What happened in Australia in 1887?

If Social Media existed back then, what would our ancestors have been talking about? Taken from year books, Almanacs and newspapers, follows is a list of notable events that occurred in these years. Includes disasters, severe weather, notable people, milestones, construction, inaugurations and other significant events. Obviously, this list references recorded events only and is not exhaustive.


  • 4th – Mr. Clement L. Wragge, F.R.G.S., late of Adelaide, appointed Meteorological Observer of Queensland.
  • 8th – The Mayor of Sydney (Mr. A. J. Riley), banqueted by Alderman S. Burdekin.
  • 9th – Great heat in Adelaide, 111.2° in shade; 164° in the sun.
  • 11th – Sir Patrick Jennings Ministry (NSW) resigned.
  • 18th – Australian Wesleyan Methodist Church Annual Conference commenced at Sydney.
  • 19th – First through express train ran between Melbourne and Adelaide.
  • 22nd – Interchange of Penny Postal Cards between the colonies of Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and New South Wales, came into operation.


  • 1st – Lord Carrington laid foundation stone of the City Night Refuge and Soup Kitchen’s new building.
  • 3rd – Heavy floods with loss of life, at Grafton, NSW
  • 4th – Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia opened.
  • 8th – Mr. J. Bosisto, C.M.G., M.L.A. President of the Victorian Commission at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition arrived from London.
  • 10th – Sir James Lorimer and Captain Thomas, R.A. left Melbourne for London.
  • 12th – Sir Napier Broome, Governor of W.A. injured by the bursting of a cartridge at Rottnest Island, W.A.
  • 14th – Agreement signed by the South Australian Government with Messrs. Chaffey Bros. to carry out their system of irrigation from the Murray River.
  • 15th – Railway from Ballan to Bacchus Marsh (Vic.) opened for traffic.
  • 17th – Sir Patrick Jennings and the Hon. R. Wisdom left Sydney for England. Banquet at Ballarat (Vic) celebrating the Annual Conference of the Australian Natives’ Association.
  • 21st – Artesian water tapped between Bourke and Wanaaring (NSW), at a depth of 942 feet.
  • 23rd – First parcels post arrived at Hobart via Melbourne from England, per ss. “Carthage.” Explosion in Arblaster’s powder factory, Sandhurst (Vic).
  • 24th – Sir Henry Parkes arrived in Melbourne and was tendered a public banquet.
  • 26th – Hailstones upwards of six inches square fell in Melbourne.
  • 27th – Earl Dudley arrived at Victoria on a tour through the colonies.

MARCH 1887

  • 1st – Mr. R. P. Adams, Solicitor-General of Tasmania, accepted the position of Junior Puisne Judge.
  • 7th – Mr. Julian E. Salomons, Q.C. appointed Vice President of the Executive Council, and Representative of the Government in the Legislative Council.
  • 11th – Sir Robert Hamilton, Governor of Tasmania, arrived at Hobart.
  • 12th – A terrific gale, with heavy rain raged at Burke town, Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland. Five persons were drowned and a large number of stock destroyed.
  • 16th – The Freemasons’ Hall, in Collins street Melbourne, was dedicated to the purposes of Masonry in the presence of a large assemblage of the craft.
  • 23rd – Terrible colliery accident at Bulli, New South Wales. Eighty-three lives were lost by the accident. — The Earl and Countess of Aberdeen arrived in Victoria on a visit to the Australian Colonies.

APRIL 1887

  • 4th – The first iron vessel built in Tasmania launched at Hobart. Dr. Brownless, who had for 29 years occupied the position of Vice-Chancellor, was elected Chancellor of the Melbourne University.
  • 6th – Sir William Clarke installed as Grand Superintendent of the Royal Arch Masons for the District of Victoria. — The Government of South Australia leased 30,000 acres to an English syndicate for the purpose of wattle planting. — The University of Adelaide decided to admit lady students on the same conditions as gentlemen to the medical course. Mr. F. M. Darley, Chief Justice of New South Wales, knighted.
  • 12th – The Right Rev. F. F. Goe D.D., Bishop of Melbourne arrived and was installed in his office on the 14th inst.
  • 14th – The Year-Book of Australia published.
  • 16th – The Irish colonists gave the Earl and Countess of Aberdeen a reception at the Town Hall, Sydney.
  • 17th – Departure of Rear-Admiral Tryon from Sydney for England.
  • 18th – Rear-Admiral Fairfax, C.B hoisted his flag on the “Nelson”.
  • 21st – Statue of Robert Burns unveiled at Ballarat. Victoria, by the Hon. John Nimmo, in the presence of 20,000 persons.
  • 23rd – Railway from Camperdown to Terang (Vic) opened for traffic.
  • 25th – Collision between H.M.S.’s “Tyne” and “Myrmidon” off Wilson’s Promontory – no lives lost.
  • 26th – The Pope created six new Sees and four Vicariates in Australia and Oceania.
  • 28th – The pearl-fishing fleet lying off the Ninety-mile Beach, was struck by a hurricane – six boats and twenty one luggers were wrecked, with a loss of 240 lives.
  • 29th – The Governor of Victoria, accompanied by Lady Loch, arrived in Sydney on a visit to the Governor of NSW.

