Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

William Halliday (1828–1892)

by Ruth Teale

This article was published:

William Halliday (1828-1892), pastoralist, was born at Dumfries, Scotland, son of William Halliday and his wife Margaret, née Harvey. He learnt sheep farming from his father. In 1852 at Dumfries he married Marion, née Irving, and migrated to Victoria where he worked for the Wilson brothers in the Wimmera. With James Richmond he acquired a run near St Arnaud where he became a shire councillor. He suffered little encroachment by selectors but disliked the Victorian land laws and in 1873 bought Brookong station in New South Wales, reputedly for £100,000. At great expense he ringbarked large areas and in 1876 opened a private telegraph line to Urana. Some weeks later when rain fell he bought by telegram 150,000 sheep in the depressed Victorian market and emerged from the drought with a profit. By 1889 he had 48,650 acres (19,688 ha) of leasehold and shore over 200,000 sheep. He also ran cattle and after 1887 grew wheat as a sideline.

Halliday allowed selectors water and stock forage in dry times and in 1888, after a trip to Britain, was paid the 'unique compliment' of a public dinner by the selectors. He was a liberal donor to the Presbyterian manse at Urana, the hospital, public school and School of Arts; he was also an active magistrate, president of the Urana turf club and vice-president of the cricket club. He subscribed £1000 to the Sudan expedition in 1885 and gave the refund to the Goodenough Royal Naval House in Sydney. On 31 August 1885 he was appointed to the Legislative Council; he attended regularly and took a house in Woollahra but was never an enthusiastic politician.

Halliday was an early and vigorous member of the Pastoralists' Union of New South Wales and took a firm stand against the Amalgamated Shearers' Union. In August 1888 he refused its demands to employ only union labour and when strikers picketed his woolshed, wired Sydney for forty Colt revolvers and called the police. After the Riot Act was read, nine shearers were arrested and on 19 October were tried at Wagga Wagga and sentenced to imprisonment. On 19 September 1890 in the maritime strike Halliday, complete with waistcoat, gloves and black topper, drove one of the wool drays under police escort from Darling Harbour through the unionists' ranks to Circular Quay where the Riot Act was read. He died at Quiraing, Woollahra, on 25 August 1892, predeceased by his wife and survived by a son and four daughters to whom he left £274,919.

Select Bibliography

  • W. G. Spence, History of the A.W.U. (Syd, 1911)
  • W. A. Bayley (ed), Billabidgee (Urana, 1959)
  • Town and Country Journal, 25 Aug 1888
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 20 Sept 1890, 26 Aug 1892
  • Bulletin, 27 Sept 1890
  • Pastoral Review, 15 Sept 1892
  • Wagga Express, 27 Aug 1892
  • Labor Council of New South Wales records (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Halliday, William (1828–1892)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 25 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Dumfries, Dumfriesshire, Scotland


25 August, 1892 (aged ~ 64)
Woollahra, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

kidney disease

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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.

Key Events
Key Organisations