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Austin, Thomas (1815–1871)

The Geelong Advertiser gives the following account of the career of Mr. Austin, whose death we briefly noticed on Saturday: —

"Mr. Austin was born at Baltonsborough, in Somersetshire, in the year 1816, and remained there until he was about 15 years of age. Some time previous to this his elder brothers Solomon and Josiah had emigrated to Tasmania, to join their uncle, and having prospered, Josiah, in about the year 1830, went home, and fetched out to his adopted country his father and mother, his brothers James, William, Thomas (the subject of this memoir), and a sister (the late Mrs. Mack). Thomas joined his brothers, who were stockbrokers. Thirty-six or 37 years ago, Solomon, Josiah, and Thomas crossed the Straits, and took up land about Winchelsea and Birregurra, including that splendid sheep country which, under the name of Barwon Park, has since become famous for its preserves throughout the length and breadth of the land. James Austin was the first mayor of Geelong. It is his portrait that adorns the walls of the town hall, and it was he who presented the town of Geelong with its well-known clock and tower. This gentleman was, on receipt of the last news from England, residing at Glastonbury Park, and, if still alive, is the sole survivor of the five brothers. From a vast sheepwalk, without a neighbour for many miles around, Mr. Thomas Austin has watched first the slow and steady progress of the colony, and then, when gold was first discovered, its rapid increase in population. No stories of easily-acquired wealth, however, drew him away from his comfortable homestead on the banks of the River Barwon. A country life was his hobby, and a better, representative of the real old English country gentleman could not be found, either here or at home. His flocks rapidly increased, and his tide of prosperity never received a check. When he began to what is called feel his feet, he commenced to indulge himself a little in one of his favourite pursuits. This was the breeding and running of racehorses, and he was first represented on the turf, we believe, by the horse Latitat. Subsequently we find that in 1844 he bred Bessy Bedlam, a dark bay, and the best mare of her day. A training ground at Barwon Park is still known by the name of Bessy Bedlam's course. He subsequently owned Petrel, another horse of great renown in the early days, and, did time permit, we could record many victories gained by Mr. Austin in those primitive times when members of the ring were unknown, and the best horse won if he could. Of late years Mr. Austin contented himself with the breeding of horses, and was for several years the owner of the celebrated sire Boiardo. Sometimes his name was mentioned as the owner of a competitor in a race, but it was very seldom. Mr. Austin was not a betting man in the true sense of the word, and many of his friends believe that it was the dodgery he saw practised on the turf that deterred him from taking so prominent a part in race meetings as he did in days of yore. During the past twelve years he twice paid a visit to England, and we all know of his importation into this colony of pheasants, partridges, hares, and other game. When H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh paid his first visit to the Western district, it was Mr. Austin who in his comfortable homestead treated him with profuse hospitality, and invited him to some sport in his well-stocked preserves. So well did H.R.H. enjoy himself that on his second visit he paid a special visit to Mr. Austin, who in the interval had built a large and handsome mansion, which, however, was not ready for occupation, and again did the Duke pass a pleasant day in the preserves. Since his return from his last visit to England Mr. Austin almost entirely devoted himself to the management of his valuable and extensive estate, and took great interest in the breeding of Lincoln sheep. It is only a very short time ago that with this breed he carried away the prizes both at the Skipton and at the Geelong shows, and many will remember what pride he took in his prize-takers. Mr. Austin loved a joke, was possessed of a considerable amount of shrewdness, detested all kinds of snobs and humbug, and had a kind and cheery word for every man—rich and poor. He was president for some time of the Winchelsea Shire Council and could have been president all his life if he had wished to be so, but he preferred the useful, although quiet, life of an open-hearted unassuming country gentleman.

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'Austin, Thomas (1815–1871)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/austin-thomas-1521/text1527, accessed 23 July 2014.

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