Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Robert (Bill) Golding (1890–1985)

by Lorna L. McDonald

This article was published:

William Robert (Bill) Golding (1890-1985), alderman and harbour board chairman, was born on 24 November 1890 at Gladstone, Queensland, second of four children of locally born parents William Robert Golding, carpenter, and his wife Fanny, née Fry. Educated at Gladstone State School, Bill was apprenticed to his father and became a builder. He later studied at Brisbane Technical College. On 11 March 1914 at Holy Trinity Church of England, Mackay, he married Lillian Annie Reidy, a nurse.

Active in local government from the age of 26, Golding was an alderman (1917-21 and 1930-76) and mayor (1967-73) of the Gladstone Town Council. He served on the Gladstone Harbour Board for thirty-seven years from 1942. As chairman in 1946-48 and 1959-79, he worked to achieve recognition for the port—which was under-used because of its proximity to Rockhampton—planning each step and negotiating overseas loans for the expansion of infrastructure. His role in what came to be known as `the battle of the ports’ was crucial after Comalco Industries Pty Ltd purchased land in 1963 for a harbourside alumina refinery. Commencing operations in 1967, the refinery was the catalyst for further development; new facilities for the export of Central Queensland coal and grain were progressively built, Lake Awoonga was constructed on the Boyne River and the State’s biggest power station was built in stages. In 1982 Queensland Cement & Lime Co. Ltd’s clinker cement plant and Comalco Ltd’s alumina smelter on Boyne Island were officially opened. As a result Gladstone’s population quadrupled and its port became one of the busiest in Australia.

During the latter half of his life Golding wrote and self-published six books on Central Queensland history: `The Pearl of the Pacific’: Gladstone and Its District (1966?); The Birth of Central Queensland, 1802-1859 (1966); Pathway to Progress, 1860-1973 (1973); The Students Friend: The Gladstone Story, 1770-1975 (1975); Shanties, Pubs, Hotels, 1854-1977 (1977); and Beyond Horizons (1979). In 1984 he completed an unpublished family history, `From an English Acorn’. Made an honorary life member of the (Royal) Historical Society of Queensland in 1948, he was also a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia.

Known as `Mr Gladstone’, Golding was involved with many community organisations. He served on the Gladstone hospitals board for twenty-five years, chaired the Gladstone-Calliope aerodrome committee, and was patron of the Little Theatre, the Municipal and Thistle Pipe bands, the Port Curtis Tennis Association, and the Gladstone Bowls and Turf clubs. He was appointed MBE (1957) and CMG (1971). His wife died on 6 April 1979, and on 28 April at Queen of the Apostles Catholic Church, Stafford, Brisbane, he married Margaret Jean Smith, a 50-year-old deputy school principal. Retiring from public life in May, at the age of 88, he remarked that he had seen `Gladstone rise from a doom town to a boom town’. A colleague, L. J. Hyne, wrote to him: `When I think of what you have contributed to Gladstone, I think of [Christopher] Wren’s memorial in St Paul’s Cathedral [London]—“If you seek his monument, look around” ‘

Golding and his wife lived at Margate, near Brisbane, and enjoyed travelling overseas. He died on 16 September 1985 at Margate and was buried with Anglican rites in Gladstone cemetery. His wife, and two sons and a daughter of his first marriage survived him; one son had predeceased him.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Kerr, Going in Deep (1988)
  • L. McDonald, Gladstone, City That Waited (1988)
  • Gladstone Observer, 17 Sept 1985, p 1
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Citation details

Lorna L. McDonald, 'Golding, William Robert (Bill) (1890–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (Melbourne University Press), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


24 November, 1890
Gladstone, Queensland, Australia


16 September, 1985 (aged 94)
Margate, Queensland, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.