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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Randall, George (1843–1930)

by Jennifer Harrison

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

George Randall (1843-1930), confectionery manufacturer, migration officer and orchardist, was born on 9 February 1843 at Hertford, England, son of Richard Randall, tailor, and his wife Eliza, née Webb. Educated at the Cowper Testimonial National School and then privately, George worked initially in domestic service. He married Naomi Jackson on 20 May 1868 in the parish church, Anwick, Lincolnshire, and the couple immediately left for Queensland in the Planet. Randall kept a shipboard diary describing the four-month voyage.

After seven years hard work, he acquired premises in Stanley Street, South Brisbane, where he manufactured confectionery and jams, sold under the Superior brand. In 1877 the couple and their two sons went to England. Randall's enthusiasm for Queensland was obvious in newspaper correspondence and his unsolicited but popular lectures. Returning to Brisbane, the Randalls lived at Panshanger, a mansion in Merivale Street, near the factory. As the business succeeded, the family methodically acquired extensive real estate.

In July 1881, when (Sir) Arthur Palmer appointed him as lecturer and emigration agent in England, Randall confounded the government by not requesting a salary. From October that year, with untiring energy, he visited nearly every county, concentrating on the farming districts of Norfolk, Lincolnshire and western Yorkshire. His optimistic reports in English and Queensland newspapers encouraged agricultural labourers experiencing depressed conditions to migrate. George returned to his family in February 1884 but immediately was reappointed at a salary of £500. He toured the colony before resuming duties in England in March 1885. When Queensland experienced further economic difficulties late in 1889, once more the slight figure with his neat beard returned to Brisbane.

The government re-employed Randall from January 1890, when he again toured Queensland. His third English term, this time accompanied by his family, lasted for four years from July 1891. Following the withdrawal of free and assisted passages, Randall concentrated on recruiting smallholders at agricultural shows where he displayed samples of familiar crops prospering in sub-tropical conditions. Although he advocated village settlement and co-operative communities recently made possible by Queensland legislation, these projects did not attract English support. In 1896 he bought an orchard at Birkdale. Randall's fourth appointment to woo settlers covered six years from January 1897. Returned colonists were seconded to promote Queensland, enabling Randall to concentrate on exhibitions and farming fairs where he also acted as a commercial agent. Free and nominated migration was renewed in 1899 and he resumed his lectures.

When Randall rejoined his family at Birkdale late in 1902, large-scale recruitment seemed finished. His total absorption with migration to Queensland extended to writing poems, booklets and pamphlets. While some initiatives were considered expensive, he encouraged several thousand individuals, particularly farmers, to migrate during twenty-one years efficient service.

Randall's elder son Richard John (1869-1906), artist, had been born on 5 February 1869 in South Brisbane. After studies in Brisbane and England he returned in 1899 to become a talented and prolific painter, particularly of landscapes but with some portraiture. After Richard's death from a cerebral tumour on 15 October 1906, George vigorously supported his son's reputation by memorial publications, the gift of his works to the City of South Brisbane and the maintenance of his studio there (later relocated and restored) as a public asset.

Predeceased by his wife and both sons, George Randall died on 5 July 1930 in hospital in Brisbane and was buried in Cleveland cemetery with Anglican rites. His estate, sworn for probate at £12,386, was left to six young grandchildren.

Select Bibliography

  • J. K. Brown and M. Maynard, Fine Art Exhibitions in Brisbane 1884-1916 (Brisb, 1980)
  • Brisbane Courier, 20 Oct 1906, p 10
  • Queenslander, 10 July 1930, p 54
  • J. Keys, George Randall’s Role in Queensland Immigration Policy, 1881-1902 (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Queensland, 1966)
  • Randall collection (University of Queensland Library)
  • G. Randall diary, 1868 (National Library of Australia)
  • J. Walton, George Randall--Emigration Agent Extraordinary (manuscript, privately held).

Citation details

Jennifer Harrison, 'Randall, George (1843–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 25 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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