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McArthur, Sir William Gilbert Stewart (1861–1935)

After a long illness, Sir William Gilbert Stewart McArthur, who for 14 years was a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, died on Friday at his station home, Meningoort, near Camperdown. He was aged 74 years. Ill-health compelled Sir Stewart McArthur to resign from the Bench last year, but before his resignation his health had been indifferent for some years. He received leave of absence for six months in 1933, but it failed to improve his health, and he decided to retire to Meningoort. He was created a knight last month, his name being included in the State list of King's Birthday Honours.

Sir Stewart McArthur was born at Meningoort on September 16, 1861. He was the second son of the late Mr. Peter McArthur, a native of the Isle of Islay, Scotland, one of the first landholders in the Western distrist, who established Meningoort Station, of 12,000 acres, in 1839. After the death of Mr. Peter McArthur the property passed into the hands of his eldest son, Mr. J. N. McArthur, who conducted it until he died in 1917. The property then passed to Sir Stewart McArthur.

Sir Stewart McArthur received his early education at Geelong College. He graduated bachelor of laws at the University of Melbourne in I882, being the first student enrolled at Ormond College. Tha master of Ormond College at that time wa s the present Chancellor of the University (Sir John MacFarland). In 1884 Sir Stewart McArthur was admitted to practise at the Victorian Bar, and he read with the late Judge (then Mr. J. B.) B0x, of the County Court Bench. For some time Sir Stewart McArthur confined himself exclusively to County Court work, having the largest County Court practice in Victoria, but later he devoted his attention to Supreme Court and High Court work. In 1912 he was appointed a King's Counsel. His elevation to the Bench followed eight years later.

Both as counsel and as judge, Sir Stewart McArthur was noted for his great ability and his patience. Even where he had the help of shorthand writers to record all the evidence—and sometimes all the argument—it was his custom to take copious notes to ensure that every important fact or legal point was clear to him. His judgments reflected the same qualities.

Before his illness Sir Stewart McArthur took an active interest in sport, and he was well known in his earlier years as a capable four-in hand driver. For years he drove the coach for the Bohemians to the Melbourne Cup and other V.R.C. outings. Among a group of sporting brothers, Stewart McArthur was regarded as easily first. Academically, he won distinction, and his successes in four in-hand driving, cricket, football, tennis and buck jumping, were equally outstanding. He could use a stock whip with a sure deftness. In later life he played golf, and was a member of the Royal Melbourne club. He married in 1890, Margaret Rutherford, daughter of the late Mr. Ewen Macpherson, of Benduc Station on the Murrumbidgee. His only son, Mr. Gordon McArthur, M.L.C., practises at the Victorian Bar. His two daughters are Mrs. J. W. Knox, whose husband, Major Knox, was killed at the war, and Mrs. A. J. McIntosh, of Warragul. Mrs. Knox is at present in England. Sir Stewart McArthur's surviving brothers are Dr. Norman McArthur, of Collins street; Mr. Campbell McArthur, of Armadale, president of the National Coursing Club; and Mr. Leslie McArthur, of Beaconsfield. Dr. Douglas McArthur, of Spring street, Melbourne, and Toorak, is a half-brother.

The funeral to Camperdown cemetery on Saturday afternoon was attended by many representatives of law and pastoral interests. There were numerous floral tributes.

In an address at the graveside, the Rev. William Thompson, of Malvern, who was for many years in charge of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Camperdown, paid a glowing tribute to Sir Stewart McArthur.

"We have laid to rest in his family tomb," said Mr. Thompson, "the remains of a son of that band of Scottish men who nearly 100 years ago settled in this part of the Western District, and who by their courage, enterprise, intelligence, perseverance, and patience in difficulties and disappointments made this garden of Victoria prosperous.

"Choosing a professional career the late Sir Stewart McArthur threw himself wholeheartedly into the scholastic preparation for success at the Bar. I have the best authority for saying that in this position he was always keen but fair in seeking for all the facts in his cases. He was a judge who enjoyed the respect of the profession. He was careful, patient, and eminently fair, and was popular when at the Bar and when on the Bench. During his long illness he had the sympathy or all members of the profession.

"The highest honour conferred on Sir Stewart McArtnur, that of knighthood, was, we feel, a fitting reward of a life devoted to the highest public service, that of the judiciary.

"The man whom the Lord accepts and honours is he who doeth justly loveth mercy, and walketh humbly with God. These qualities marked the character of Justice McArthur. In his intercourse with his fellow men, he manifested the marks of a fine Christian gentleman."

The pall-bearers were Sir Frederick Mann, representing the Supreme Court of Victoria, Judge Macindoe, representing the County Court Bench; and Messrs. W. K. Mackinnon, John Manifold, Nicholas Cole, Stuart G. Black, Donald Curdie, Gerald Cumming, H. O. Nevett, and W. Stephenson (overseer). The coffin was borne by representatives of the station employees—Messrs. A. Woods, R. McAlpine, L. Cations, C. Bloom, G. Hammond, and J. Sharpe.

The principal mourners were Mr. Gordon McArthur, M.L.C. (son), Dr. Norman McArthur, Mr. Leslie McArthur, and Mr. Campbell McArthur (brothers), Dr. Douglas McArthur (half-brother), Mr. Alec McIntosh (son-in-law), Mr. lan McIntosh (grandson), and Messrs. Robert, Colin, Stewart, Graham, and Peter McArthur and David McCall McCowan (nephews). Among others who attended were Mr. Dixon Hearder, representing the Licences Reduction Board; Mr. William Irvine, representing the Chief Justice (Sir William Irvine); Mr. E. H. Hudson, Mr. J. V. Barry, and Mr. L. E. B. Stretton, representing the Victorian Bar.

Collie & Brennan were in charge of the funeral arrangements.

Mr. Justice Duffy said: "I knew the late Sir Stewart McArthur for a long time when he was practising at the bar, and for a while I read with him in chambers. The most striking feature one noticed in practising before him in court was the extraordinary care he took to examine any case or proposition put to him, no matter whether it was by senior counsel, by the most junior member of the bar, or by a man appearing in person. This led anyone appearing before him to feel satisfied that he had a fair and scrupulous hearing. Everyone who had anything to bring before his court was treated with the greatest consideration and courtesy. The law of Victoria has suffered a loss by his death." Sir John Latham, K.C., said: "The late Sir Stewart McArthur was one who enjoyed the respect of the whole legal profession, as a careful, patient and eminently fair judge. Both at the bar and on the bench he was popular with all those who came in contact with him. During his long illness he had the sincere sympathy of the legal profession throughout Australia."

At the monthly meeting of the Hampden Shire Council on Friday, the president (Cr. F. C. Russell), in announcing the death of Sir Stewart McArthur, said that he was one of the most respected members of a widely known and loved family.

Preaching at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Camperdown, on Sunday morning, the Rev. P. H. Widmer, in referring to the influence and responsibility of life, said that no one could live without influencing other people.

"He who lives well is the best preacher, and gives something to the world that never perishes, but adds to the stability, the beauty, and the grandeur of the universe. Good men and women have always been the saviours of society, the salt of the earth, the common property of all.

"This, in essence, is the type of influence that the late Sir Stewart McArthur had. He added to the benefits of society, and by his life has left a memory that will not perish. Such lives as his are fountains over flowing with blessing to his fellow men."

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Citation details

'McArthur, Sir William Gilbert Stewart (1861–1935)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/mcarthur-sir-william-gilbert-stewart-7286/text26337, accessed 15 November 2018.

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