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:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Hurtle Willoughby Morphett (1855–1938)

Death Of Notable Pastoralist

Mr. Hurtle Morphett

THE death occurred in Adelaide on Monday night of Mr. Hurtle Willoughby Morphett, the youngest son of Sir John Morphett, who was one of the founders of South Australia. He was 83 years of age.

Mr. Morphett was himself one of the best-known pastoralists in South Australia. The greater part of his life was spent at Woods Point, near Murray Bridge, the estate which Sir John Morphett selected from among the first surveyed in the early years of the colony, and which, under Mr. Hurtle Morphett's administration, became one of the most valuable pastoral properties in South Australia. Mr. Morphett was born at "Cummins," Morphettville, on July 29, 1855. His mother was a daughter of Sir James Hurtle Fisher, the Resident Commissioner, and afterwards the first President of the Legislative Council. Sir John Morphett married Miss Fisher in 1838, two years after he had reached the colony.

Educated at St. Peter's College, Mr. Hurtle Morphett, on leaving school, joined his elder brothers, Charles and James, on Thurulgoona station in Queensland. After Thurulgoona was sold, he became closely associated with his uncle, C. B. Fisher, in various pastoral activities. While still a young man he took delivery, on behalf of his uncle, of Warrnambool Downs in Queensland from the late Sir. J. W. Anderson, father of Mrs. G. C. Morphett, of "Cummins."

Later he went to England to float C. B. Fisher's Queensland properties into a joint stock company known as the Australian Pastoral Company, which shears some 7,000 bales of wool, and of which his grand-nephew, Mr. Hurtle Cummins Morphett, son of Mr. G. C. Morphett, is now assistant manager.

In the 'eighties, Mr. Hurtle Morphett and his brother John took over Woods Point, which then consisted chiefly of swamp lands. Sir John Morphett had selected the land on May 13, 1839. Like many other pioneers he had been at tracted by Sturt's description of his voyage down the Murray, during which he landed on swamps which he re ported as containing the richest soil he had ever seen. A good deal of the swamp land was surveyed and taken up, but for many years it remained unproductive. It was not until 1880 that reclamation work was begun by Sir William Jervois, and in the following year his example was followed by the Morphett brothers at Woods Point.

The river banks were of swamp mud, which as it dried contracted to such an extent that water flowed freely through the cracks. Stocking with sheep in time consolidated the mud and made the banks fairly watertight, but at a very much reduced level. Consequently, the lands were available only when the river was low. With a moderate rise the lands were always subject to inundation. It was left to Mr. Hurtle Morphett at the end of last century to establish the value of the flats by raising the embankments and making them watertight. Today what was formerly a swamp is rich fattening pasture country carrying 15 sheep to the acre. In recent years Mr. Morphett had been assisted in the man agement of Woods Point by Mr. P. J. Baily.

Mr. Morphett was unmarried. He is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Harry Ayers, of East terrace, Adelaide, who is 95 years of age, and Mrs. Adelaide Henderson, of Manaia, New Zealand, who is 92.

Mr. Morphett reached the same age as his father - 83. Sir John Morphett came to South Australia at the age of 27, and immediately became one of the outstanding figures in the settlement. There are, indeed, few names in the history of South Australia so familiar or more respected than his. As a young London solicitor he became inspired with the idea of founding a colony near the mouth of the Murray. He fought for the South Australian Colonisation Bill which empowered the settlement of the Colony, and showed both his faith and his courage by joining the first band of settlers. He sailed in the Cygnet, and so reached South Australia three months before the Colony was proclaimed.

For many years thereafter there was scarcely an important activity under taken in the State with which Sir John Morphett was not connected. No one worked more earnestly than he for the establishment of responsible government. He was a member of the Legislative Council both before and after self-government was granted, and eventually succeeded Sir James Hurtle Fisher as President, a position he held for several years. He died in 1892.

One of his sons, the late Mr. John Cummins, was well known for many years as Clerk of the House of Assembly. Mr. George C. Morphett, a son of Mr. John Cummins Morphett, has followed his grandfather's example by entering politics, with which be has been promi nently associated for some time. Mr. Hurtle Morphett took no part in public life. His interests were those of a "man on the land," and he was never happier than in the open air at tending to the hundred and one tasks that fall to the pastoralist in the course of the day's work. He was a splendid horseman and loved horses, though he never raced them. He looked much younger than his years, the result of an active healthy life, and until com paratively recently he enjoyed the best of health. He possessed a rare charm of manner — an old world courtliness which made friends of acquaintances and turned interest into affection wherever he went. Of few people could it be so truly said that he had not an enemy in the world.

Original publication

Citation details

'Morphett, Hurtle Willoughby (1855–1938)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024