Thomas Graham

Thomas Graham

Thomas Graham, born at Aphis Creek, Queensland in 1864 was one of 9 children of John Graham and Louisa Robey who had been married at Richardson River, Victoria in 1852. Their first 6 children were all born in Victoria between 1854 and 1861. The other 3, including Thomas were born in Queensland. Thomas later married Theresa Ellen Martin at Charters Towers in 1899. They had 7 children, the last one, Claire Ursala, being born in 1918.

In 1919 Thomas was appointed manager of Victoria River Downs. While managing this large property their eldest sons Kevin, born in 1904 and Thomas Gerald, born in 1906 were enrolled as boarders at Nudgee College in Brisbane. They were followed in 1922 by Malcolm and John. Their daughter Katherine, born in 1901, boarded at the Catholic College in Cooktown.

From the day the children left home to go to boarding school the brothers and sisters did not see each other, nor their parents, until they finished their education and returned to Victoria River Downs.

After many years years of droving and pastoral work Thomas died on 2 August 1926. Learning of his death, the Northern Territory Times published this tribute.
"One of the old type of cattleman and bushman passed on at Victoria River Downs on the 2nd August, in the person of Mr. T. Graham, the manager. One of the most unassuming of men, he possessed grim determination, cool judgement and ability. His father came out from Scotland in the early days to manage a sheep station in Victoria. When the rush for country in Queensland took place, John Graham travelled with a flock of sheep from Victoria and settled on the edge of what is now known as the "Peak Downs".

Here he formed two stations for his firm – Clifton and Aphis Creek –and it was at the latter place that Tom was born in 1864. Years afterwards Mr. John Graham joined the late C.J. Beardmore, Esq., in Clive Station and here the family lived for years. After the father's death the boys carried on "Clive" but eventually it passed into other hands, the boys striking out for themselves.

They all became noted horsemen and bushmen, the whole seven of them. Duncan, the eldest, was selected as guide to Baron von Mueller's expedition, when that explorer started out on his last expedition to search for traces of Burke and Wills, and strange to say, it was left to Tom Graham, many years later, to find the last camp of the ill-fated explorers, on the Dynoe River near Magoura for the Geographical Society.

For many years before he married, Tom followed droving, taking big mobs of cattle into N.S.W. from Queensland. Since then he has managed various stations. He took over Magoura for the Q.N.E. & A. Co. in 1904 which position he held for 11 years. He came to the Northern Territory for the Northern Agency Limited in 1918 as cattle approver, was appointed manager of Victoria Downs for the Bovril Australian Estates in succession to the late Mr. Townsend in 1919 and was made attorney for the Company in 1924 which position he held until his death.

It is not generally known that Mr. Graham belonged to an ancient Scottish family, his father being a collateral descendant of the great Montrose (James Graham, Earl and Marquis 1612-1650) one of the noblest figures in Scottish history. Another kinsman John Graham of Claverhouse (Viscount Dundee) the hero of the battle of Killiecrankie and about whom the famous song "Bonnie Dundee" was composed.

Ever since the 13th century the Grahams have been the unofficial wardens of the northern marches, gave Scotland its first primate, and another became Viceroy when James the sixth ascended the British throne. They attained the peerage in 1451. As might be expected coming from a family of soldiers, Mr. Graham was a very keen observer and a thorough organiser and in his young days was a graceful horseman. Right up to the time of his death it was a pleasure to watch him drafting cattle on a camp.

His presence of mind was wonderful, nothing was allowed to disturb his equilibrium. Writer has known him to get out of many tight corners by his coolness and courage in time of danger. A man of strictest integrity whose word was his bond. He was a firm but just employer and a first class cattleman. Mr. Graham was the first chairman of the Carpentaria Shire Council, a J.P. for the State of Queensland and also for the Northern Territory.

He was a cousin to Professor William Graham Weir of Melbourne whose daughter Dr. Laura Weir is well known in Central Queensland. Devoted to duty Mr. Graham died at his post. It may be truly said of him that his watch word was service. A wife, five sons and two daughters are left to mourn their loss".

After working with his father at Victoria River Downs for a couple of years Thomas Gerald Graham went to Gatton Agricultural College to pursue his studies of Agricultural Science. After graduation he taught at Gatton for some time and was then appointed to the Dept of Primary Industries and carried out work related to the early tobacco crops in Mareeba. From there he moved to the Rockhampton area and later retired there. He died in January 2009, aged 102, still alert and interested in life.

With thanks to Belinda Dettmann who supplied the information.

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