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William McIntyre (1830–1911)

by Bruce Mitchell

This article was published:

William McIntyre (1830-1911), school inspector, was born on 29 January 1830 in County Antrim, Ireland, son of William McIntyre (1802-1867), farmer, and his wife Margaret, née McGrath. Educated at the Normal Training College, Dublin, he married Sarah Humphrey in County Antrim in 1851.

McIntyre had become an organizing master by 1856 when the New South Wales Board of National Education induced him to migrate with free passages and half-pay on the voyage. On arrival he became inspector for the Hunter River district. In 1859-60 he was principal teacher of the Fort Street Girls' School and in 1861 was appointed district inspector of the northern district which included all the colony north of the Hunter Valley. Travelling by way of the north coast he established several schools. Soon after reaching his headquarters at Armidale he enlisted the support of 'many of the gentlemen of the town most distinguished for talent and liberal views'; four months later a National school was opened there. He helped to establish 45 new schools so that 55 were functioning when he left the district in 1868.

McIntyre had normally travelled some 3500 miles (5633 km) a year in his large district and tried to visit each school twice a year. In 1863 he almost drowned when his horses were swept away while trying to cross a flooded river. From 1867 he was also required to inspect the denominational schools under the Council of Education; his report criticized the low standards of classrooms, school organization and teaching ability compared with the public schools.

In 1868 McIntyre was transferred to the Goulburn district which had twice as many schools and included Mittagong, Yass, Adaminaby and Eden. In 1869 he wrote that he had 'grown grey in the service' and that his constitution had been 'partially ruined by hardship, exposure and slavery'. He also claimed to have been responsible for the half-time schools which enabled more children to receive schooling from an itinerant teacher. He was given a testimonial from grateful parents when he left in 1872. In 1873-77 he served in the Camden district and, apart from six months' leave in Britain, again in Goulburn in 1878-81.

In 1867 William Wilkins had deferred McIntyre's promotion and in 1869 charged him with inadequacy in performing his duties as inspector. In spite of a spirited defence, McIntyre was not advanced as quickly as many younger men. In 1881 he was demoted and for two years had roving commissions around the colony. From 1884, when Wilkins retired, McIntyre was stationed in Sydney as an inspector in the metropolitan area. In 1890 he became deputy chief inspector with a salary of £650. He was apparently so well established that the Public Service Board did not demand his retirement at 65 but let him continue until 1902.

While in Armidale McIntyre had bought a farm of 320 acres (130 ha) which he called Antrim Park. He spent £30 on a slab hut and £233 on fencing, and with the aid of contract labour was soon selling bags of potatoes. He also bought horses and cattle. By the 1880s he was leasing out small farms at low rental on condition that they were cleared and fenced. He kept careful records of his expenses on inspection tours and when the department substituted a daily allowance he was delighted by his profit. He had a good eye for a bargain and by the 1890s was buying cases of whisky for himself and other departmental officials. He also bought regular tickets in consultations on Sydney and Melbourne races. He died on 9 December 1911 at his home in Glebe and was buried in the Presbyterian section of Rookwood cemetery. He was survived by his wife, to whom he left most of his estate of £7549, and by three sons and four daughters. Fourteen volumes of his diaries are in the Mitchell Library.

Select Bibliography

  • Council of Education (Syd), Annual Report, 1866-69
  • Armidale Express, 1861-64
  • Board of National Education, Fair minute book, 1854-58, and miscellaneous in-letters, 1848-66 (State Records New South Wales)
  • Council of Education, Inspectors' itineraries and weekly diaries, 1867-72 (State Records New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Bruce Mitchell, 'McIntyre, William (1830–1911)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 16 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


29 January, 1830
Antrim, Ireland


9 December, 1911 (aged 81)
Glebe, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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