MAY 1887

  • 3rd – The Ballarat School of Mines was affiliated with the Melbourne University. The late Mr. W. T. Mollison bequeathed £15,000 to the University of Melbourne. The Melbourne University Council received from Mr. F. Ormond £20,000 for the purpose of founding a Chair of Music. It also received £709, the proceeds of a concert given in aid of the above. Sir Henry Loch and suite left Sydney for Brisbane.
  • 5th – Lieut. Hesketh, of the Queensland Government Gunboat “Gayundah,” tried by court-martial, and dismissed the service.
  • 6th – Captain South, of the ss. “Burwah” discovered a new channel through the South Passage of Moreton Bay, Queensland.
  • 8th – General Wong Yung Ho and Mr. U. Tsing, Commissioners from His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of China, arrived in New South Wales.
  • 9th – Lord and Lady Brassey arrived at Albany, Western Australia, in their steam yacht “Sunbeam”.
  • 11th – Serious railway disaster occurred on the Brighton Line, between Prahran and Windsor, Victoria, resulting in the loss of several lives.
  • 14th – Annual commemoration of the University of Sydney.
  • 17th – The Chief Justice opened the new Free Public Library at Brighton, Victoria.
  • 20th – New South Wales Assembly passed additional standing orders to prevent waste of time in debate.
  • 23rd – Mr. Matthew Henry Stephen sworn in as a Judge of the Supreme Court, Sydney. The surviving members of the first Legislative Assembly in New South Wales commemorated the meeting of the first Parliament of the Colony at a dinner given by the Premier, Sir Henry Parkes. Court-martial held at Sydney into the causes of the collision between the “Tyne” and “Myrmidon”.
  • 24th – Lord and Lady Brassey arrived at Adelaide in their yacht “Sunbeam.” The Chinese Commissioners arrived in Melbourne.
  • 27th – Nineteen persons (male and female), were released from Hobart Gaol, in commemoration of the Queen’s Jubilee year. Political meeting held in Perth (W.A.) in favour of responsible government.
  • 31st – Meeting held at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney to make arrangements for its completion. The total cost up to date is £113,166.

JUNE 1887

  • 3rd – Beer Duty Act commenced operation in Sydney.
  • 5th – The Victorian branch of the Royal Geographical Society started an expedition to explore the high lane of the southern parts of New Guinea, under the leadership of Mr. W. R. Cuthbertson.
  • 6th – Heaviest fall of snow known for sixteen years in Victoria.
  • 8th – The master of the ss. “Chelydra” fined £1,000 and costs, for having on board his vessel in Sydney Harbour ten Chinese more than in the proportion of one to ever 100 tons of the tonnage.
  • 9th – lmperial German Squadron arrived at Sydney. The Mayor of Hobart laid the comer stone of the tower of the new reservoir – cost £30,000.
  • 11th – Judge Backhouse elected to the University Senate NSW Dr. Carr, the new R.C. Archbishop, arrived at Melbourne.
  • 15th – Lady Loch laid the Memorial stone of the Genevieve Ward wing of the Women’s Hospital at Melbourne.
  • 17th – Gunpowder explosion in Bourke-street Melbourne wrecking two shops, and seriously damaging adjoining premises.
  • 19th – Special Jubilee services held in nearly all the churches and chapels in and around Sydney.
  • 20th and 21st – Queen’s Jubilee celebrated in all the colonies. Terrible railway accident to an excursion train at Peat’s Ferry NSW – five persons killed and 31 seriously injured. Railway to Wollongong opened. Adelaide Jubilee Exhibition opened by his Excellency Sir W. F. C Robinson, G.C.M.G., Governor of South Australia.
  • 27th -The Hon. A. Deakin, Chief Secretary of Victoria entertained by his constituents at Bacchus Marsh.
  • 29th – The Hon. J. Richardson resigned his seat in the NSW Legislative Council.

JULY 1887

  • 1st – Amended postal regulations and rates for packets and books came into operation in NSW 3rd – Lord and Lady Brassey arrived at Sydney. The new Oriental Bank Corporation commenced business in Australia.
  • 4th – The Bishop of Melbourne, Dr. Goe, elected a member of the University Council.
  • 7th – Bonds amounting to £100,000 were issued in London by the Great Southern Railway Company of Western Australia. Motion carried in Western Australian Parliament by 13 to 4 in favour of Responsible Government.
  • 12th – Lord Carrington, Governor of New South Wales, visited the Adelaide Jubilee Exhibition. The Hon J S Dodds, representative of Tasmania at the Imperial Conference, returned from England and was sworn in as second Judge of Tasmania on the 14th.
  • 21st – The Legislative Council (New South Wales) rejected the Payment of Members Bill by 30 to 9. 23rd – The Austrian barque “Gauge” wrecked on Point Lonsdale, Victoria.
  • 27th – The Right Rev. Dr. Barry, Primate, returned to Sydney from England.
  • 28th – New Canal at Fisherman’s Bend, Melbourne opened. Cost, £100,000.


