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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Goddard, Benjamin (1834–1912)

by W. H. Bossence

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Benjamin Goddard (1834-1912), leader in the Kyabram reform movement, was baptized on 7 December 1834 at Shabbington, Buckinghamshire, England, son of Thomas Goddard, publican, and his wife Elizabeth, née Kimble (Kimbell). He had had some experience in the bakery and confectionery trade in London before migrating to Australia, arriving in Melbourne on 5 January 1853. After working in Sydney for a time, he returned to Victoria and prospected for gold on the Ballarat fields. He worked for a wholesale merchant in Melbourne before moving to McIvor (Heathcote) about 1856. On 10 October 1857 with Church of England rites he married 31-year-old Mrs Louisa Nicolls, née Kerr, a schoolmistress; Goddard was then working as a baker at Heathcote. He managed a store for Moore, Christie & Spinks for five years before going on a trip to England in 1869.

Goddard sold out at Heathcote in 1872 and joined Clements Mumford in a general storekeeping business with shops at Rushworth and Murchison. He also set up a store and hotel at Tatura, with Mumford, Angus Ross and Robert Currie; from 1876 the partnership traded as Ross & Co. Goddard lived at Murchison and acted as post and telegraph master.

In 1873 he explored the country north of Murchison and selected allotments at Taripta, north-east of present Kyabram, under the terms of the 1869 Land Act. He gave up storekeeping and farmed the property for some ten years before moving to Kyabram in 1889 to set up again as a storekeeper and wheat-buyer.

As secretary of the Goulburn Valley (West Side) Railway League, Goddard had given evidence at the bar of the Legislative Council in support of the railway. In September 1879 he was appointed secretary-treasurer of a Kyabram movement agitating for a line from Tatura to Echuca (opened 1887). Known affectionately as 'B.G.' throughout the Goulburn valley, he promoted the merits of irrigation in the Australasian (1894) and 'stumped the electorate eight or nine times in the interests of political aspirants and … nearly every man he “ran” got into Parliament'.

Goddard supported Federation of the Australian colonies and Church union, but within months of the inauguration of Federation he and other electors became alarmed at the cost of government. Goddard sounded the keynote at a meeting which predated the foundation of the Kyabram Reform League, when he called for drastic economies in government. At the founding meeting of the league on 13 November 1901 he moved the first motion and was appointed joint-secretary, S. Lancaster becoming president. More than two hundred branches were formed and at the Citizens' Reform League's conference in April 1902, Goddard was elected vice-president. In 1902 the league swept all before it: the Peacock ministry fell, the subsequent Irvine ministry easily won the election, and the number of parliamentarians was considerably reduced.

Goddard's first wife had died in 1897 and on 11 December 1901 he married 33-year-old Ann Bevan of Merrigum. After retiring to Heathcote for four years he returned to Kyabram where he died on 26 October 1912. He was survived by two sons and a daughter of his first marriage and three sons and two daughters of his second; their ages ranged from 54 to 1½ years. He was buried in Kyabram cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • H. L. Nielson, The Voice of the People (Kyabram, 1902)
  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 3 (Melb, 1905)
  • W. H. Bossence, Kyabram (Melb, 1963), and Murchison (Melb, 1965)
  • Kyela, 1970, p 71, 74
  • Kyabram Free Press, 6, 13 Jan 1905, 8 Nov 1912.

Citation details

W. H. Bossence, 'Goddard, Benjamin (1834–1912)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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