Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Moore (1821–1893)

by I. H. Grimmett

This article was published:

William Moore (1821-1893), Methodist missionary, was born on 24 March 1821 at Parramatta, son of John Moore, veterinary surgeon, and his wife Sarah, née Cooper. About 1831 he went to Richmond where he was brought up as a Wesleyan and trained as a tanner and currier by his uncle. Influenced by Rev. Samuel Wilkinson, he experienced a religious conversion in 1838. A year later he began to preach and soon became an accredited local preacher. On 3 June 1842 at the Wesleyan Chapel he married Mary Ann, eldest daughter of John Ducker of Richmond.

In 1847 Moore offered for missionary work in Fiji but assent was not immediately possible. Instead Rev. W. B. Boyce sent him and William Lightbody to investigate the religious situation in the Moreton Bay District. They reported after returning to Sydney and Moore was appointed a home missionary at Brisbane, where he arrived with his wife on 17 October. Local residents were already conducting religious meetings and a Sunday school. Moore expanded this work, forming congregations and building churches at Burnett Lane, Brisbane, and at Limestone (Ipswich), preaching also at South Brisbane. At Zion's Hill (Nundah) he conducted a preaching ministry to the German mission community established by Schmidt and Eipper, influencing some of the missioners to become preachers in the Moreton Bay circuit. As the founder of Wesleyan Methodism in Queensland Moore covered his extensive circuit by horseback except when travelling to Ipswich by river steamer.

In 1849 Moore received his call to Fiji and arrived in the islands in January 1850. He was finally examined for the ministry in 1853. In Fiji he laboured with conspicuous success for nineteen years, showing exceptional ability to understand and influence the people. He became an apt Fijian scholar and translator. He served chiefly at Rewa, which he reopened as a mission station in 1854, but also at Bua, Nadi, Kadavu, Bau and Ovalau. He had visited Australia only in 1861 and 1865 but ill health caused his permanent return in 1869. With health restored he served the New South Wales Conference for fifteen years at Armidale, Wollongong, Kiama, Balmain and Windsor. The conference elected him chairman of his district three times and president of the conference in 1883. He supported the building of Newington College at Stanmore and helped to inaugurate its fund. He also played a significant part in founding the Wesleyan Ladies' College opened at Burwood in 1886.

Superannuated in 1885, Moore lived at Stanmore until he died on 12 September 1893; he was buried at Rookwood, survived by ten of his sixteen children. As a missionary Moore was much criticized for speculating in land, probably on behalf of his large family. Though not a great preacher or administrator, he was esteemed for his pioneering qualities and dedication. His colleague, Rev. J. Waterhouse, referred to him as 'a fine fellow—one of the most useful— tho' perhaps most humble of our number'. Lorimer Fison described him as one of the greatest Australian missionaries.

Select Bibliography

  • B. C. Seemann, Viti (Cambridge, 1862)
  • S. M. Smythe, Ten Months in the Fiji Islands (Lond, 1864)
  • J. Blacket, Missionary Triumphs Among the Settlers in Australia and the Savages of the South Seas (Lond, 1914)
  • R. A. Derrick, A History of Fiji (Suva, 1946)
  • R. S. C. Dingle (ed), Annals of Achievement: A Review of Queensland Methodism, 1847-1947 (Brisb, 1947)
  • MS A2814, A2815 (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

I. H. Grimmett, 'Moore, William (1821–1893)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 23 July 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]


24 March, 1821
Parramatta, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


12 September, 1893 (aged 72)
Stanmore, Sydney, New South Wales, 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.