  • 3rd – Departure of the Imperial German Squadron from Sydney.
  • 8th – The Hon. W. H. Groom, Speaker of the Queensland Assembly, entertained at a dinner to celebrate the completion of the 25th year of his membership for the electorate of Toowoomba, a position not hitherto attained by any M.P. in Australia.
  • 10th – The first sod in the St. Leonards-Pearce’s Corner Railway (NSW) turned by Miss Annie Thomasine Parkes, daughter of Sir Henry Parkes, G.C.M.G.
  • 14th – Right Rev. Dr. Dunne, formerly of Albury, consecrated first Bishop of Wilcannia, by Cardinal Moran at Goulburn.
  • 15th – Portion of the Homebush-Waratah Railway between Gosford and Waratah opened for traffic.
  • 18th – Railway from Tatura to Echuca (Victoria) a distance of 34 miles, opened for traffic.
  • 19th – Telegraphic communication between Brisbane and Thursday Island opened. Sir Alfred Stephen celebrated his 85th birthday.
  • 23rd – A bronze statue of the late Sir Redmond Barry erected in the Public Library, Melbourne, unveiled by his Excellency, Sir Henry Loch.
  • 25th – Consecration of the Rev. Dr. J. E. Corbett, as the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Sale, Victoria.
  • 28th – Rev. Dr. Doyle, formerly R. C. priest of Lismore consecrated Bishop of Grafton, NSW Rev. Monsignor Hutchinson consecrated Bishop of Cooktown, Queensland.
  • 29th – The first Intercolonial Medical Congress was opened at Adelaide (S.A.) by his Excellency Sir Willian Robinson. Over 150 delegates attended.
  • 30th – Second session of the Seventh Synod of the Church of England Diocese of Sydney, opened.


  • 1st – Picnic Point Railway from Brighton Beach to Sandringham (Vic) opened for traffic.
  • 9th – The Victorian Telephone Exchange Company transferred their business to Postal Department for the sum of £40,000.
  • 7th – Railway from Bunjendore to Queenbeyan (NSW) opened for traffic.
  • 10th – Sir Henry Parkes interviewed Mr. Gillies at Melbourne on important matters affecting the colonies.
  • 19th – Cardinal Moran, R.C. Archbishop of N.S.W laid the corner stone of the tower of St. Xavier’s Cathedral Adelaide.
  • 29th – Mr Peter Lalor resigned the Speakership of the Victorian Assembly.


  • 4th – Mr. M. H. Davies elected Speaker of the Victorian Assembly.
  • 8th – St Magdalen’s Refuge for Women at Tempe (NSW) opened by Cardinal Moran.
  • 10th – Mr. Henniker Heaton, M.P., entertained at a public dinner at the Town Hall. Sydney. The Royal Geographical Expedition to New Guinea from Victoria under the leadership of Mr. W. R. Cuthbertson, returned to Brisbane.
  • 11th – Sir William Manning, Primary Judge in Equity (NSW) retired.
  • 15th – First Intercolonial Conference of Chambers of Manufacturers opened in Adelaide (S.A.).
  • 19th – Wreck of the ss “Cheviot” at Port Philip Heads (Vic) – twenty three lives lost.
  • 24th – Mr William Owen QC appointed Primary Judge of New South Wales.
  • 25th – The sixth session of the Provincial Synod of New South Wales opened.


  • 5th – The Nepean water turned into the city water mains by the Mayor of Sydney.
  • 10th – Messrs. E. and M. Gaunt, of the Williamstown Woollen Mills, awarded the Government bonus of £5,000 for the first 10,000 yards of worsted manufactured in the colony of Victoria. Mr. R. Murray Smith, C.M.G., elected a member of the Council of the University of Melbourne. The Associate of Arts Degree of the Tasmanian Council of Education is recognised as equivalent to the Matriculation of the Melbourne University. Carnarvon presented with a massive masonic jewel by the Freemasons of Victoria, commemorative of his visit. Technical College at Geelong (Vic.) opened erected as a memorial of the late General Gordon.


  • 2nd – The Annual Commemoration of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian College, Sydney, took place.
  • 3rd – The Art Society of New South Wales new rooms opened. Chief Justice Onslow, at Perth, Western Australia suspended.
  • 13th – Arrival of the Earl and Countess of Carnavon in Sydney.
  • 14th – Fourteen members of the New South Wales Legislature suspended during a disorderly scene on the debate of a motion of censure.
  • 22nd – Sir Patrick Jennings and Sir Robert Wisdom returned to Sydney. The Right Rev. Monsignor Ridley, of Parramatta (NSW) entertained at a banquet by his brother priests, to commemorate his “Golden Jubilee’’ being nearly fifty years a priest in the colony.