Account of the Settlement in Victoria in the Early Days by the Murray Family (1932).

Strachan died at home in Toorak on 17 December 1933 and was buried in Boroondara cemetery, Kew. The Melbourne wool auction room observed a silence for the passing of the oldest woolbroker in Australia. A daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • G. L. Strachan, Strachan & Co. Limited, Geelong (Geelong, 1965)
  • Geelong Advertiser, 19 Dec 1933
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Dec 1933
  • Argus (Melbourne), 20 Dec 1933
  • Australasian, 23 Dec 1933
  • Strachan and Co. Ltd records (University of Melbourne Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

R. J. Southey, 'Strachan, Hugh Murray (1851–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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