Francis Ormond

Francis Ormond (1829 – 1889) grazier and philanthropist
Francis Ormond was an Australian grazier, member of the Parliament of Victoria and philanthropist. He’s notable for his philanthropy in the areas of education and religion. Ormond was a devout Presbyterian, and also an elder within the church.

The Ormond family arrived in Melbourne in 1842, and subsequently took a seven year lease on 20 acres of land near Shelford, on the River Leigh. As part of the lease, Ormond’s father agreed to improve the land and build a substantial inn. As the first inn on the route from Geelong to Hamilton, the “Settler’s Arms” (also affectionately known as “Ormond’s”) prospered.

The younger Ormond, whose father originally wanted him to enter the merchant shipping office, worked as a stable boy and bookkeeper at the inn. The early skills gained while working at his father’s inn would later served Ormond in good stead, when his father saved enough money to purchase a sheep station.

In 1848, Ormond’s father sold his inn and purchased 30,000 acres (120 km2) of land at “Borriyalloak Station” in Skipton, near Ballarat. Aged 19, Francis was appointed station manager by his father. He discovered that many of the young workers on the station were quite uneducated. In 1850, he formed a class among them and succeeded in giving them an all elementary education. The Black Thursday bushfires, one of the worst bushfires of the Australian colonial era, swept through the Ormond’s land in 1851. Although some of their livestock was saved, the Ormond’s station and the majority of their grazing land were completely burned.

The devastating bushfires also burned through a thick layer of scrub, which previously covered large areas of the Ormond’s land. When the rains came, they renewed the previously worthless scrubby areas. Ormond was then able to sell his father’s land for an advance on its original price, after which he purchased prime grazing land, again in the Skipton area. With his financial position assured, he married Mary Ann (née Greeves) in Geelong on 26 November 1851. In 1853, he was appointed territorial magistrate for Skipton, and by 1854 he had completely taken over his father’s land holdings.

As his wealth grew, Ormond continued to take an interest in education and even established a school on his station for the children of his employees. In 1860, during a trip to Europe, he was impressed by an appeal he had heard by Thomas Guthrie on behalf of the Ragged Schools charity. Upon his return to Victoria, he began to take a greater interest in philanthropic endeavours. His first substantial donation was in 1872, when he donation £1,000 towards the establishment of a scholarship at the Presbyterian Theological Hall in Melbourne.

After his father died in 1875, Ormond and his wife moved from Skipton to Melbourne. He purchased the mansion house, “Ognez”, in Toorak, and later assisted with the establishment of the Presbyterian Church of Toorak. Ormond was a devout Presbyterian, and also an elder within the church.

When the question of establishing a Presbyterian college at the University of Melbourne was raised in 1877, he pledged £10,000 to the appeal. At the opening of the college on 18 March in 1881, it was announced that it would be officially named Ormond College, in honour of his major contribution. Over his life time, Ormond donated almost £40,000 towards its complete construction.

During his first four trips to Europe, Ormond visited a number of technical colleges, to examined their methods and practices. He set out to apply the best of these methods and practices to a model for a similar college in Victoria. One result of this was his conviction that a working men’s college would serve a very useful purpose, and he intimated that if the government would provide a site he would give £5000 towards the building. He met with no encouragement, and the scheme was temporarily dropped.

In May the question of a Working Men’s College was revived. He again offered £5000 and, after some preliminary difficulties had been disposed of, the college was at last opened in June 1887. There were 320 students on the opening night, within 12 months the number had risen to over 1000. The number of students reached nearly 10,000 in 1938. Later known as the Royal Melbourne Technical College and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, it’s known today as RMIT University and is one of Australia’s largest and leading universities.

Complete article :

Further – Francis Ormond


Above image – Francis Ormond’s statue at RMIT Melbourne.

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