Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lockwood, Joseph (1862–1955)

by J. E. Senyard

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Joseph Lockwood (1862-1955), storekeeper and local politician, was born on 17 June 1862 at Whittlesea, Victoria, son of William Henry Lockwood, wheelwright, and his wife Naomi, née Bullock, both from England. Educated at Whittlesea, Lockwood engaged in storekeeping there for about six years and for one year in South Gippsland, where, however, conditions did not please him. In 1888 he turned to the Mallee, recently opened to selection, and bought a store at the junction of five roads at Birchip.

In 1890 Lockwood became first president of the Birchip Progress Association and in 1895 when the Shire of Birchip was inaugurated he became a councillor. Over the next sixty years he missed only four meetings and acted as president for seven terms: a world record for length of service was claimed. It was said that he 'had a beaten track to the offices of the Public Works Department in his efforts to get help for the Birchip Shire'. He was president of the North-Western Shires and Boroughs' Association of Victoria for twenty years and represented it as an executive member of the Municipal Association of Victoria for eighteen years.

Lockwood held an impressive array of local public offices. He was a guarantor of the railway, chairman of the water works trust, president of the agricultural and pastoral society and the mechanics' institute, and lifetime member of the public hall committee. Other roles such as justice of the peace (from 1889) and deputy coroner reinforced his authority. As treasurer of the Methodist Church Trust, a keen Rechabite, a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Australian Natives' Association, he was the epitome of the nineteenth-century founding father. On 17 June 1897 at Ballarat with Wesleyan forms he married Agnes Blyth (d.1919); they had four children.

At times, during drought or depression, Lockwood's domination of Birchip public life was challenged, especially in the 1930s when the council came under criticism for its mishandling of relief. However, his credit as 'the grand old man' carried the day and remained the basis of his appeal to ratepayers after the demands of the post World War II period had outstripped his original vision.

The tendency to identify the story of Joseph Lockwood with the story of Birchip and the Mallee is valid. As a storekeeper his fortunes were linked closely to the farming community and as a councillor his interpretation of the district's needs was central to its development. In his paper-strewn office or out in front of his store, the short, sturdy figure of 'Uncle Joe' with his white beard and pipe in hand appeared a symbol of probity and perseverance.

In 1945 Lockwood was appointed O.B.E. and was presented to Queen Elizabeth during her visit in 1954. He died at Birchip on 17 July 1955 and was buried in the local cemetery. His estate, valued for probate at £20,379, was divided between his two daughters, his surviving son and his grandchildren.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 3 (Melb, 1905)
  • J. E. Senyard, Birchip—Essays on a Shire (Birchip, 1970)
  • Herald (Melbourne), 28 Mar 1940.

Citation details

J. E. Senyard, 'Lockwood, Joseph (1862–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 27 February 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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