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Sir James Arndell Youl (1811–1904)

by Neil Smith

This article was published:

Sir James Arndell Youl (1811-1904), pastoralist, was born on 28 December 1811 at Parramatta, New South Wales, son of Rev. John Youl and his wife Jane, née Loder. He was a brother of Richard Youl. The family moved to Van Diemen's Land in 1819. Educated in England, on his return to Tasmania Youl worked the Symmons Plains property and enlarged the pastoral interests left by his father in 1827. He was appointed justice of the peace in 1837, and in July 1839 at Clarendon he married Eliza (d.1881), daughter of William Cox.

In 1854 Youl and his wife left to live in England at Clapham Park, Surrey. There he undertook many services for the colony over some fifty years. He visited Tasmania in 1860 and next year the government appointed him their accredited agent in London without salary. A commissioner for the 1862 London International Exhibition, he reported on the display of Tasmanian timbers overseas and on remedial measures to overcome prejudice against their use (especially for ship-building). For seven years he was honorary secretary and treasurer of the Australian Association which persuaded the British government to improve mail services to Australia and to accept Australian sovereigns as legal tender in Britain. In 1868 he was a founder and vice-president of the Colonial Society (Royal Colonial Institute), London, and from February to October 1888 acted as agent-general for Tasmania.

Youl is best remembered for the introduction of trout and salmon to Australasian waters. Earlier attempts in 1841 and 1852 had failed because of the difficulty of keeping ova alive under artificial conditions en route to Tasmania. His shipments on the Curling in 1860 and Beautiful Star in 1862 failed, and next year he directed experiments involving the use of moss in ice-vaults. On 21 January 1864 the Norfolk left England carrying more than 100,000 salmon and trout ova packed in moss in the ship's ice-house. Ninety-one days later the first successful delivery of living ova was made into Tasmanian hatcheries on the River Plenty. Victoria and New Zealand had supported the Tasmanian ventures and their rivers were soon stocked also.

The Tasmanian commissioners investigating the problem reported in 1864 that 'The untiring zeal and indefatigable exertions of Mr. Youl stand forth conspicuous, and have been mainly instrumental in bringing the present experiment to a successful issue'; they described the results of experiments that he had directed in 1863 as 'one of the most valuable discoveries ever yet made in the art of pisciculture'. Youl claimed no credit for the idea which he said was first mentioned to him in Paris. But P. S. Seager attributes to him 'the first practical attempt to test what had previously been many times suggested'. New Zealand presented a silver cup to him and in 1866 he received the gold medal of La Société d'Acclimatisation. He was created C.M.G. in 1874 and K.C.M.G. in 1891.

Youl was a shareholder in the English Scottish and Australian Bank Ltd and a director of the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney. On 30 September 1882 he had married a widow Charlotte Robinson, née Williams; survived by her he died at Clapham of senile decay and bronchitis on 5 June 1904. His estate was valued for probate at £159,853.

Select Bibliography

  • P. S. Seager, Concise History of the Acclimatisation of the Salmonidae in Tasmania (np, 1888?)
  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania, vol 1 (Hob, 1900)
  • Votes and Proceedings (House of Assembly, Tasmania), 1862 (73), 1863 (101), 1864 (41), 1889 (109)
  • Examiner (Launceston), 5 Oct 1860, 8 June 1904
  • indexes and correspondence file under J. A. Youl (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Neil Smith, 'Youl, Sir James Arndell (1811–1904)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 23 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]


28 December, 1811
Parramatta, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


5 June, 1904 (aged 92)
Clapham, Surrey, England

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