TITLE: Two Squatters: the lives of George Playne and Daniel Jennings
GENRE: Australian Social History / Historical Biography
KEYWORDS: Dr George Playne, Daniel Jennings, Port Phillip, Gloucestershire, Melbourne, Campaspe Plains Station, squatters, Melbourne Club, medicine, Tanti Pastoral Run, formation of the new colony of Victoria
This book, set in the 19th century, examines the lives of two men of contrasting personality. One, George Playne, was born in Gloucester to a poor family. His father was a saddler and harness-maker. His mother had come from Jamaica. He was apprenticed to Samuel Mutlow, the Apothecary at the Gloucester Infirmary, when he was 14 years old. He gained his Licentiate in Medicine from the Apothecaries Society, and then went on to do a MRCS with Royal College of Surgeons in London. He was appointed to the Gloucester Infirmary as Apothecary and House Surgeon, and later also as Secretary of the Hospital. After some 22 years at the hospital, he decided to emigrate to Australia in 1839 at the age of 37. At that time, his father was elderly and nearly bankrupt. Emigration to seek wealth may have been a prime reason for his decision. His friend and business partner, Daniel Jennings (who was wealthy) funded his travel.
In contrast, Daniel Jennings, was born in London to a wealthy family, and became a land agent and investor. He was always impetuous and eccentric in his behaviour. On arrival, he formed a business partnership with George, and purchased (for an alleged £10,000) the occupancy rights and the livestock to one of largest holdings in Victoria (around 200,000 acres, with 10,000 sheep) called Campaspe Plains Station. He also invested heavily in both city and rural land in Victoria. He suddenly departed for Calcutta two years later, leaving behind his wife, and leaving George to manage the property at a time of deepening recession in the livestock industry. Two years later, he returned to the Colony with a new wife, and resumed his role as a gentleman squatter and investor. He left Victoria permanently in 1851 to retire to England. He was certified as a Chancery lunatic in 1865, and died in 1872, leaving a Will, which led to a legal dispute between his wife and his brother.
The Campaspe partnership between Daniel and George was dissolved on Daniel’s return to Victoria in 1844 at George’s instigation. George set up to practice medicine again in Melbourne. He became part of the colonial establishment – with important roles in lobbying for improved tenure for squatters, in the Melbourne Club (Secretary 1844-8), and in efforts to form a new colony separate from NSW (Secretary of the Separation Committee, and Joint Treasurer to the Delegate Committee), to establish a medical association and a hospital, and to form a new bank. He was a magistrate from 1843 until 1854. In 1850, he built one of the finest mansions in South Fitzroy. He had a strong influence on the development of a civilised society in Victoria, and was a friend and supporter of Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe. After 1851, his dream of a large city house, a gentlemanly existence, and a country property at Tanti on the Mornington Peninsula was realized, but became impractical because of the shortage of labour after 1851 and the squalor and drunkenness when the gold rush started. He decided in 1854 to leave Melbourne and return to England. He sailed on the Golden Age – the same ship as the retiring Governor La Trobe. He never married and died in England in 1885.
This book explores the different roles that these two men had on the development of Victoria, and records their achievements, which, hitherto, have not been recognised. They epitomize many early settlers who made such contributions, but who have been barely recognised by historians. These were men who arose out of The Enlightenment.
It is hoped that this small volume will go some way towards recording their contributions as Port Phillip pioneers during the critical period of 1839 to 1854.
Next time, I will start my ‘true’ blog style, and discuss how all this started. I am brand new to blogging so please forgive me for a little while at least.