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George Ranken (1827–1895)

Among those who have settled upon Australian soil, the memory of Mr. George Ranken, whose death took place at Young, N.S.W., on the 6th ult., at the age of sixty-eight, deserves to be kept green; for he was not only a pioneer settler, but he devoted very much time for years to a study of colonial Land laws, and his knowledge and experience were from time to time given to the public in a purely patriotic spirit. The late Mr. Ranken was born in Ayr, Scotland, and, after gaining some years' commercial experience in a merchant's office at Leith, he came to Australia in 1851, being then twenty-four years old. He soon found employment in the Bank of New South Wales, and a short time afterwards was located as one of that institution's gold-buyers in the Ovens district of Victoria. Subsequently he took part with the late Mr. William Landsborough in an exploring expedition to the northern part of this continent, and that resulted in his occupying and stocking some new country in Queensland. In 1858 he returned to Scotland, and in the following year married Miss Shaw, daughter of General Shaw, of the Indian army. Returning to Queensland with his wife in 1859, he obtained the appointment of Crown lands ranger, his residence being at Rockhampton. Some years afterwards he came to Sydney, and in 1887 was the moving spirit in the Commercial, Pastoral and Agricultural Association, with which the late Mr, James Wilson was intimately connected as president. He served on two Royal Commissions upon the administration of the land laws of New South Wales, the last being about twelve years ago, in conjunction with Mr. Augustus Morris. The result of the investigations was the issue of what is known as the Morris-Ranken report upon the public lands of the colony, which shows a large acquaintance with and able exposition of the subject, and has been of great service to those engaged in land legislation. He was a prolific writer, and, besides contributing to the press, published several pamphlets upon the land question and kindred subjects. His "Bush Essays," published in Edinburgh in 1872, dealt with facts about Australia and co-operative settlement in New South Wales. In 1875 he wrote a most valuable pamphlet on the "Squatting System," showing the agrarian quarrels, country settlement, finance, and gold discoveries, and their effects on the pastoral industry. In 1876 he published, through Messrs. Turner and Henderson, of Sydney, a reprint of his letters to the Sydney Morning Herald on "Colonisation." It is a most valuable resume of our pastoral affairs, in which he deals with the supineness of legislators: In 1877, through the same publishers, he issued "Homestead Settlement, or Grazing Past, Present, and Future;" and in the same year, the "Land Laws of the Future." The year 1891 saw an important educational work from his pen, viz., "The Federal Geography of British Australasia," over which, he expended a large amount of time and research. He was a lecturer and essayist, a member of the Young Land Board, a justice of the peace, editor of the Australian Magazine, author of a book entitled "The Invasion," which caused attention to be turned on our singularly defenceless condition, and which aroused the military in New South Wales. His writings have had considerable influence in the colony in which he latterly lived, and in some of its neighbours, and the effect still lives. He was public spirited in the best sense, a happy man in his home, working ever for the true and right, and his example of honesty in every phase of life was a model for all. Just prior to his last and fatal illness, he was much, concerned in the fortune of his novel, "Windabyne," which he sent to Edinburgh to be printed ; but he did not live to see it reach these shores. It was a work much thought of when published in magazine chapters as a life-like account of a squatter's vicissitudes in the early sixties. It was his intention to read before the Young Debating Club, in August next, a paper entitled "Another Word on the Land Question," and it is understood that this will, be published. The deceased gentleman leaves a widow and four grown-up sons. He was a cousin of Mr. J. T. C. Ranken, of Rockhampton.

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'Ranken, George (1827–1895)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Capricornus

17 July, 1827
Ayr, Ayrshire, Scotland


6 May, 1895 (aged 67)
Young, New South Wales, Australia

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