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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Wilson, Sir Samuel

< The Dictionary of Australasian Biography

Wilson, Sir Samuel, is the sixth son of the late Samuel Wilson, farmer and landowner, of Antrim, Ireland. He was born at Ballycloughan in 1832, and educated at Ballymena, in the same county. After leaving school, he had three years' experience in linen manufacture with his brother-in-law, and then went into that business conjointly with farming on his own account. On the advice of a brother, he went to Melbourne in 1852, and worked as a miner on the Ballarat, Fryer's Creek, Ovens, and Bendigo diggings, with some success. Leaving mining pursuits, he took the management of the Kewell station with twenty thousand sheep for his brother, and having practically learned station work there, he sold a small property he had in Ireland, and joined his brother in the purchase of the Longerenong station on the Wimmera, the investment turning out a highly successful one, owing in a great measure to his having developed large tracts of unwatered country by the construction of dams and water-channels. The brothers also bought a number of other stations, notably the Yanko station on the Murrumbidgee, N.S.W., which they improved in a similar manner. In 1869 Mr. Wilson became the purchaser of the whole of the property of the firm, and, after a few years of almost unprecedented success, he sold Longerenong, Coree, and Goongambla, and invested in Mount Bute, Marathon, and Corangamite estates, after which, being tempted with the offer of Ercildoune, near Burrumbeet, a station noted for its breed of merino sheep, he bought that beautiful estate, and made it his colonial home. He also went into squatting ventures in New South Wales and Queensland. Sir Samuel Wilson formerly represented the Wimmera district in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, and sat in the Legislative Council for the Western Province from 1875 to 1880. He also took great interest in acclimatisation, and devoted time and money toward the introduction of English salmon into Victorian waters. He gave £30,000, or with accrued interest £37,000, for the erection of the Wilson Hall in connection with Melbourne University, the first stone being laid in Oct. 1879. In 1861 Sir (then Mr.) Samuel Wilson married Jeannie, daughter of the Hon. W. Campbell. In 1875 he was knighted by patent. For a number of years past Sir Samuel has resided in England, where he has rented the estate of Hughenden Manor, formerly the residence of the late Lord Beaconsfield. Sir Samuel unsuccessfully contested the division of Buckinghamshire in which the property is situated in 1885, but was elected to the House of Commons for Portsmouth in 1886. He did not seek re-election in 1892.