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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hunt, Thomas (1841–1934)

by K. Simpson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Thomas Hunt (1841-1934), journalist, was born on 15 September 1841 at Cappawhite, County Tipperary, Ireland, the third son of John Hunt and his wife Anne, née O'Brien. He was educated in parish schools. With his parents and four others of the family he arrived in Victoria in 1858 and settled at Kilmore, the home of two older sisters who had reached there four years earlier.

Hunt rejected an opening in the Colonial Bank and joined the staff of the Examiner and Kilmore and McIvor Weekly Journal, at the same time studying law. In 1865 he founded the Kilmore Free Press with which he incorporated the Examiner in 1868. He remained editor and proprietor of the journal until 1933. He acquired or established other country papers, the Seymour Express in 1872, the Lancefield Mercury in 1874, the Nagambie Times in 1878 and the Moira Independent in 1883, but they had passed from his possession by the 1890s. So also had much of his real estate on the collapse in 1891 of the Imperial Banking Co. Ltd, of which he was a director with Sir Benjamin Benjamin. In 1868 Hunt had married Catherine Mary, daughter of Martin Flynn of Melbourne; she died without issue in January 1914.

In 1874 Hunt stood for the Legislative Assembly seat of Kilmore in a three-cornered contest, one of his opponents being Sir John O'Shanassy. Hunt won the seat by forty-four votes, a victory which he later cited to explain some of the differences that developed between O'Shanassy and himself. He retained his seat through changes of distribution which made him member for Kilmore, first member for Kilmore and Anglesey in 1877-88 and member for Anglesey in 1889-92. He served on two royal commissions: one on closed roads in 1878-79 and the other on gold-mining which included in its report of 1891 a recommendation for the redevelopment of the Reedy Creek fields, one of Hunt's particular interests. After defeat in 1892 he returned to journalism, except for a short trip to Ireland in 1896 as Victorian representative at the Irish Nationalist Party Convention in Dublin.

In March 1903 Hunt was re-elected to the Legislative Assembly for Anglesey which became Upper Goulburn after 1904. In November 1908 he became president of the board of land and works, and commissioner of crown lands and survey in Bent's ministry. His tenure in office was brief for Bent's fall in January 1909 also terminated Hunt's parliamentary career. He then remained in Kilmore where he died on 8 December 1934.

Quiet in parliament, Hunt was voluble over a wide field in his editorials and private conversation. He was an early supporter of Sir Graham Berry and the ideal of a 'yeomanry' of smallholders. His association with Irish and Catholic affairs and public figures was close and continuous and he attained the status of a leading voice in the Irish community before the end of the 1860s.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 3 (Melb, 1905)
  • P. S. Cleary, Australia's Debt to Irish Nation-Builders (Syd, 1933)
  • J. A. Maher, The Tale of a Century: Kilmore, 1837-1937 (Melb, 1938)
  • M. Cannon, The Land Boomers (Melb, 1966)
  • Table Talk, 16 Oct 1896
  • Age (Melbourne), 10 Dec 1934
  • Argus (Melbourne), 10 Dec 1934
  • Australian Worker, 19 Dec 1934
  • G. M. Tobin, The Sea-Divided Gael: A Study of the Irish Home Rule Movement in Victoria and New South Wales, 1880-1916 (M.A. thesis, Australian National University, 1969)
  • private information.

Citation details

K. Simpson, 'Hunt, Thomas (1841–1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 28 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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