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James KING (c.1800-c.1860)
King was born probably about the end of the eighteenth century, left Scotland in 1826 as a free settler possessed of capital, and arrived in Sydney early in 1827. He went into business as a merchant, and in 1828 received a grant of 2000 acres of land at Irrawang in the northern part of the colony, which became his chief interest.
In 1831 he discovered some sand near Sydney suitable for glass-making, samples of which were sent to England and found to be of fine quality. In January 1832 he asked that he might be rewarded for his discovery by a grant of 50 acres of land near Sydndy, part of the present site of the university. This was refused, but the English authorities suggested that he should be allowed the sum of £100 off the price of any land he might purchase from the state. King was much dissatisfied, and six years later was still endeavouring to have his claim better recognized. He had no success though he was able to mention that the Society of Arts in London had awarded him its silver medal, and that he had a fresh claim on account of his having established a pottery in the colony.
He was, however, in prosperous circumstances; he stated in his memorial that he had capital "to the amount of not less than £7000" in addition to valuable landed property in various parts of the colony. He had done much experimenting in vine growing and in making wine, and he continued to do this for many years, producing several varieties of wine of high quality. In 1850 he was awarded gold medals by the Horticultural Society of Sydney for a light sparkling wine and for a white wine, and at the Paris exhibition of 1855 his wines were highly commended and awarded a medal.
He left Australia in 1855 on a two years' visit to Europe and in 1857 published privately a pamphlet Australia may be an Extensive Wine-growing Country. He was then in bad health and probably died not very long after, but the date of his death is not known.
He left a widow who afterwards married William Roberts of Penrith, who by his will left £4000 to the university of Sydney for the foundation of scholarships in memory of King.
King was an enterprising man who came to Australia when the value of immigrants with capital first began to be recognized. He was too busy a man to try to develop a glass industry, but he was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, to make pottery. Many men had made wine in Australia before he started to do so, but his attention to the question of quality made his work of great value in the early days of this industry.
--Dictionary of Australian Biography edited by Percival Serle.