ARCHER, Thomas (1823-1905)


ARCHER, Thomas (1823-1905)
Queensland pioneer
son of William Archer and his wife Julia, daughter of David Walker, was born at Glasgow on 27 February 1823. When he was three years old he was taken to Narvik in Norway, where his parents lived for the rest of their lives, and at the age of 14 he went with an elder brother to Australia, arriving at Sydney on 31 December 1837. Other brothers followed and land was taken up in New South Wales. In 1841 the brothers moved over what is now the border between New South Wales and Queensland, taking about 5000 sheep with them. Travelling approximately on the line of the present towns of Warwick and Toowoomba, they crossed the main range at Hodgson's Gap, and established themselves for four or five years in the country to the north. They also did a good deal of exploratory work as far north as the Burnett River. In 1849 Thomas Archer went to California, had a little but not great success at the diggings, and then went to Europe. In 1853 he married Grace Lindsay, daughter of James Morison, and then returned to Queensland. The rough life, however, did not suit the young wife's health and a return was made to Scotland in 1855. Part of the next five years was spent in Norway, and most of the time between 1860 and 1872 in Scotland. Archer had retained an interest in the Queensland station, and the eldest son having been established at Edinburgh university, the family set sail for Australia in March 1872 and spent about eight years at the station at Gracemere, some seven miles from Rockhampton in central Queensland.
Archer was back in London with his family in 1880 and from November 1881 to May 1884 was agent-general for Queensland. He was reappointed to the position in 1888 and resigned in December 1890. While agent-general he published two pamphlets, The History Resources and Future Prospects of Queensland, and Alleged Slavery in Queensland. He lived in retirement near London until his death on 9 December 1905. His wife survived him with children. He was created C.M.G. in 1884.
Archer was one of those pioneering pastoralists who did much valuable exploratory work in the early days, but who do not get into the history of exploration because they did not fit up expeditions with definite objects in view. His brothers Charles and William did exploratory work in the country near Rockhampton, and Charles with Mr Wiseman, a police magistrate, fixed the site of that town. Another brother, Colin, sailed with a cargo up the Fitzroy River when it was almost if not quite unknown. Colin went to Norway and became well known as a naval architect, builder of the Fram and designer of the unsinkable sailing "Rescue Boats". Thomas Archer's eldest son, William Archer (1856-1924), became famous as a dramatic critic, playwright, and miscellaneous writer. He was not born in Australia, and visited it only once, in 1876-7, when he came out to see his parents and stayed six months with them at Gracemere. His A Ramble Round gives pictures of Melbourne and Sydney at that period. The connexion of William Archer's family with Norway led to his study of the Norwegian dramatist Ibsen and, ultimately, to a great change for the better in the English school of play-writing.
C. Archer, William Archer: Life, Work and Friendships; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; The Times, 11 December 1905; The Age, Melbourne, 13 December 1905; British Museum Catalogue. See also, William Clark, Journal of the Historical Society of Queensland, April 1919, pp. 327-37.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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