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Cuningham, Hastings (1825–1908)

from Pastoralists' Review

Hastings Cuningham, n.d.

Hastings Cuningham, n.d.

from Pastoralists' Review, 15 October 1908

The death of Mr. Hastings Cuningham, which took place at East St. Kilda, on the 19th September, removed one of the very few remaining pioneers who did so much to build up Australia in its early days. Although Mr. Cuningham's name may not have been familiar to the rising generation, he was well-known to the older generation, both as a pastoralist and business man, and will long be affectionately remembered by a large circle of friends. Throughout his life, he lived to be eighty-three, he was noted as a good friend to any young man struggling to get on, and his sound advice, and more was often eagerly sought and freely given. He ranks as a pioneer in the wool-broking business, and was one of the original founders of the frozen meat export trade.

The following is a brief historical sketch of his life as supplied by a relative:—

Mr. Hastings Cuningham came of an old Ayrshire family, was born in Calcutta in 1825, educated in Scotland, and landed in Australia at the age of seventeen. He and a brother bought Mt. Mercer Station near Ballarat soon after he landed. They sold it, and he went into Mt Emu Station, also in the Western District of Victoria. He afterwards bought Mt. Gambier Station, in South Australia, and then owned Poon Boon on the Murray, and Waitchie, on the fringe of the Mallee. Many years after he was partner in Mt. Battery Station, near Mansfield, which he bought from Dr. Howe, and Jingellic, on the Upper Murray. He was responsible for laying out the township of Mt. Gambier, and wherever he went, did his best to develop settlement.

About 1862 Mr. Cuningham founded his wool business, taking into partnership Mr. William Macredie. The firm was known as Cuningham and Macredie, with its offices in Collins-street West, Melbourne. The firm was contemporary with Dalgety, Blackwood and Co., Gibbs, Ronald and Co., R. Goldsborough and Co., and William Sloane and Co. Mr. Cuningham eventually floated his firm into a company registered as the "Australasian Mortgage and Agency Company Limited." During Mr. Cuningham's management of this business he bought "Brookville," Mathoura Road, Toorak, where he and his wife and large family lived for upwards of eighteen years. When he and they went home, this place of 23 acres was cut up, being one of the first places bought for that purpose in the land boom.

What was left of the place has lately been bought, and turned into public gardens.

Mr. Hastings Cuningham, as before mentioned, was one of the first to be seized with the possibilities of the frozen meat export trade. After Sir Thomas Mort, it is doubtful if any man worked so hard to establish the trade. During the seventies he visited Paris and Glasgow to make inquiries about marine refrigerating machinery, and in conjunction with the late Mr. George Fairbairn and Mr. Fred Armytage went to many other engineering centres in England with the same object in view. He was very disappointed that he could not get influential men at home to realise the possibilities of the trade. However, in 1879 the first shipment of frozen meat ever sent from overseas to Great Britain was made by the Strathleven, and it was largely owing to Mr. Cuningham's efforts and partly at his expense that it went. Although this original shipment was entirely successful, Mr. Cuningham, after sparing neither time nor money in forming meat works, &c., was forced to admit, to use his own words, that "the time was not ripe but its day would come." Happily he lived to see his prognostications come true.

Mr. Cuningham was the oldest member of the Melbourne Club, and until recently was a regular visitor there. He was always a prominent figure in business and financial circles. His practical knowledge of Victoria and New South Wales made his opinion on land values and all pastoral questions valuable and much sought after. His strength had been declining for the last few years, but his cheerful spirit and genial nature were unchanged to the last, making his meetings with old friends a constant source of pleasure, and up to the end he retained all his faculties.

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Citation details

'Cuningham, Hastings (1825–1908)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/cuningham-hastings-276/text277, accessed 16 December 2019.

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