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Peter Waite (1834–1922)

Peter Waite, n.d.

Peter Waite, n.d.

from Pastoral Review, 11 April 1922

Mr. Peter Waite, the doyen of South Australian pastoralists, passed quietly away early this month. For some time past Mr. Waite had been feeling the pressure of the years, but although he recently retired from the chairmanship of the board of directors of Elder, Smith and Co. Limited, he remained on it at the earnest request of his co-directors, and to the end took a keen interest in all questions affecting State, Commonwealth and Empire.

He was a man of exceptionally wide experiences, deep sympathies, and pronounced opinions formed after careful inquiry. During the summer months he has been residing at Victor Harbour, and it was there that he died, somewhat unexpectedly, as during the last few weeks he had been in exceptional health, while at all time his mental vigour was unimpaired.

The late Mr. Waite was born at Kirkcaldy, Scotland, on 9th May, 1834, and after having been apprenticed to the ironmongery business and engaged in commerce generally in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, he came out to Melbourne. At this time a brother of his was interested in Pandappa, a sheep station about 150 miles north of Adelaide, and Mr. Waite decided to enter upon pastoral pursuits in South Australia. He soon became associated with the late Sir Thomas Elder, then the head of the well-known stock and station firm, and took up his residence at Paratoo, in the north-east of South Australia, and Pandappa, and Paratoo, which adjoined, were worked under one management until the leases expired late in the eighties.

It was not long before the young Scotsman showed his calibre, and his strength of character and determination soon brought him to the forefront in pastoral affairs. His interests gradually included the well-known leases of Cordillo Downs, Beltana, Murnpeowie, Mount Lyndhurst, Blanchewater, Kanowana, Lake Charles, Mulyungarie, Mutooroo, Lilydale, and Momba. Ho also joined the board of Elder, Smith and Co. Limited. Mr. Waite resided on the station properties until 1874, when owing to his increasing interests in various parts of the country he took up his residence in Adelaide, and carried on the general control of all the properties. He was a great advocate of water improving and fencing, and between 1869 and 1896 he spent over £214,000 in fencing, providing water supplies, and generally improving the properties. The sheep at Paratoo rose to 260,000 in 1874, whilst Beltana properties at one time touched 363,000.

Whilst he did not favour the policy of paying scalp money for the destruction of wild dogs, holding that it was better to encourage the regular station employees to deal with the pest, his policy was a vigorous fight against the dingo and rabbits, and he fought these pests at every point, and few men have done more in South Australia to fence against dogs and rabbits and keep his properties clear of them, using his influence with his neighbours to adopt the same relentless policy. Mr. Waite was also a great believer in using camels and donkeys for station and carrying purposes, and he was a large breeder of these animals.

It was largely due to the efforts of the late Mr. Waite, assisted by the late Mr. A. G. Downer and the late Mr. William Hamilton, that South Australia led the way in putting the pastoral land laws on a workable basis. It is sometimes said that the South Australian pastoral laws are liberal, but that after all is only a relative term, since the Government as landlord was forced into the position of giving reasonable terms in order to help their old tenants and induce new ones to take up country and develop it. All through the nineties Mr. Waite fought strenuously for amendments, which were subsequently given with some reluctance, but which are now regarded as being the foundation of the pastoral industry in this State, and lessees have cause to be particularly grateful to the deceased gentleman for his pertinacity of purpose in working for the good of the industry, and correspondingly for the interests of the whole country.

The late Mr. Waite has been a great public benefactor, and has made substantial gifts to the State and various institutions. In 1913 he presented to the Adelaide University, subject to a life tenancy of himself and wife, his residence ("Urrbrae") near Adelaide, with 67 acres of land, the remaining 67 acres of the same section being presented to the Government for a public park, with the right for the University to reserve 10 or 15 acres of it for use as a sports ground. Two years later he increased this benefaction by gifts of two adjoining sections of 53 and 112 acres, and in addition transferred to the trustees for the University to provide money for utilising this land 4900 shares in Elder, Smith and Co. Limited, which, with accruing shares, represented a value, together with gifts of land, of approximately £100,000. In 1913 he gave £10,000 to Elder, Smith and Co. Limited as a nucleus of an officers' provident fund. These were by no means the limit of his philanthropic efforts during his lifetime, as he was a man of broad sympathies and imbued with a desire to help deserving institutions and individual cases.

The deceased has left a widow (formerly Miss Methuen, of Leith, Scotland, whom he married in 1864); one son, Mr. James Waite, M.B.E., metallurgical engineer, of London; and three daughters—Mrs. James Macmeikan (Victoria), Miss Waite and Miss Eva Waite, O.B.E., of South Australia. There is one grandchild, daughter of Mr. James Waite. Mr. David Waite (a son of Mr. Peter Waite) died about nine years ago.

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'Waite, Peter (1834–1922)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Peter Waite, n.d.

Peter Waite, n.d.

from Pastoral Review, 11 April 1922

Life Summary [details]


9 May, 1834
Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland


4 April, 1922 (aged 87)
Victor Harbor, South Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Cultural Heritage

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