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Maine, Nicholas (1826–1915)

OCCASIONAL PAPERS

NICHOLAS MAINE - AN APPRECIATION.

By ARGONAUT.

This small appreciation is written of a man of a strenuous and adventurous life, whose death was announced last week. He was one who lived his life well up to within a decade of the century; who from his fresh youth upward was a man of action and of business energy, and who carried out with singular sagacity and patience up to his seventieth birthday a system of business which he may be almost said to have created. On his retirement from this particular scene of his labour, he was by no means an idle man. He employed himself in various directions, and without in any way posing as a philanthropist devoted much of his hard-earned money to charities, both public and private. In his forty-fourth year he married Margaret, daughter of Andrew Murison McCrae, for many years a stipendiary magistrate and warden of the goldfields, Victoria, their only daughter, now Mrs. E. W. Outhwaite, surviving them. The better part of the material towards the compilation of the following memoir is taken from a short autobiography handed by Mr. Maine to his daughter:

Nicholas Maine, whose paternal grandfather was rector of the Church of England and Ireland, parish of Dunaghy, County Antrim, came of a family of very considerable repute as merchants in Belfast. He was born at Ballymena on New Year's Day, 1826, and received his earlier education at the Diocesan School, Ballymena, and at Dr. Bryce's Academy, Belfast. After a three years' apprenticeship in a merchant's office, in Belfast, he ventured forth into the world as supercargo in a vessel belonging to one of his brothers, and so performing two voyages to Brazil. Ashore once more, he joined a broker's office in Liverpool, and whilst there was specially chosen out of a large staff as the man to take charge of a fleet of ships on a guano quest on the coast of Patagonia. Having determined on a suitable rendezvous for his ships, he sailed for the River Plate in a handy vessel, and from Monte Video south- wards minutely searched and examined the coast, chiefly in boats, as far as Santa Cruz, near the Straits of Magellan. At Sea Bear's Bay, in lat. 48deg. S., he landed his men, and pitched his tents, &c. After 10 months of extreme hardship and risky adventure on the coast in open boats, and loss of many men from scurvy, he loaded up all the ships sent to him, and returned to the River Plate. While there he met Captain Hotham, R.N., of H.M.S. Gordon (afterwards Governor of Victoria), and also saw Garibaldi, who was then making himself famous by his daring adventures against the enemy, though with inadequate means. (There was war going on in the river at the time.)

From Monte Video he returned to Brazil, where he opened a direct trade with Russia, by shipping the first cargo, of sugar and cotton from Pernambuco to St. Petersburg. For so doing the Emperor Nicholas allowed his vessel (the Urgent), belonging to his brothers, trading under he name of N. Maine and Sons, to enter Russia free of port charges.

Shortly after this Nicholas Maine went ashore, spending three years in a Liverpool brokers office, when, sailing again as super cargo, he went on a trading voyage to Chili and Peru.

He was present at Panama for six months during the rush to California, and crossed the isthmus on muleback and by canoe, a severe journey in those days. Thence he went to Jamaica, his ship's company carrying with them the cholera, which decimated the population. Then home again, visiting the United States by the way. After another year in Liverpool, he sailed again for Brazil, at one day's notice, bought a cargo of coffee at Rio Janeiro, took it to San Francisco, and settled there, where he had three years of a most exciting life — 1851-2-3 —also making speculative voyages down the coast to Mexico and Nicaragua, at which latter place he took the fever and so on to the South Sea Islands, where he suffered shipwreck, and thence on to Chili.

He arrived in Melbourne from New Zealand in 1854; made one more voyage to Chili (his last venture at sea), and on his return sold his vessel. After refitting a dismasted clipper ship, called the Flying Arrow for his brother Crawford, with what was considered in those days unusual dispatch, when the port had not many conveniences for the purpose, he quietly went again into harness ashore. He managed Mr. T. S. Martin's large business in Melbourne for five years, till he broke down, from excessive work and anxiety.

After winding up the business, he sailed for England in 1862, and idled at home, in Italy, and other parts of the Continent till, his health being restored, he returned to Melbourne in 1867, and went to Queensland to buy into a station along with his brother and others; but, not being satisfied, came back to Melbourne, and began to work as a mercantile broker. Soon after this he was induced to apply for the resident secretaryship of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, and got it in 1868, though, at the time, several professionals thought him unfit, and prophesied failure.

He retired after a long term of eminently profitable business transactions in 1895, owing to a rule of the society to retire secretaries at the age of seventy. He accordingly left on the 1st January, 1896, after twenty-seven years' service unbroken by a single holiday, save for a trip to Europe in 1891.

A letter was written him by Sir Joseph Abbott, chairman of the board, in which he said:- "I need hardly assure you that the board is extremely sorry that the, society is obliged to lose your services, which have been so highly appreciated by us during your long connection with the society," and enclosed a grateful resolution passed by the board.

Original publication

Citation details

'Maine, Nicholas (1826–1915)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/maine-nicholas-19081/text30665, accessed 19 August 2022.

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