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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Loughlin, Martin (1833–1894)

by Austin McCallum

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Martin Loughlin (1833-1894), mining magnate, speculator and sportsman, was born on 3 November 1833 at Castlewarren, near Kilkenny, Ireland, son of Martin Loughlin, farmer, and his wife Margaret. While still a boy he sailed for America; the ship was wrecked on Newfoundland but all hands were saved. In New York he worked briefly as a baker and then returned home. In 1855 Loughlin and his cousin, Patrick Brennan, migrated to Geelong and soon joined the gold rush to Pleasant Creek. Learning of new developments in deep-lead mining on the Ballarat field both men transferred their hopes to the co-operatives and companies which were forming to exploit the golden gutters of alluvial under the basalt plateau. Loughlin had remarkable good fortune. With Brennan he joined the Golden Gate Co-operative Co. as a working shareholder and by October 1856 also had shares in the Alston and Weardale Co. By March 1857 he was a working shareholder in the Kohinoor claim on the Golden Point lead which paid dividends of £304,460 after winning 147,570 ozs of gold; in the Melbourne share list of 3 June 1863 forty shares were quoted at £2800 each.

Loughlin rapidly extended his investments in company mines then discovering huge quantities of gold. His physical labour ended he moved into Craig's Hotel and divided his time drinking with other speculators and crossing the pavement to the 'Corner' where all local share transactions took place.

Between October 1874 and September 1876 Loughlin was one of the four members of a syndicate that owned the Egerton mine. They were much publicized defendants in court proceedings where the previous owners, Learmonth brothers of Ercildoun, alleged conspiracy and fraud in connexion with its purchase by Loughlin for £13,500. On 19 September 1873, the day he took possession, the mine yielded rich gold. The profits after the syndicate took it over were £320,000. Final judgment was in favour of the defendants and although the Learmonths obtained leave to appeal to the Privy Council they accepted Loughlin's proposal that each side should pay its own costs and end the litigation.

The discovery of rich alluvial deposits near Creswick inspired Loughlin and others to exploit these buried rivers of gold. Almost the entire area was private property and the independent working miners could not afford to pay the royalty tax. Loughlin with seven other capitalists bought 6000 acres (2400 ha) at £6 an acre from Alexander Wilson, brother of Sir Samuel, who had bought Ercildoun from the Learmonths. In May 1881 the Seven Hills Estate Co. was registered in 10,000 shares of £20 but few of its original shares changed hands. Mining companies were soon formed to tap the gold. Loughlin took a hand in floating six of the richest mines in the district. They produced nearly 900,000 ozs of gold, paid £269,925 royalties and distributed £1,776,945 as dividends on an aggregate capital of £143,375. When the mines were exhausted the land was sold for £50,000.

Loughlin lost heavily in the financial crisis of the early 1890s 'more than £100,000', according to the Ballarat Star, 27 September 1894. Apart from mining he had a large interest in the Melbourne Tramway Co. and owned hotels and much land, including pastoral holdings in Queensland. He was a keen sportsman with a large racing stable: two of his horses, Sheet Anchor and Oakleigh, won for him the Melbourne and Caulfield cups double. A spectacular punter who wagered thousands on his string, he gave horses which had cost him £5000 to his friends when he gave up racing.

Unlike most of his business associates he shunned public life, although in 1891 he stood for Nelson Province in the Legislative Council and polled well. In August 1890 he donated three paintings by noted English artists, then valued at £4000, to the Ballarat Art Gallery. He was not a notable philanthropist but was generous to the Roman Catholic Church and its schools, and to the major Ballarat institutions.

After a lingering illness he died, unmarried, at Craig's Hotel on 22 September 1894 of cerebral paralysis. His estate was valued at £250,000. His brother Michael, a farmer of Kilkenny, and Michael's sons, Michael and Thomas, were the beneficiaries.

Select Bibliography

  • W. B. Withers, The History of Ballarat (Ballarat, 1887)
  • R. Gay, Some Ballarat Pioneers (Mentone, 1935)
  • J. H. W. McGeorge, Buried Rivers of Gold (Melb, 1966)
  • Ballarat Courier, 24 Sept 1894
  • Ballarat Star, 25-27 Sept 1894
  • F. J. Fitzgerald, William Bailey and the Egerton mine (manuscript catalogue under Bailey, Ballarat Municipal Library).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Austin McCallum, 'Loughlin, Martin (1833–1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

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