Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Hutchinson (1864–1924)

by Geoff Browne

This article was published:

William Hutchinson (1864-1924), watchmaker, jeweller and politician, was born on 31 May 1864 at Pleasant Creek (Stawell), Victoria, son of William Hutchinson, miner, and his wife Mary, née McKay, both from northern Ireland. Educated at Pleasant Creek State School, he worked on his uncle's farm before becoming a shop assistant at Murtoa where he attended night school. In 1885 he moved to Warracknabeal and established his own business as a watchmaker and jeweller. On 7 September 1898 at Carlton, Melbourne, he married Janet MacKay, a schoolteacher; they had three sons and one daughter. After his wife's death in 1907 Hutchinson sold his business and moved to Melbourne, although maintaining wheat-farming interests in the Warracknabeal district in partnership with his brother Samuel.

In 1900 Hutchinson was narrowly defeated for the Legislative Assembly seat of Borung. He successfully recontested the seat in October 1902 with the backing of the National Citizens' Reform League. He became a leader of the Country Liberal group and was regarded as the principal parliamentary spokesman of the temperance lobby. An active Presbyterian, he was a prominent supporter of attempts to introduce Scripture readings into state schools. He voted for the overthrow of Sir Thomas Bent in 1908 and chaired the royal commission of 1909 which condemned Bent's activities while minister of lands.

In 1913 Hutchinson refused to countenance moves by some Country Liberals to bring down the Watt government. He was rewarded with the portfolios of water supply and agriculture in the second Watt ministry from December 1913 to June 1914. He retained these posts under Sir Alexander Peacock until November 1915. From then until November 1917 he was minister of lands under Peacock and from March 1918 to November 1920 held the portfolios of public instruction and forests in the Lawson ministry. As a minister Hutchinson was an efficient rather than an imaginative administrator who was noted for the clarity of his explanations in introducing bills to the House. While minister of forests he successfully carried a bill establishing the Forests Commission.

A 'big and burly' man with a 'drooping tan moustache', Hutchinson was a popular and genial figure who, nevertheless, kept a strict moral code and 'would not indulge in intrigue of any kind'. He was defeated in October 1920 and became an agent for the agricultural machinery firm of his cousin H. V. McKay. He had suffered from angina for some years and died at his East Malvern home on 18 December 1924; he was buried in Brighton cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Priestley, Warracknabeal (Brisb, 1967)
  • Punch (Melbourne), 5 Mar 1914
  • Argus (Melbourne), 19 Dec 1924
  • Warracknabeal Herald, 23 Dec 1924
  • private information.

Citation details

Geoff Browne, 'Hutchinson, William (1864–1924)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 23 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


31 May, 1864
Stawell, Victoria, Australia


18 December, 1924 (aged 60)
Malvern, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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