Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Taylor (1818–1903)

by J. Ann Hone

This article was published:

William Taylor (1818-1903), pastoralist, was born on 20 November 1818 in Glasgow, Scotland, son of William Taylor, merchant, and his wife Martha, née Kirkwood. He was educated at a Glasgow high school and had begun a mercantile career when he decided to migrate. He arrived in Port Phillip on 7 August 1840, and purchased a sheep-run on the Moorabool River, twenty miles (32 km) from Geelong. In February 1844 he and Dugald McPherson took up 206,000 acres (83,366 ha) in the Wimmera; with 33,000 sheep, they were the first pastoralists north of Glenorchy. After trouble with Aboriginals in 1844-45 they subdivided their holding in 1848; Taylor's portion was known as Longerenong. In the winter of 1849 with Archibald Fisken and Robert Scott he travelled down Yarrambiak Creek to Lake Coorong in search of new land; they then went north-west to Pine Plains in the Mallee and on to the Murray River, returning below Lake Hindmarsh where they saw the tracks of E. J. Eyre's 1838 expedition.

Taylor bought Overnewton at Keilor in 1849 and that year married Helen Wilson Fisken, sister of Archibald. He retained the lease on Longerenong until 1856 when he sold it to (Sir) Samuel Wilson and returned to Britain for three years. In 1861 he bought a station on the Murray River at Euston and over the years improved and brought water to over one million acres (404,690 ha) of dry country in the Lower Darling District. His other interests included the Manfred run, a half-share in Garnpung and at one time Salisbury Downs and Ariool, and Bootra stations, all in New South Wales. He was also interested in Queensland and with Andrew Rowan and Fisken was a partner in Darr River Downs from 1888.

In 1847 Taylor was appointed a magistrate, and that year was one of a deputation which waited on Sir Charles FitzRoy to protest against the landing in Hobson's Bay of ticket-of-leave men from Pentonville (London) prison. In 1854-56 Taylor was member for the Wimmera in the Legislative Council and supported the secret ballot. He contested Creswick in the Legislative Assembly in 1859 and in 1864 was elected for Southern Province to the council; he did not seek re-election in 1866. The severe seasons of that and the preceding year affected Taylor's properties. In June 1874 he contested the seat again but was defeated by James Balfour.

Elected to the Keilor District Road Board in 1861, Taylor was chairman in 1863 and president of the Shire Council in 1874-82 and 1884-94. He was also a member of the Stawell Shire Council. In Melbourne he was a director of the Union Mortgage and Agency Co. and owned many Melbourne and country town blocks. He was a member of the Scots Church congregation and a trustee of church property. Appointed to the Council of Ormond College in 1880, he gave the college £200 and in 1881 a scholarship, valued at £50, for three years. He died on 21 June 1903, survived by his wife, six of his seven sons and four of his six daughters. His substantial property was seriously eroded by mortgage debt and his estate was valued for probate at £117,446, with a final deficit of £12,000.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • Pastoral Review, 16 July 1903.

Additional Resources

  • probate, Argus (Melbourne), 3 November 1903, p 6

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Taylor, William (1818–1903)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 20 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 November, 1818
Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland


21 June, 1903 (aged 84)
Keilor, Victoria, Australia

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