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Biography of John Gardiner

by Douglas Burbury (E-mail: Douglas Burbury)

John Gardiner was born on 5 July 1798 at Dublin, Ireland, the second son of John Gardiner, a property owner, and Martha nee Fletcher. He married Mary Eagle on 9 September 1822, and a month later he and his wife boarded the Andromeda and sailed to Van Diemen's Land, arriving on the 7th of May 1823. Among his fellow passengers were his father-in-law, George Eagle, with his wife and three sons.

Soon after his arrival, Gardiner was granted 800 acres of land near Ross, adjoining the 500-acre grant which his father-in-law obtained. However, Gardiner does not seem to have remained on his land for long, as the following year he began to work in Hobart with the Bank of Van Diemen's Land. Then, in March 1828, he left the bank and returned to Ross, where he opened a store. In March 1834 he again changed direction, renting 5250 acres of land at Lovely Banks near Kempton, where he ran sheep. At some stage he must also have sold his original grant near Ross, because it was bought by Adam and Thomas Robertson, sons of Hugh Robertson who was also one of the Andromeda's passengers, who incorporated it into their property of Bloomfield. In 1923 this particular block of land was split from Bloomfield and became part of neighbouring Ashby when it was sold by Henry William Lyne von Stieglitz to Ethel Elsie Bennett.

After a year the farm which Gardiner was leasing was sold, and so he was forced to move on again. This time he went to the mainland, but failing to find anything which suited him, he returned to Van Diemen's Land briefly and then went back to Sydney. He bought 300 cattle in Sydney, and proceeded to take them overland to the Port Phillip settlement. He was the first to successfully bring stock to the settlement in this way, and the exploit earned him the nickname "The Overlander".

Gardiner was also closely involved in the setting-up of the Melbourne Fire and Insurance Company, and also held positions with the Melbourne branch of the Union Bank, and later with the Port Phillip Bank. He also established a 15,000-acre cattle station at Mooroolbark, which he ran in partnership with his brother David Gardiner and his cousin William Fletcher.

He made a trip to England in March 1841 in an unsuccessful attempt to raise capital for the Port Phillip Bank. On his return to Melbourne, he resigned from the bank and devoted his time to managing his cattle station, and in 1853 he sold all of his land holdings and returned to England, where he died on 16 November at Leamington Spa.

Gardiner's first marriage to Mary Eagle produced a single child, a daughter Anna Maria, who was born in Hobart Town in July 1827. His wife and daughter did not return with him to England, Mary dying in Melbourne in March 1863. Three months after his first wife's death, Gardiner married his cousin Sarah Fletcher (1812-1918).

(Source: Australian Dictionary of Biography, article on John Gardiner [Volume 1: 1788--1850 A--H, p. 425])

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Updated 02-Feb-2002