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Latimer, William Fleming (1858–1935)

by Fayette Gosse

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

This is a shared entry with Hugh Latimer

William Fleming Latimer (1858-1935), draper and politician, and Hugh Latimer (1896-1954), accountant and politician, were father and son. William was born on 28 November 1858 at Lisblake near Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Ireland, son of William Lattimer, farmer, and his wife Sarah, née Fleming. Educated at the Erasmus Smith School at nearby Florence-Court, he was apprenticed at 15 to a softgoods firm at Blacklion, Meath. After serving his articles he spent two years in Glasgow, Scotland, and from 1880 managed a large softgoods warehouse at Mount Mellick.

Deciding to migrate, Latimer reached Sydney on 17 March 1883 and soon started work for W. Perry & Co. At Burwood on 23 September 1884 he married Charlotte Creighton, also from Fermanagh. That year he established a softgoods shop at 126 Queen Street, Woollahra, installing a manager. Two years later he took over its management and moved there to live. Business flourished and about 1896 he visited Ireland.

On his return Latimer was elected in 1897 to the Woollahra Municipal Council. He remained an alderman until he retired in December 1932, serving as mayor in 1900-10 and 1918-20 and on the executive of the Municipal Association of New South Wales in 1902-03. Standing as an unattached free trader, he was defeated for the Legislative Assembly seat of Woollahra in 1898, but won as a Liberal in 1901. He represented the electorate until he resigned on 16 February 1920 on being nominated to the Legislative Council; he did not stand for election to the reconstituted council in 1933. He served on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in 1907-10 and attended to his parliamentary and municipal duties assiduously. Genial and reliable, he was described by J. T. Lang as an 'ornament' in local government circles, who 'raised no antagonism and was friendly to all'.

By 1914 Latimer had sold his Queen Street shop and moved to Ashfield, but in 1923 was living at Roslyn Street, Bellevue Hill. He set up a family company, W. F. Latimer Ltd, and from 1930 was a director of Biber Furs Ltd. Intensely interested in all local affairs, he was a deacon of the Woollahra Congregational Church and was furious when Sunday tennis (which he described as 'this Godlessness') was allowed. With a neat beard and, when younger, a splendid waxed moustache, he had a merry laugh and cheery smile. Latimer died at his Bellevue Hill home on 21 July 1935 and was buried with Congregational forms in South Head cemetery. His wife, two sons and daughter survived him, and with his sister inherited his estate valued for probate at £14,301.

His second son Hugh was born on 5 October 1896 at Queen Street, and named after his sixteenth-century ancestor Bishop Hugh Latimer. Educated at Woollahra Superior Public and Fort Street Boys' High schools, he was working as a clerk when he married Jean McClelland at the Congregational Church, Burwood, on 8 November 1919. He became an accountant with David Jones Ltd, and later set up as a consulting chartered accountant. He lived at Bellevue Hill.

Latimer was elected to the Woollahra council in 1923 and, like his father, was an alderman for thirty-one years. He was mayor in 1932-35 and 1949-51 and a vice-president of the Local Government Association of New South Wales in 1947-49. He relentlessly opposed the government's plan to merge Woollahra with the Sydney Municipal Council in 1949 and urged the transfer of the Rose Bay flying boat base. He promoted kindergartens, baby health centres, Redleaf Pool and open-air concerts in Cooper's Park. A quiet and private man, he 'lived and breathed Woollahra'. In 1933 he had been elected to the reconstituted Legislative Council and remained a member until his death; he became Opposition whip in 1946. He was an elder of St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, treasurer of Eastern Suburbs Hospital and a life governor of Prince Henry Hospital.

A diabetic, Hugh Latimer died of coronary vascular disease in the Woollahra council chambers on 10 May 1954 and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. Survived by his wife and son, he left them an estate valued for probate at £17,641. His son William Fleming (d.1969) was elected to his place on the Woollahra council and served for fifteen years before being run over by a vehicle driven by a council employee, making a total of seventy-two years continuous service on the council by three generations of Latimers.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • J. Jervis and V. Kelly, History of Woollahra (Syd, 1960)
  • Parliamentary Debates (New South Wales), 1935-36, p 35, 1954-55, p 6
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Dec 1919, 5 Feb 1920, 29 Aug, 11 Oct, 27 Nov 1922, 19 Dec 1934, 22, 23 July 1935, 13 May 1936, 13 Dec 1939, 14, 28 Mar 1950, 29 July 1951, 14, 16, 18 Mar 1953, 11 May 1954, 29 June 1957, 27 Sept 1969
  • Fighting Line, 27 Oct 1920
  • private information.

Citation details

Fayette Gosse, 'Latimer, William Fleming (1858–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/latimer-william-fleming-7105/text12253, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 18 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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