Obituaries Australia

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: use double quotes to search for a phrase
  • Tip: lists of awards, schools, organisations etc

Browse Lists:

Biddlecombe, Janet (1866–1954)

from Pastoral Review and Graziers' Record

Janet Biddlecombe, n.d.

Janet Biddlecombe, n.d.

from Pastoral Review and Graziers' Record, 16 March 1954

Janet Russell, Mrs. John Biddlecombe, died peacefully at Golf Hill, Shelford, Vic., very early on Monday, 15th February. She would have been 88 in April. Her death was a welcome release from months of infirmity borne with philosophical courage, but until the last few days she retained her observant interest in affairs and people.

Her departure removes the only surviving child of one of the original settlers in "Australia Felix"—George Russell, who came to Victoria from Scotland by way of Van Diemen's Land. He took up Golf Hill and developed it, first as manager of the Scottish-Tasmanian syndicate called the Clyde Company, and afterwards as sole owner.

Mrs. Biddlecombe, when still Janet Russell, acquired Golf Hill from her only brother, Philip Russell, who died in 1898. She was the only unmarried sister, but the youngest, and she took the estate deliberately, knowing that it was encumbered, resolved to restore its stability, for her father's sake, and in her six sisters' interest. She succeeded so well—backed by a sailor-husband who matched her straightforwardness and penetration—that these financial anxieties now seem incredible.

She was perhaps the last who could bridge the gulf between Victorians and their beginnings, and find on the other side people whose ways and problems she understood. As a girl, she saw much of her father, and heard much from him. With all deference to Madam Pfund, her official teacher, she attributed her mental awakening to his influence. From him she derived her sagacity and self-discipline, her belief in method. Her mother—Euphemia Leslie Carstairs, her father's cousin, whose name is perpetuated in Leslie Manor—died when she was a baby, but left her the gracious gifts of humour allied to perception, tact, and kindness. Mrs. Biddlecombe thought with gratitude of the tenant-farmers in Fife from whom she descended.

The set of affairs at Golf Hill decided the set of her character. She knew how her father viewed the estate he had made in the wilderness—as something worthwhile in itself, as an enduring home for his branch of the family, as a useful and profitable investment dependent upon sound handling. She determined to maintain his standards, and to continue his policy.

When order had been restored, she and her husband founded a herd of pure Herefords. She supervised its development until it became the leading stud in Australia. When she knew she could no longer control it, she dispersed its benefits as widely as possible. The auction of last October, with the record price that resulted, is well remembered. The story of this stud has been published in Mr. A. J. Tanner's History of Golf Hill Herefords (1952). It was sad to see the Herefords go, but they had done splendid work and would continue to do so if rightly managed. As for the proceeds, many and various bodies approved by the taxation authorities would be glad to use them.

But Golf Hill, her father's trust—had she failed in that? Her husband (Commander John Biddlecombe, a "really good and lovable man," as a friend described him) had been dead for nearly 25 years, and they had no children. War and the scythe of time had removed everyone with a title to carry on. Taxation and national needs had forced some dismemberment. Mrs. Biddlecombe was quite convinced that Golf Hill as she conducted it was of greater use to the country than it could be for many years if subdivided. Yet strangers insisted that it had become an anomaly. She had published her father's memoirs, The Narrative of George Russell; she had sponsored books that would tell the Clyde Company's story.

With her death the essentials of her life's work became disentangled. Her most enduring achievement would be her example; her greatest wealth was her character. The charm of her company was quite exceptional. She was essentially feminine, and her opinions were always well-founded. She was wise, human, brave, humble, and above all, considerate. Sometimes she seemed to be formidable, because she would not be bamboozled, and laughed at humbug. But she accepted the fact that she was dependent on others, and they on her. Men managed Golf Hill Station, and only a crisis could bring her to interfere. Yet throughout she remained informed.

There was only short notice of the service at Shelford Church, and comparatively few were there. Men who had worked for her, and who were also her friends, acted as bearers. Salvation Army members, and others who represented causes that she had helped, paid tribute to her. Regulations prevented her burial at Golf Hill, but she, as she would have said, was "an obstinate creature," and her ashes will rest in the bush, near the graves of her father and mother.

Original publication

Other Obituaries for Janet Biddlecombe

Additional Resources

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

'Biddlecombe, Janet (1866–1954)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/biddlecombe-janet-107/text108, accessed 23 August 2019.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2019