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James Winter (1834–1885)

by J. Ann Hone

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with William Irving Winter-Irving

James Winter (1834-1885) and William Irving Winter-Irving (1840-1901), pastoralists, were born in Edinburgh, the sons of John Winter and his wife Janet Margaret, née Irving, of Lauder, Berwickshire, Scotland. In 1841 John brought his family to Australia in the William Mitchell and, settling near Ballarat, acquired Bonshaw estate and in 1850, Junction station. His sons were educated in Melbourne, William attending Scotch College. In 1857 John moved into the Waranga district, lower Goulburn Valley, where by the late 1860s he and his sons had acquired over a quarter of a million acres (101,173 ha), either freehold or leasehold: their properties later included Corop, Caragarac, Toolamba, Colbinabbin, Stanhope and Dhurringile.

On the dissolution of the family partnership in 1868 James retained Toolamba and built a 68-room mansion at Dhurringile. He vastly improved the carrying capacity of his land, breeding prize-winning Lincoln, Leicester and crossbred sheep. In 1874 he helped to found the North-Eastern Pastoral and Agricultural Society and was its president; he was patron of the Murchison Agricultural Society, a magistrate, and a member and in 1873-75 president of the Waranga Shire Council. He actively supported the local Anglican church, the Mechanics' Institute and sports associations. As president of the railway league formed in 1873 he worked hard but in vain to bring the line down the Goulburn Valley; he was praised for helping Toolamba selectors in the 1873 drought.

On 27 April 1871, aged 36, Winter married Caroline, daughter of W. H. Pettett. In 1883 he took his family to England, travelling by way of the United States of America. About to return to Victoria, he died of inflammation of the lungs at Norwood near London on 3 February 1885; he was survived by his wife and children.

William Winter-Irving retained Stanhope on which he spent about £40,000 in improvements, and he had an interest in Colbinabbin. In 1869 he bought a property near Murchison on which he later built the homestead Noorilim and he also acquired Tirrengower near Colac. He later held Wealwandangie cattle station with James Alison and was part-owner of Rocklands, both in Queensland. Besides breeding cattle and sheep, he developed a famous English hackney stud. He shared the family passion for building. Noorilim, built with the help of specially imported Italian craftsmen, cost £72,000 to erect in 1877.

William was keenly interested in local affairs and was a magistrate from 1868 and licensing magistrate for Rushworth from 1885. He was a member of the Waranga Shire Council between 1865 and 1874 and president in 1868-71. A member of several deputations, in 1870 with his brother he used his influence to secure a government grant of £4000 for two bridges over the Campaspe and Goulburn rivers. He gave generously to agricultural societies at Murchison and Tatura, to the Rushworth Anglican church and to local institutions. He was a large shareholder in the Rushworth butter factory; a life governor of the Bendigo hospital and asylum; a member of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society and of the Bendigo art gallery to which he gave many paintings and collector's items. He lent his paddocks for the Colbinabbin farmers' annual picnics and for use by the local coursing club; he kept large kennels.

In 1871 he stood for the Eastern Province of the Legislative Council but retired in favour of Sir Francis Murphy. In 1874 he visited England and successfully conducted the Privy Council appeal against the Crown on the 5s. an acre penalty sought to be enforced against the holders of certificated lands. In 1884 he was returned unopposed to the Legislative Council for Northern Province; he held the seat until 1901. Unobtrusive and rather silent in the House, he was respected for his shrewdness, sound judgment, straightforward manner and attention to the needs of his constituents.

In 1887 William sold Colbinabbin to David Mitchell, installed a manager at Stanhope and moved to Melbourne. In 1888 he changed his surname by royal letters patent to Winter-Irving. Next year he was a government commissioner to the Paris Universal Exhibition. In 1893 he brought Noorilim in Dandenong Road and housed his fine art collection there. He was a fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute (life member, 1886) and of the Imperial Institute; a life member of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (Victorian Branch) and of the Australian Club and active in Old Scotch Collegians' affairs. He was managing director of the National Trustees, Executors, and Agency Co. of Australasia, and a director of companies including, in 1891-93, Goldsbrough Mort & Co.

On 30 June 1868 he had married with Presbyterian rites Frances Amelia, daughter of William Drayton Taylor of Noorilum, Goulburn River. In poor health in his last years Winter-Irving died of cirrhosis of the liver on 28 June 1901, aged 61, at Noorilim, Prahran. He was survived by his wife, five sons and six daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • H. M. Humphreys (ed), Men of the Time in Australia: Victorian series, 1st ed (Melb, 1878)
  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • H. W. Forster, Waranga, 1865-1965 (Melb, 1965)
  • Shepparton Chronicle, 7 Feb 1885
  • Goulburn Advertiser, 13 Feb 1885, 5 July 1901
  • Argus (Melbourne), 29 June 1901
  • Pastoral Review, 15 July 1901.

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Winter, James (1834–1885)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 17 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

Life Summary [details]


Edinburgh, Mid-Lothian, Scotland


3 February, 1885 (aged ~ 51)
London, Middlesex, England

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