NEWLAND, Simpson (1835-1925)


NEWLAND, Simpson (1835-1925)
pioneer and author
was born at Hanley, Staffordshire, England, on 2 November 1835. His father, the Rev. Ridgway William Newland, was an independent minister at Hanley, who left England at the end of 1838 with his wife and family, arrived in South Australia on 7 June 1839, and took up land at Encounter Bay. His wife was a classical, Hebrew and French scholar of much ability. The life was a hard one for the pioneers, and even when they succeeded in growing a crop of wheat, there were no facilities for threshing it or grinding it into flour. Sheep and cattle were procured and the family gradually prospered. A church was built at which the father held services, but he would accept no money for his ministrations. He also became a magistrate and was for many years chairman of the Encounter Bay district council. Everywhere looked upon as the leading man of his denomination, he died at the age of 75 in 1864. A church was erected to his memory at Victor Harbour. His son was at first a sickly boy, but the open air life improved his health. His evenings were largely given up to improving his education with the help of his mother.
In 1864 Newland took up station life on the Darling in New South Wales some 50 miles from Wilcannia, and became more and more interested in the aborigines and the natural history of the country. He improved the breeds of his sheep and cattle, and at 40 years of age had become very prosperous. At the end of 1876 he bought a home near Adelaide but continued to manage his stations. He entered the legislative assembly in 1881 as member for Encounter Bay, and soon afterwards brought in a measure to build a north to south railway on the land grant system which was defeated. In June 1885 he became treasurer in the Downer (q.v.) ministry but, finding the strain of his duties too much for his health, resigned the position a year later. He took much interest in the development of the River Murray and revived the question of the north-south railway. He succeeded in getting a royal commission appointed to consider it, and as chairman of the commission personally examined the country as far north as Alice Springs. In two pamphlets, The Far North Country (1887) and Our Waste Lands (1888), Newlands gave an account of his journey and his views on the possibilities of the districts traversed. In 1889 he visited England and while there heard of the discovery of rich ore at Broken Hill. He had acquired an interest in the new field and this now became very valuable. On his return, encouraged by his friend Sir Langdon Bonython (q.v.), for whose paper he had written a number of articles, he wrote his novel, Paving the Way, which embodied many of his experiences as a pioneer and with the aborigines. He went to England again in 1893 and arranged for the publication of his book. It appeared in that year and was given a good reception by the critics. A second edition was published in 1894 and it has since been several times reprinted. On Newland's return to Adelaide at the end of the year, he began collecting material for a pamphlet on the Northern Territory, and the necessity for its being linked to the south by a railway. In 1899 he visited England and obtained the promise of support from financial interests in London, and returning to Australia obtained parliamentary sanction for the construction of a railway on the land grant system in 1902. His pamphlet, Land-Grant Railway across Australia. The Northern Territory of the State of South Australia as a Field for Enterprise and Capital, was published by the government at the end of that year. In 1906 he again went to England and succeeded in floating a company to undertake the building of the line. On his return he found that a Labour government under T. Price (q.v.) had come into power, and as the policy of Labour was opposed to building lines on the land grant system, Newland realized that nothing could be done at the time. He resumed his work on the development of a river port on the Murray, he had become a vice-president of the River Murray league in 1902, and the question was kept alive in 1903 and 1904 by holding public meetings. On 28 July 1904 Newland was elected president of the league, and the necessity of developing the Murray was kept steadily before the public for many years. A great step forward was made in 1914, when the prime minister of Australia, Sir Joseph Cook, pledged the Commonwealth for £1,000,000 if each of the three states interested would spend a similar amount. This resulted in the beginning of the great work of locking the Murray which was to be continued for many years. Other interests of Newland's were the Royal Geographical Society of which he was president at Adelaide for several years, and the Zoological Society. He had published a pamphlet in middle life, A Band of Pioneers, Old-Time Memories (2nd ed. 1919), which included an interesting account of the arrival of his family in 1839. This was incorporated in his Memoirs of Simpson Newland, written in the last year of his long life. It was completed on 6 June 1925 and showed him to be still in full command of his mental powers. He died three weeks later on 27 June 1925. Before he died he knew that it had definitely been decided to complete the north to south railway line, but his other dream of a port at the mouth of the Murray still awaits fulfilment. He married in 1872 Isabella Layton who survived him with three of his five sons. He was made a C.M.G. in 1922. In addition to the books already mentioned Newland published a second novel, Blood Tracks of the Bush, in 1900, which was less successful than his earlier work. His eldest son, Colonel Sir Henry Simpson Newland, Kt, C.B.E., D.S.O., was born in 1873, became a leading surgeon at Adelaide, served with great distinction during the 1914-18 war, was president, section of surgery, Australasian medical congress in 1920, and was knighted in 1928. Another son, Major Victor Marra Newland, O.B.E., M.C., D.C.M., was born in 1876, served in the South African war, and with the British army in the 1914-18 war, and retired with the rank of major. He was formerly a member of the legislative council of British East Africa, and in 1933 became the representative for North Adelaide in the South Australian house of assembly.
Simpson Newland was proud of his sturdy Puritan ancestry. He did excellent work as a pioneer, and his first novel has value not only as a story but as reflecting the times in which its author lived. He had the instinct for public service, and, believing fully in the possibilities of the Northern Territory, worked in and out of season for the railway he considered necessary for its development. He probably considered that his work for a river harbour on the Murray had been a failure, but he contributed in no small part to the development of the river and its valley.
Memoirs of Simpson Newland, C.M.G.; The Advertiser, Adelaide, 29 June 1925; E. Morris Miller, Australian Literature.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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