Return to 1857 Native Police Force Report

Nicoll Family land and business holdings

Note: This isn't directly about Francis Nicoll Esq. (a witness in the Native Police SC Report) but provides interesting historical background to the times, and indicates where this witness was coming from in his attitudes towards land ownership, capitalist development &c.


"NICOLL, BRUCE BAIRD (1851-1904), shipowner and politician, was born on 3 October 1851 in Sydney, second son of George Robertson Nicoll (d. 1901), shipwright and shipowner, and his wife Sarah . At 6 he went with his parents and brother George Wallace (1848-I -06) to Scotland, where he was educated at Dundee. Returning to Sydney about 1864, rhe worked in his father's shipping office. He and his brother then started business as commission agents and shipowners and from 1871 they ran the first regular and rapid passenger and cargo service to the northern rivers; it led to closer settlement and the growth of Lismore, Casino, Coraki and Ballina. After 1877 they began to build and import steamers at the rate of one a year. In twelve years they spent over 250,000 on about twenty steamships and wharfage and dockage facilities.

In evidence before the parliamentary standing committee on public works on 10 July 1889 Nicoll claimed that wrecks and repairs to steamers had cost him 22,500 in 1880-89. He estimated the value of the imports and exports of the Richmond River at about 1 million and the population increase from about 2000 to about 20,000. On dissolution of the partnership in the mid-1880s he concentrated on the Richmond River trade while his brother sent his ships to Coffs Harbour, Woolgoolga, Tweed River, Byron Bay and Brisbane as well as to the South Sea Islands and the New South Wales south coast. In the 1890s both brothers were absorbed by the North Coast Steam Navigation Co.

A protectionist, Nicoll was one of three representatives in 1889-94 for the Richmond in the Legislative Assembly; he favoured payment of members, an elective Upper House, the taxing of large estates, the proposed Grafton-Tweed railway and local public works. In October 1889 he represented Ballina at the first National Protection Conference in Sydney. Fluent and energetic, he concentrated on communications, land and marine matters and was a diligent local member. He was a republican, staunch federationist and president of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Natives' Association. On 5 June 1890 he told the assembly that Federation on the American model was desirable for economic and defence reasons and would mean 'intercolonial free trade and protection against the outside world'. He favoured Australian-born governors and the abolition of 'flimsy' and 'shoddy' imperial titles and honours. He also saw Asian immigration as 'a racial danger to the future of the Australian people'. In March 1892 he accused Sir Henry Parkes [q.v.] of putting Federation into the background 'to please the labor party'. President of the Corowa Conference in August 1893, he criticized Sir George Dibbs's [q.v.] Federation scheme of 1894 and was vice-president of the Bathurst Convention in 1896. He was also a founder and original shareholder of the Australian Star, the protectionists' organ ... &c. &c."

(From: Australian Dictionary of Biography, General Editor Pike, Douglas, Vol. 5 1851-1890, Melbourne University Press 1974, Page 341)