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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Gooch, Walter (1842–1918)

by Margaret Allen

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Walter Gooch (1842-1918), by Robert Sheppard Stacy, c1885

Walter Gooch (1842-1918), by Robert Sheppard Stacy, c1885

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B45264

Walter Gooch (1842-1918), merchant and conservationist, was born on 10 November 1842 near Paradise, Adelaide, youngest son of Charles Gooch, merchant and farmer, and his wife Georgiana, née Hayward. He was educated at Rev. E. K. Miller's school and J. L. Young's Adelaide Educational Institution and joined the National Bank of Australasia at 17. In 1867 he began work with his brother-in-law Henry Scott, a wool merchant, agent and trustee of Eagle Chambers. Scott, later a member of the Legislative Council, had been associated with Gooch's brothers Douglas and George in the northern pastoral industry. On 31 October 1871 Gooch married Elizabeth Jessy Samson (d.1905) in Trinity Church, Adelaide; they had two daughters and four sons.

In 1877 when he moved to Belair, in the hills eight miles from Adelaide, Gooch decided that the 'setting apart of the property then known as Government Farm as a recreation ground for the people of Adelaide would be a great benefit'. In 1881, when the government seemed likely to divide the farm at Belair and sell it, he organized a picnic there to arouse publicity. Next year he obtained 213 influential signatures to a memorial urging that the farm be kept for the public. A number of possible uses were listed: a water or forest reserve, experimental farm, acclimatization station, zoological gardens, and national recreation ground. As a consequence, an Act was passed in 1883 which prevented the government from selling the farm without parliament's sanction.

In 1888 the new flora and fauna protection committee of the field naturalists' section of the Royal Society of South Australia criticized the Act's meagre scope. They claimed that since 1883 the government had cut down many magnificent trees and that the farm's subdivision into working men's blocks was being considered. They joined with Gooch and others whose objective was a people's park, in applying pressure through numerous deputations on government. They succeeded and a new Act was passed in 1891. Gooch was a foundation commissioner of the National Park and actively fostered its good management and development. But to the chagrin of the naturalists, under Gooch and like-minded commissioners the park's recreational aspect was developed at the expense of its natural resources. This area was the second national park established in Australia.

Gooch had been a member of the local board of the National Bank in 1881-83. He was also chairman for sixteen years of the Unley school board of advice and an active Anglican. A member of the Australian Natives' Association from 1889, in 1892 he became a trustee, member of the local board of directors and president of the Adelaide No.1 branch. He was admired for his integrity and straightforward dealing as a businessman and never retired. He died of cerebro-vascular disease at his home Tooroo, Belair, on 10 October 1918 and was buried in the Anglican cemetery at Mitcham.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (1907)
  • Quiz (Adelaide), 18 Sept 1901
  • Royal Society of South Australia, Transactions, 35 (1911)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 11 Oct 1918
  • Some information About Origin of National Park (D4556 (L), State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

Margaret Allen, 'Gooch, Walter (1842–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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