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Walker, William (1828–1908)

by Vernon Crew

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

William Walker (1828-1908), by Freeman & Co.

William Walker (1828-1908), by Freeman & Co.

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 01655

William Walker (1828-1908), solicitor and politician, was born on 26 February 1828 in Glasgow, Scotland, son of George Walker, schoolteacher, and his wife Elizabeth, née Ferguson. His father was recruited by Rev. J. D. Lang, reached Sydney in the Portland with his family on 4 December 1837 and opened a Presbyterian school at Windsor. William was educated there and by Rev. Matthew Adam, and was articled to Francis Beddek, a local solicitor, in 1841. Admitted as a solicitor on 30 October 1852 he practised successfully in Windsor until 1908. On 29 March 1853 at near-by South Creek he married Mary Cover Hassall, granddaughter of Rev. Rowland Hassall and Richard Rouse; she died in childbirth on 13 July 1858 after bearing two sons who died in infancy.

Walker was a member of the Anti-transportation League, although he found Lang too advanced in political ideas. He acted as election agent in Windsor for (Sir) John Darvall in 1856 and successfully canvassed for T. W. Smith against (Sir) Henry Parkes in 1857. On 12 March 1860 he won a Legislative Assembly by-election for Windsor; he became a loyal supporter of (Sir) James Martin and a friend of Parkes. He favoured ad valorem duties for revenue, supported the 1866 Public Schools Act and wanted to make the Legislative Council elective. Without losing sight of wider political issues he proved an energetic and effective local member, agitating for the railway to Richmond and Windsor, opened in 1864, and for a bridge across the Hawkesbury River at Windsor, built in 1874. He acted as an unpaid assistant whip for Martin, who rarely went to an important division without consulting him 'to ascertain if all was right', but his support of Martin's unpopular land legislation offended his squatting friends and led to his defeat in 1869. In November 1880 Walker asked Parkes to recommend him for a seat in the Legislative Council: he believed he was 'sufficiently independent to sustain the dignity', as he had 'a private income of £500 a year and £500 from my profession', and explained that he 'might' support Parkes's government. However, he was not appointed to the council until 1887.

An elder of the Presbyterian Church and for many years a representative on its General Assembly, Walker was secretary of the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society and Hospital and founding president of the Windsor School of Arts in 1861-77. Long an advocate of the town's incorporation, he was an alderman on the first Windsor Borough Council from 1871 and mayor in 1878. He contributed articles to the press on the Windsor floods and published a collection of lectures, speeches and articles as Miscellanies (1884, 1887) as well as a volume of Poems, Written in Youth (1884), a History of the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society (1887), Recollections of Sir Henry Parkes (1896) and Reminiscences … (1890).

Walker died of influenza at Windsor on 12 June 1908 and was buried in the Presbyterian cemetery. He was survived by four sons and three daughters by his second wife Henrietta Medora, daughter of Robert Cooper, whom he had married at Paddington on 24 August 1859; and by two sons and two daughters of his third wife Jessy, née Wood, whom he had married at Windsor on 20 April 1876. His estate was valued for probate at £1380; he carefully divided his extensive library among his children.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Steele, Early Days of Windsor (Syd, 1916)
  • P. Loveday and A. W. Martin, Parliament Factions and Parties (Melb, 1966)
  • D. G. Bowd, Macquarie Country (Melb, 1969)
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 12 June 1908
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 13 June 1908
  • J. D. Lang papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • W. Walker papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Vernon Crew, 'Walker, William (1828–1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/walker-william-4790/text7977, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 25 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

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