Posts Tagged ‘Two Squatters by Martin Playne’



Thank you, Danny, for this kind invitation to write a little about my new book. It’s quite a contrast to MagnifiCat, your poetic and mystical work on Mullimbimby, which you recently released. I am still trying to work out how the two of us, who both trained in agricultural science, have come to writing works that have little to do with agriculture or science. Be that as it may, let me get serious and tell you something of my 432-page book, a social history.


Set in the 19th century, the book examines the lives of two men of contrasting personality. One, George Playne, was born in Gloucester to a poor family. His father was a saddler and harness-maker. His mother had come from Jamaica. He trained at the Gloucester Infirmary and later was appointed as Apothecary and House Surgeon. After some twenty-two years at the hospital, he suddenly decided to emigrate to Australia in 1839. Emigration to seek wealth may have been a prime reason for his decision; his friend and business partner, Daniel Jennings (who was wealthy) funded his travel.

In contrast, Daniel Jennings, was born in London and became a land agent and investor. He was always impetuous and eccentric in his behaviour. On arrival, he formed a business partnership with George, and purchased (for an alleged £10,000) the occupancy rights and the livestock to one of largest holdings in Victoria (around 200,000 acres with 10,000 sheep) called Campaspe Plains Station. He also invested heavily in both city and rural land in Victoria. He departed for Calcutta suddenly two years later, leaving behind his wife, and leaving George to manage the property at a time of deepening recession in the livestock industry. Two years later, he returned to the Colony with a new wife, and resumed his role as a gentleman squatter and investor. He left Victoria permanently in 1851 to retire to England. He was certified as a Chancery lunatic in 1865, and died in 1872, leaving a Will, which led to a legal dispute between his wife and his brother.


The Campaspe partnership between Daniel and George had been dissolved on Daniel’s return to Victoria in 1844 at George’s instigation. George then set up to practice medicine again in Melbourne. He became part of the colonial establishment, with important roles in lobbying for improved tenure for squatters, in the Melbourne Club (Secretary 1844-8), and in efforts to form a new colony separate from New South Wales (Secretary of the Separation Committee, and Joint Treasurer to the Delegate Committee), to establish a medical association and a hospital, and to form a new bank. He was a magistrate from 1843 until 1854. In 1850, he built one of the finest mansions in South Fitzroy. He had a strong influence on the development of a civilised society in Victoria. After 1851, his dream of a large city house, a gentlemanly existence, and a country property on the Mornington Peninsula was realized, but became impractical because of the shortage of labour after 1851 and the squalor and drunkenness when the gold rush started. He decided in 1854 to leave Melbourne and return to England.


These two men epitomize many early settlers whose contributions have been barely recognised by historians. To read more about them and the early devlopment of Victoria, or to obtain a copy of this book, go to:


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