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Halliday, William (1828–1892)

Mr. William Halliday, M.L.C., one of the best known and certainly one of the most popular pastoralists in the colonies, died on 24th August at his residence, Quiraing, Woollahra, after a long and painful illness. The deceased was born in 1827 at Dumfries, in Scotland, and in Dumfriesshire, he remained until he was 25 years of age, following a country life. In 1852, tempted by the glowing reports of the gold finds in Victoria, he emigrated to Melbourne, but on his arrival he resisted the temptation of rushing to the goldfields and entered into the service of Messrs. Wilson Brothers, then large squatters in Victoria, whose properties subsequently passed into the hands of Sir Samuel Wilson. After gaining considerable experience with these gentlemen, Mr. Halliday entered into partnership with Mr. James Richmond of Haddon Rig, and purchased a station in the St. Arnaud district of Victoria. Regarding the land laws of Victoria at that time as unsatisfactory, Mr. Halliday migrated to New South Wales, where he purchased the property known as Brookong, in the Wagga district. As showing the good feeling existing between Mr. Halliday and his neighbours in the St. Arnaud district, it may be mentioned that during the whole time of his connection with the estate there it was not selected upon, but when he left it was immediately applied for under the land laws then existing in Victoria.

Mr. Halliday's first experiences in Brookong were remarkable. He bought it about the year 1871, and in the first few years of his occupation he liberally improved it. Among other expenditure he spent £15,000 in ring-barking on the timbered land which had previously been regarded as useless for pastoral purposes. In the years 1875-6 a severe drought befel the country, and during its continuance Mr. Halliday lost 150,000 sheep. One of his far-seeing additions at Brookong was a telegraph line from Urana, some seventeen or eighteen miles distant. At length the drought broke, and on one evening four inches of rain fell. Taking advantage of an offer of 250,000 sheep made to him in Victoria, which at that time was also afflicted by drought, Mr. Halliday telegraphed to accept on inspection, and he closed for 150,000 of the sheep. Thus with them and their increase he came out of the drought in which he had lost 150,000 sheep with the same number as before, and £14,000 to the good.

For many years, both in Victoria and in New South Wales, Mr. Halliday was an active magistrate, and in August, 1885, he was called to the Legislative Council, where, while his health permitted, he took keen interest in the legislative work. His genial, kindly, and generous nature made him universally beloved by those with whom he came in contact, poor and rich alike, and if he were more popular with one class than another it was with his poorer neighbours. As an instance of this, it may be mentioned that when he returned from a trip to England some time ago he was entertained at a public banquet by the selectors on Brookong Station. His charitable disposition was well known, and while he liberally contributed to the public charities, his private benefactions, which none but the grateful recipients knew, were very large.

When the Soudan contingent was despatched Mr. Halliday enthusiastically supported the action of the Government, and gave £1000 towards the patriotic fund. When that money was not expended he refused to receive it back, and devoted it to the Australian Sailors' Home. At the time of the London dock strike he was a liberal contributor to the fund for the support of the wives and children of the men, who, he held, were being unjustifiably treated by their employers. But while he was generous in what he considered a deserving case, he was equally vigorous in resisting what he considered unjust demands made by labour upon capital. He was one of the earliest and most enthusiastic members of the New South Wales Pastoralists' Association, which was originated during the maritime strike in 1890, and he drove one of the wool teams from Darling Harbour to Circular Quay on the day when the riot occurred. During the shearing strike which followed next year, he soon convinced the shearers that he was not a man to be trifled with, and the manner in which he dealt with the strikers when they attempted to ill-treat the free labourers in his sheds had a considerable influence in checking further outrages.

At a meeting of the New South Wales Pastoralists' Union Council held on 30th August the following resolution was passed :—"That this Council places on record its regret at the death of the Hon. William Halliday, M.L.C., a member of this Union, and the first man in Australia to take a firm stand against the encroachments of the A.S.U., and that a copy of this resolution with a letter of sympathy be sent to the deceased gentleman's family."

Last Christmas Mr. Halliday was taken ill, and from that time he gradually grew worse, his ailment being an affection of the kidneys. He was attended by Dr. Creed, M.L.C., and Dr. Scott Skirving. He was a widower, and leaves a son and two married and two unmarried daughters.

Original publication

  • Australasian Pastoralists' Review, 15 September 1892, pp 807-08 (view original)

Citation details

'Halliday, William (1828–1892)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/halliday-william-1086/text1082, accessed 12 December 2018.

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