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Sir Arthur King Trethowan (1863–1937)

by Doug Morrissey

This article was published:

Sir Arthur King Trethowan (1863-1937), grazier and politician, was born on 14 September 1863 at Spring Hill, Victoria, second son of Samuel Trethowan, a Cornish-born auctioneer, and his wife Charlotte Dyer, née King, from the Isle of Wight. Baptized an Anglican, he was educated at Creswick Grammar School. At 14 he took his first job, driving a bullock team; he soon joined his father as an auctioneer at Numurkah. During his youth Arthur was recognized as a crack shot and a good cricketer. On 9 November 1886 at Nathalia he married a blacksmith's daughter, Jane Alice Manifold, with Wesleyan forms.

Engaged in wheat and sheep farming in the Goulburn Valley from the 1880s, Trethowan selected land at Berrigan, New South Wales, in 1898 and later bought Clear Hills station, Oaklands, and several grazing properties in the Upper Hunter and Dubbo districts. His reputation as a scientific wheat farmer and fine-wool producer was recognized throughout the Riverina. He was secretary of the local branch of the Farmers and Settlers' Association of New South Wales and a founder of the railway league. A member of Urana Shire Council (1907-15), he was president in 1908, 1912 and 1915; a foundation member (1908) of the Shires Association of New South Wales, he served as vice-president (1910-12) and president (1915). He was also president of the Farmers and Settlers' Association of New South Wales in 1916-20 (and treasurer in 1930-37).

Trethowan had been defeated as a Farmers and Settlers' candidate for the Legislative Assembly seats of Deniliquin (1910) and Burrangong (1913). He was endorsed in the anti-Labor Senate team in 1914, but not elected. Nominated to the Legislative Council in December 1916, he was elected for six years to the reconstituted council in December 1933.

During the strikes of 1917 Trethowan commanded the country loyalists' camp at the Sydney Cricket Ground. That year he founded and was managing director (until 1937) of the Farmers & Graziers' Co-operative Grain, Insurance & Agency Co. Ltd, set up to assist farmers in the transport and sale of produce. Governing director and chairman of the Land Newspaper Ltd, he was a director of the Producers & Citizens Co-operative Assurance Co. of Australia Ltd and Amalgamated Textiles (Australia) Ltd. A colleague recalled his 'alertness and firm decision when great problems came before the board'. In 1930, with Sir Henry Braddon and Albert Heath, he served on the Council for the Prevention and Relief of Unemployment.

In parliament Trethowan 'illuminated debates by relating his experiences' and liked reminding his colleagues of his humble beginnings as a selector. A founder of the Country Party, he served as chairman of the State central council in 1919-21 and 1925-37. He strongly opposed Jack Lang's attempt in 1930 to abolish the Legislative Council without a referendum; with (Sir) David Maughan as counsel, Trethowan, Thomas Playfair and others successfully defended the council in appeals to the High Court of Australia and Privy Council.

Trethowan was a 'big man, physically and mentally, and his determined face was a mirror of his strong character'. Warm-hearted and kindly, with a 'rugged simplicity of character', he was a devoted family man and always tried to get home for weekends. He was knighted in 1936. Sir Arthur died at Dubbo on 26 November 1937 and was buried in the local cemetery with Anglican rites. His wife, eight sons and two daughters survived him. His estate was valued for probate at £17,629.

His younger brother Hubert Charles (1868-1934) was born on 4 April 1868 at Plymstock, Devonshire, England. Brought to Victoria, he was educated at Creswick Grammar School and in 1889 entered the Bank of Australasia in Melbourne. After he was transferred to Perth in 1896, he joined the harbours and rivers branch of the Department of Public Works as a clerk. In 1898 he became involved with the goldfields water-supply and served from 1903 as the division's accountant. He had married Eliza Josephine Graham at the registrar's office, Subiaco, on 29 March 1900. Qualifying as an associate of the Institute of Accountants and Auditors of Western Australia, in 1909 he became secretary of the Goldfields Water Supply Administration.

He was under secretary for water-supply, sewerage and drainage (1912-18), for agriculture (1918-20), and for the Chief Secretary's Department and comptroller-general for prisons (1920-31). Survived by a son and daughter, he died on 30 October 1934 at Subiaco and was buried in the Anglican section of Karrakatta cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • E. G. Knox (ed), The Advertisers' and Publishers' Guide to Australia and New Zealand (Syd, 1935)
  • Parliamentary Debates (New South Wales), 1937, p 2044
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 5 June 1914, 27 Nov 1937.

Citation details

Doug Morrissey, 'Trethowan, Sir Arthur King (1863–1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 22 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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 September, 1863
Spring Hill, Victoria, Australia


26 November, 1937 (aged 74)
Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia

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