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George Tinline (1815–1895)

by Christine Hirst

This article was published:

George Tinline (1815-1895), by Vianelli

George Tinline (1815-1895), by Vianelli

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 7110

George Tinline (1815-1895), banker and pastoralist, was born on 28 October 1815 at Jedburgh, Roxburghshire, Scotland, son of John Tinline and his wife Esther, née Easton. He was 'brought up in hardship and poverty' and at 14 left school to work in the local branch of the National Bank. He migrated to Sydney to work for the Bank of Australasia in 1838, was transferred to the new Adelaide branch in 1839, but resigned the same year to become accountant for the Bank of South Australia. On 30 November 1843 at Adelaide he married Helen Madder, also of Jedburgh; they had six children.

Tinline was acting manager in the economic crisis of 1851-53 when his bank faced collapse. From December 1851 he urged the governor Sir Henry Young to exercise extraordinary powers, even to the extent of usurping imperial authority, to avert the currency crisis caused by the Victorian gold rush. His scheme for minting gold tokens was abandoned for technical reasons but he argued that Adelaide should outbid Melbourne for Victorian gold and use it to back a paper currency. The bullion Act of 1852 provided that assayed gold ingots be made a basis for bank-note issue at the rate of 71s. an ounce. Confidence was restored, gold flowed from diggers and dealers to the lucrative Adelaide market, the devalued currency ensured a roaring export trade with Victoria and the Bank of South Australia boomed.

For this crucial work and for his imaginative efforts in maintaining credit throughout a difficult period 200 leading citizens honoured Tinline in 1853 with a public dinner, proclaiming him a 'faithful steward of South Australia' and giving him 2000 guineas and an inscribed silver salver; the London directors awarded him £1000. He became manager in 1855 and established the bank's first branches, but was summoned to London in 1858 and dismissed next year when a customer defaulted with much loss to the bank.

In 1852 Tinline had been appointed treasurer of the Adelaide City Council. From 1858 he began a long and successful investment in pastoral properties with W. D. Fisher and later with his brother-in-law Alexander B. Murray at Wirrabara, and with his brother John in New Zealand. In 1860 he was elected to the Legislative Council, but because of his failure to attend his seat was declared vacant and he returned to England in 1863 to educate his children. They remained 'a South Australian family living in London'. Tinline was a devout Presbyterian. He travelled extensively, revisiting the colonies several times. He died of pneumonia in Melbourne on 1 February 1895, survived by two of his six children. His body was returned to Melrose, Roxburghshire, Scotland, for burial on 30 March near his wife who had predeceased him. He left his inscribed salver to the Adelaide Institute; it is now in the National Gallery of South Australia. There is a bust at Jedburgh. His estate in South Australia was sworn for probate at £40,000 and in England at £19,794. In 1907 his nephew Sir George Murray, in memory of his mother's family name, donated £1000 to the University of Adelaide to found the Tinline scholarship for historical research.

Select Bibliography

  • S. J. Butlin, Australia and New Zealand Bank (Melb, 1961)
  • G. H. Pitt, ‘The bullion Act and the gold escort’, PRGSSA, 28 (1926-27)
  • S. J. Butlin, ‘The South Australian devaluation of 1852’, Business Archives and History, 3 (1963)
  • Tinline papers (State Records of South Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Christine Hirst, 'Tinline, George (1815–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 16 July 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

George Tinline (1815-1895), by Vianelli

George Tinline (1815-1895), by Vianelli

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 7110

Life Summary [details]


28 October, 1815
Jedburgh, Scottish Borders, Scotland


1 February, 1895 (aged 79)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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