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6 March 1897 Sir Thomas Elder

 6 March 1897   Sir Thomas Elder

Sir Thomas Elder, one of South Australia's richest men and a great philanthropist, died at his home at Mount Lofty on 6 March 1897.

Born in Scotland, he came to South Australia in 1854 and worked for a year with his brother George, who, with another brother, Alexander Lang, had established an agency here.

Thomas formed a partnership with Edward Stirling, Robert Barr Smith and John Taylor, which as Elder, Stirling and Company invested in the Moonta copper mines. This brought great wealth to all the partners. Stirling and Taylor retired and the new firm became Elder Smith and Company. This well known firm became one of the largest wool-selling and pastoral companies in the country. Elder built up huge pastoral properties in his own right. He was the first to bring out camels for use in the outback and he financed a number of expeditions into then unknown territory.

He served in the Legislative Council from 1863-69 and again from 1871-78. He was knighted in 1878. He bought Birksgate at Glen Osmond where he built a gas plant for lighting, grew bananas in his conservatory, and made wine from his own grapes. In 1885 he built a new house, in the Scottish baronial style, at Mount Lofty. His sister married his partner, Robert Barr Smith, but Thomas remained a bachelor.

In 1874 he gave £20,000 towards the establishment of the University of Adelaide, and on his death he left further large bequests to the School of Medicine and School of Music, to the Presbyterian Church, to the Anglican Church for St Peters Cathedral, and to the Methodists for Prince Alfred College, as well as others. The Rotunda in Elder Park is also one of his gifts to South Australia.

Douglas Pike (ed), Australian Dictionary of Biography , Volume 4,

pp. 133-134

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