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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Wilson, Walter Horatio (1839–1902)

by J. C. H. Gill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Walter Horatio Wilson (1839-1902), by Thomas Mathewson

Walter Horatio Wilson (1839-1902), by Thomas Mathewson

Redcliffe City Library, 000288

Walter Horatio Wilson (1839-1902), solicitor and politician, was born on 15 July 1839 at Rhos-y-Medre, Denbighshire, Wales, son of Benjamin Frederick Wilson, clerk, and his wife Anne, née Sands. Educated at Ellesmere School, Shropshire, England, in 1853 Walter migrated with his family to Melbourne where he served his articles of clerkship. On 18 April 1862 he married with Anglican rites Elizabeth Hannah Field (d.1886) at Christ Church, St Kilda. Admitted as a solicitor in 1863, he moved with his wife to Brisbane in 1865 where he was allowed to practise unconditionally in the Supreme Court from 1866.

Suffering ill health from overwork, he took N. J. R. Wilson, the son of an Ipswich merchant, into partnership in 1879 and left next year for the United States of America and England. At Trinity College, London, he pursued his love of music by studying harmony and composition. Returning to Australia in 1881, he founded the Brisbane Musical Union, became president of the Liedertafel, and was organist and choirmaster at St Thomas's Anglican Church, Toowong, for twelve years: his repertoire included his own anthems, 'O how amiable are Thy dwellings' and 'Teach me Thy way'.

Involved in numerous community activities, Wilson held broad liberal views and attracted the notice of (Sir) Samuel Griffith with whom he also had business dealings. Although he had declined the premier's invitation in the early 1880s to stand for the assembly seat of Enoggera, Wilson accepted nomination to the Legislative Council in July 1885; he remained on the council for the rest of his life. He was postmaster-general and government representative in the council (1887-88), leader of the council (1890-94, 1898), minister without portfolio (1890-93, 1894-98), postmaster-general (1893-94, 1898), secretary for public instruction (1893-94, 1899) and minister of justice (1898-99). He supported Federation and was responsible for the standard of time bill in 1894.

On 22 November 1893 Wilson had married Rose Mary Harding at St John's Pro-Cathedral, Brisbane. He had also taken H. B. Hemming as a partner in his firm. Contemporaries regarded Wilson as a temperate and just man with deep sympathies for those in need. His firmness, courtesy and tact often secured him his way in the House and beyond it. In 1900 he was appointed C.M.G. Wilson died suddenly at his Toowong home on 28 February 1902 of acute intestinal obstruction and was buried in Toowong cemetery. He was survived by his wife, a son and daughter of his first marriage, and two sons and a daughter of his second. His estate was sworn for probate at £22,294.

Select Bibliography

  • Alcazar Press, Queensland, 1900 (Brisb, nd)
  • R. S. Browne, A Journalist's Memories (Brisb, 1927)
  • R. J. N. Bannenberg, Queensland Parliamentary Handbook (Brisb, 1983)
  • Brisbane Courier, 30 Mar 1878, 5 Dec 1888, 1 Mar 1902
  • Queenslander, 8 Mar 1902
  • St Thomas's Church, Toowong, Easter meetings, minute book (Church of England Diocesan Archives, Brisbane)
  • Queensland Law Society Archives, Brisbane.

Citation details

J. C. H. Gill, 'Wilson, Walter Horatio (1839–1902)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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