Samuel Wilson (Portsmouth MP)

"a squatter"
Wilson as caricatured by Spy (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair, January 1885

Sir Samuel Wilson (7 February 1832 11 June 1895) was an Irish-born Australian pastoralist and politician, and later a British Member of Parliament.

Funerary monument, Kensal Green Cemetery, London

Wilson was born in Ballycloughan, County Antrim, Ireland, in 1832. He was educated at Ballymena and at first intended taking up civil engineering. For three years he worked for a brother-in-law [Robert Chesney], a linen manufacturer, but in 1852 decided to emigrate to Australia. He arrived in Melbourne in May 1852 and worked on the goldfields, but a few months later decided to join two brothers who had preceded him to Australia, and had a pastoral property in the Wimmera. He was made manager of one of their holdings, and selling a small property he had in Ireland, with his brothers bought Longerenong station for £40,000. He dug waterholes and made dams on the property which much improved and increased its carrying capacity.

Yanko station in the Riverina was then purchased and much improved. In 1869 Wilson bought his brothers' interests in their stations, afterwards bought other stations in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, and became very wealthy. He was interested in the Acclimatization Society of Victoria and in 1873 wrote pamphlets on the angora goat, and on the ostrich. In 1878 a paper he had written was expanded into a volume, The Californian Salmon With an Account of its Introduction into Victoria, and published in the same year. In 1879 another edition of this was published in London under the title, Salmon at the Antipodes.

In 1874 Wilson gave the University of Melbourne £30,000 which with accrued interest was expended on a building in the Gothic style now known as the Wilson Hall. It was the most considerable gift or bequest that the university had received up to then. In the following year he was elected a member of the Victorian Legislative Council (1875-1881) and Legislative Assembly (1861-64) for the Western Province, but he never took a very prominent part in politics. About the beginning of 1881 he went to England with his family and leased Hughenden Manor, once the property of the Earl of Beaconsfield. He twice contested seats for the House of Commons without success, but in 1886 was elected as a Conservative for Portsmouth and sat until 1892. In September 1893 he again came to Victoria and stayed until March 1895. He became ill soon after his return to England and died on 11 June 1895, and is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.

He was knighted in 1875. He married in 1861 a daughter of the Hon. W. Campbell who survived him with four sons and three daughters.

His eldest son, Lieut.-Colonel Gordon Chesney Wilson, married Lady Sarah Isabella Churchill, sister of Lord Randolph Churchill.

His daughter Maud Margaret Wilson married Warner Hastings, 15th Earl of Huntingdon.


Serle, Percival (1949). "Wilson, Samuel". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. 

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Philip Vanderbyl
Sir William Crossman
Member of Parliament for Portsmouth
With: Sir William Crossman
Succeeded by
Sir John Baker
Walter Clough
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