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James Tyson (1819–1898)

by Zita Denholm

This article was published:

James Tyson (1819-1898), pastoralist, was born on 8 April 1819 near Narellan, New South Wales, third son of William Tyson and his wife Isabella, née Coulson, who had arrived in the colony on 19 August 1809 in the Indispensable with a seven-year sentence for theft in Yorkshire. Her husband and son William came free in the same transport; by 1819 William senior had a 40-acre (16 ha) grant at Narellan. James started work about 1833 as a farm-hand for the Vine brothers near Appin and spent a short time in Sydney in 1837 apprenticed to a bootmaker; he then worked as a pastoral labourer for Henry O'Brien at Douro near Yass. Later he took up Barwigery (Barwidgee) on the Ovens River for John Buckland.

James was unsuccessful with his brother William on Bundoolah (Goonambil) in 1845, and next year with his brothers William and John he moved to Tyson's run (Toorong) on the west bank of the Lachlan near its junction with the Murrumbidgee: this holding became the nucleus of his Tupra-Juanbung complex. Early in 1852 James and William arrived at the Bendigo goldfield with a small mob of cattle, set up a slaughter-yard and butcher's shop and in three years established a business which was sold late in 1855 for an estimated £80,000. James and John bought three sheep stations South Deniliquin, Conargo and Deniliquin, which they improved with fencing and earth tanks. James made important experiments in digging channels for water, and was interested in the Deniliquin-Moama rail link, the Deniliquin and Echuca Electric Telegraph Co. and the Riverina separatist movement as well as local matters. John died at Deniliquin on 3 June 1860 leaving his estate to James who, in 1862, sold most of his Deniliquin holdings and moved back to the Lachlan and began the aggregation of leasehold pastoral land. In 1864 when James McEvoy refused to pay his share of costs of arbitration in their dispute over a boundary, Tyson successfully sued him in the Supreme Court but McEvoy appealed to the Privy Council.

By 1898 Tyson held 5,329,214 acres (2,156,680 ha) including 352,332 acres (142,585 ha) freehold. His stations included Tupra, Juanbung, Bangate, Goondublui and Mooroonowa in New South Wales; Heyfield in Victoria; and Glenormiston, Swanvale, Meteor Downs and Albinia Downs, Babbiloora, Carnarvon, Tully, Wyobie, Felton, Mount Russell and Tinnenburra in Queensland. He held other runs as mortgagee. Uninterested in stud-breeding he bred and fattened stock for the metropolitan markets. At Tully his nephews tried to grow sugar on his behalf as well as run cattle. Tyson also owned some land in Toowoomba, Hay and Brisbane and made two abortive visits to New Zealand to investigate the possibility of land investment.

Tyson was a member of the Queensland Legislative Council in 1893-98 but made only one short speech. He was a magistrate on the Maude, New South Wales, and Jondaryan, Queensland, benches, and a prominent lobbyist against the building of the Queensland transcontinental railway line by overseas capitalists on the land grant system; he opposed the Victorian border stock tax and campaigned actively for the land tenure reforms embodied in the Crown Lands Acts of 1884 in New South Wales and 1885 in Queensland. Generous to a wide range of charities, he contributed £2000 for two years to the New South Wales Sudan Contingent and variously to the building funds of the Women's College, University of Sydney, and the Church of England at Leyburn.

Unmarried and intestate, Tyson died 'apparently [of] inflammation of the lungs' at Felton near Cambooya, on 4 December 1898. He was buried in the Toowoomba cemetery, but his remains were moved to the family vault at St Peter's Church of England, Campbelltown, New South Wales. His estate, realizing £2 million, was divided among his next of kin after an extended series of court cases involving the question of his domicile. A byword for wealth and a legend in his own lifetime, Tyson was usually called 'Hungry' by the Bulletin and was commemorated by Banjo Paterson in 'T.Y.S.O.N.'. Frugal, he was never known to drink, smoke or swear.

Select Bibliography

  • Z. Denholm, ‘James Tyson, employer’, Wealth & Progress, A. Birch and D. S. Macmillan eds (Syd, 1967)
  • T. M. Z. Denholm, James Tyson 1819-1898: A Man in His Environment (M.A. thesis, University of Queensland, 1969)
  • Tyson papers (National Library of Australia and State Library of Queensland)
  • Regina v. Queensland Trustees, CRS/85-98, SCT/514A, 218/1898 (Queensland State Archives).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Zita Denholm, 'Tyson, James (1819–1898)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 22 May 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

Life Summary [details]


8 April, 1819
Narellan, New South Wales, Australia


4 December, 1898 (aged 79)
Cambooya, Queensland, Australia

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