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Walter, William Ardagh Gardner (1860–1940)

by David Black

This article was published:

William Ardagh Gardner Walter (1860-1940), magistrate, was born on 13 August 1860 at Wilton, Somerset, England, son of Octavius Gardner Walter, solicitor, and his wife Prudence, née Ardagh. Educated at Taunton College School, William migrated to Western Australia in 1885 and bought a cattle property at Tanjanerup, near Nannup. On 20 September 1887 at St Paul's Anglican Church, Bunbury, he married Lucille Jane Thomson (d.1947); they were to have a daughter and a son who was killed in World War I.

In 1891 Walter sold his station and entered government service. After helping to compile the census, he became warden of the new Murchison goldfield. From 1893 he was resident magistrate for the Blackwood area and registrar of Greenbushes tin-mining district; he quarrelled with the under secretary of crown lands over advice allegedly tendered by the latter on the issuing of mining leases. Walter was acting police magistrate at Perth in 1902 and then resident magistrate for three years at Geraldton; he was appointed second stipendiary magistrate at Kalgoorlie in 1909, acting warden of its mining district in 1911 and, after two years on the Murchison fields, first magistrate at Kalgoorlie.

In March 1918 he fined the leader of the parliamentary Opposition Philip Collier £25 plus costs for utterances 'likely to cause disaffection' during the conscription plebiscite. The fine was subsequently remitted and costs refunded in an undefended action before the High Court of Australia. A big, swarthy man with an iron-grey moustache, in 1919 Walter aroused hostility in trade union and labour circles when, after clashes between rival unions at Kalgoorlie, he refused bail for a number of Australian Workers' Union strikers and sent them to Perth for trial; it was later revealed that he had travelled to Perth for fire-arms to quell the disturbances. Workers disliked what they saw as his favouritism towards the Chamber of Mines and the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia; but one court reporter, while suspecting that Walter knew more about men than about the law, admired his judgements for their tolerance and compassion.

Walter left the goldfields in 1920 to become third stipendiary magistrate in Perth and was promoted second magistrate next year. Returning from a holiday in Burma in May 1924, he refused to resign and was compulsorily retired by the newly elected Collier Labor government. Victimization was alleged, but Collier remained adamant. Walter had shone at Rugby football and rowing in England, and at tennis and cricket in Western Australia; he coached women scullers on the River Swan and belonged to the Western Australian Turf Club. He was a member of Hannans Club and of the senate of the University of Western Australia; a vice-president of the Weld Club, he became its secretary in 1925, but resigned next year and went home to England where he died at Pembury, Kent, on 10 March 1940.

Select Bibliography

  • Truthful Thomas, Through the Spy-Glass (Perth, 1905)
  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 2 (Adel, 1913)
  • T. S. Louch, The History of the Weld Club (Perth, 1980)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Western Australia), 1924, p 535
  • Votes and Proceedings (Western Australia), 1893, 2 (A 11)
  • Kalgoorlie Miner, 22 Dec 1917, 9, 13 Mar 1918, 7, 13 Nov 1919
  • West Australian, 26, 29, 31 May, 29 Aug 1924
  • Blackwood Times, 26 Oct, 2 Nov 1966.

Citation details

David Black, 'Walter, William Ardagh Gardner (1860–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 5 February 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2023

Life Summary [details]


13 August, 1860
Wilton, Somerset, England


10 March, 1940 (aged 79)
Pembury, Kent, England

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