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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Walker, William (1787–1854)

by Vivienne Parsons

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

William Walker (1787-1854), merchant, was the second son of Archibald Walker, laird of Edenshead, Fife, Scotland, and his second wife, Isabel, daughter of the laird of Falfield. In 1803 he joined the London branch of a Scottish bank and after a few years joined Fairlie, Ferguson & Co., merchants, whose headquarters were at Calcutta. He was soon sent to Calcutta and in July 1813 went to Sydney in the Eliza as agent for his firm, with the immediate task of collecting debts owed to it by Robert Campbell. After his return to Calcutta he resigned from the firm and in March 1820 came back to Sydney in the Haldane.

William Walker's eldest brother James, a half-pay naval officer, arrived in Sydney in September 1823. Walker had already formed William Walker & Co., with James and two nephews, Thomas and Archibald Walker, who were in the colony, as shareholders. The firm had a wharf and warehouse at Dawes Point and engaged in coastal shipping and whaling. William received a grant of 1000 acres (405 ha) from Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1821 and in 1825 another 1000 (405 ha) from Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane at Lue, near Mudgee. James received 2000 acres (809 ha) at Wallerawang and settled there in 1824.

In May 1826 William sailed in the Mangles for London. On his return to Australia in the Numa in July 1828 he brought 160 Saxon merino ewes from Stettin. While in England he had applied for an increased grant as he now had capital of approximately £25,000 invested in the colony. He was given another 1000 acres (405 ha) and later obtained more land in the central district and at Twofold Bay. In February 1831 both brothers chartered the Forth and returned to London to establish the firm of Walker Bros. & Co., which during the late 1830s exported large quantities of wool to London. Their men moved stock to the upper Castlereagh River and squatted on several runs. David, William and Thomas Archer, sons of William Archer and Julia Walker, daughter of William's half-brother Archibald, had arrived at Wallerawang in 1834-38 and David Archer began managing the Walkers' properties. News of losses in the depression and drought brought William Walker to Australia again in 1843, but until he died on 8 July 1854 his permanent residence was in England. On 20 October 1828 in Sydney he had married Elizabeth Kirby; they had nine sons and two daughters.

William Walker played an active part in public life during his long residence in New South Wales. He was a director of the Bank of New South Wales in 1820-24, a member of committees appointed to examine the bank's affairs in 1844 and 1845, and was on its first London board in 1853-54. He was president of the Chamber of Commerce and treasurer of the Agricultural Society, a strong supporter of the Scots Church and a subscriber to charitable institutions.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 8, 10, 11, 13, 16, 17
  • Sydney Gazette, 10 July 1813, 1 July 1820, 7 July 1828
  • Australian, 19 Feb 1831
  • B. H. Crew, The History of the Walker and Archer families (M.A. thesis, Australian National University, 1963)
  • manuscript catalogue under William Walker (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Vivienne Parsons, 'Walker, William (1787–1854)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 28 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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