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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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McIntyre, Sir John (1832–1904)

by Allan Johnston

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

Sir John McIntyre (1832-1904), politician and businessman, was born on 24 April 1832 in Glasgow, Scotland, son of Malcolm McIntyre and his wife, née McGuinness. Educated at South End Academy, he began a medical course at the University of Glasgow but was attracted to Victoria by reports of gold discoveries and in 1852 arrived at Portland in the Runnymede. He worked various mining claims with success and settled at Bendigo where in 1855 he set up business as apothecary and gold-buyer in partnership with Dr James Eadie but continued his mining pursuits, especially quartz-crushing.

In the early 1850s McIntyre supported the Red Ribbon Movement against conditions on the goldfields. He was prominent in the agitation for unlocking the lands and treasurer of the local land league. In 1857 he offered to lead the diggers to Melbourne 'to prevent the robbery and spoliation of the patrimony of the people'. In 1856 he had been elected to the Sandhurst Court which dealt with mining matters and in 1858 to its successor, the mining board. As its chairman he was a leader in framing the first code of local mining by-laws and president of the first conference of mining board representatives in Melbourne. His many investments in mining were profitable and he travelled overseas several times to procure foreign capital for local mines, notably in 1887 when he formed a company in London to introduce British capital into the Maldon mines.

In 1859 McIntyre was elected to the Sandhurst Municipal Council but went to Europe with his family. On his return in 1862 he rejoined the council, becoming chairman in 1863 and then first mayor before he resigned in 1868. As mayor he was host to the Duke of Edinburgh when he visited Bendigo in December 1867. In 1876 he represented Victoria at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, partly to observe the arrangements so that he could make recommendations for the Victorian celebrations a decade later. In Bendigo he took a special interest in the local hospital, giving long service as honorary secretary and later as a trustee. He was a territorial magistrate and a guardian of minors for the Bendigo district.

McIntyre tried several times to enter parliament, contesting Mandurang in 1866 and Sandhurst in 1871 and 1874. In 1877 he was persuaded to stand again and won Sandhurst. An outspoken free trader, he actively opposed protection and lost his seat in June 1880, but early in 1881 won Maldon in the by-election which followed J. Service's resignation from the seat. From 23 January 1893 to 27 September 1894 in the J. B. Patterson ministry he was president of the Board of Lands and Works and commissioner of crown lands and survey. He was a member of the royal commissions on the tariff in 1881 and gold-mining in 1889 and served on the railway standing committee in 1890. He lost his seat in September 1902.

Described as 'grand company', McIntyre was a popular and energetic administrator. He was appointed a K.B. in 1895. A Presbyterian, he was honorary colonel of the Scottish Regiment. He had married in 1853 Jeanne Grant, sister-in-law of Dr Eadie. She died in 1861, leaving three sons; in 1875 he married her sister Isabella who died in 1902. McIntyre's health broke down after his exhausting but vain campaign for election to the Senate in December 1903. He died at his home in Brighton on 18 January 1904 and was buried at the Back Creek cemetery, Bendigo.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • Australasian, 21 Dec 1867, 28 Jan 1893, 5 Jan 1895, 28 Nov 1903, 23 Jan 1904
  • Sydney Mail, 10 May 1884
  • M. G. Finlayson, Groups in Victorian Politics, 1889-94 (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1964).

Citation details

Allan Johnston, 'McIntyre, Sir John (1832–1904)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 29 September 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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