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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Trouton, Frederick Henry (1826–1896)

by Bede Nairn

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Frederick Henry Trouton (1826-1896), master mariner and company manager, was born at Chester, Cheshire, England, son of Charles Robert Trouton, merchant, and his wife Mary Ann, née Creek. Educated at Dr Sargent's school in Dublin, at 17 he joined the Ballantyne and in 1851 he became captain of the Zenobia. Attracted by the gold discoveries he arrived in Melbourne in the Sarah Sands on 16 December 1852 and prospected without success at Forest Creek. In 1853 he was in command of the coastal ship, East of Dalhousie, and in November sailed the Elizabeth from Melbourne to London; her cargo included gold which stowaway convicts attempted to steal, but Trouton subdued them. He bought the Osprey, returned in it to Melbourne in 1855 and successfully carried gold and merchandise from Port Phillip Bay. He sold the ship in 1857 and settled at Geelong; when the town's trade declined because of Melbourne's growth he partnered Captain Thomas Robertson in transporting livestock to New Zealand in 1860. Next year he was part-owner and captain of the Balclutha and on 23 April at St Paul's, Geelong, he married Harriette Smith, who had been born in Dublin in 1837.

Trouton joined the Australasian Steam Navigation Co. in 1862 in Sydney and became general manager in 1866. His enterprise and skill stimulated the firm's complex growth and rationalized its competitive position; by 1868 it had taken over the Queensland Steam Navigation Co.; next year it began trade with Fiji via Auckland, and in 1870 it was carrying the San Francisco mail. In 1877 the company entered the China trade and in November next year its employment of Chinese at wages less than the rates of the Federated Seamen's Union of Australasia led to a strike; Trouton argued that the high price of white labour and excessive competition had forced the company to employ Chinese. The strike ended in a compromise in January 1879, and the last of the Chinese crews was discharged in 1883. In 1881 Trouton went to England to arrange for the construction of eleven new steamers, but intense competition affected the company and in 1886 it was bought out by the Queensland Steamship Co. Trouton stayed on until 1888 when the Australasian United Steam Navigation Co. took over. He was chairman of the Steamship Owners' Association of Australasia in the 1880s.

Trouton was a prominent figure in Balmain, where he lived and the A.S.N. Co. operated. He was president of the Balmain and District Hospital and the Bowling Club, and a committee-man of the School of Arts; in the 1870s he was an alderman of the Borough Council. A magistrate of the city of Sydney in 1880, he was a member of the commission that prepared for the naval reception of the Duke of Edinburgh in 1867, and of the commission for the Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne, in 1888. He was appointed to the royal commission on strikes, Sydney, in 1890 and his expert questioning helped to expose the policy errors and the dissimulation of the shearers' union leader W. G. Spence. A keen harbour yachtsman he skippered Alfred Fairfax's Magic in many duels with the Mistral.

Trouton, aged 70, died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 19 September 1896 and was buried in the Anglican section of Balmain cemetery. He was survived by his wife, four of his seven sons and three daughters. His estate was sworn for probate at £7388.

Select Bibliography

  • Report of the Royal Commission on Strikes (Syd, 1891)
  • Town and Country Journal, 8 Dec 1877
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Sept 1896.

Citation details

Bede Nairn, 'Trouton, Frederick Henry (1826–1896)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

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