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Pechey, Edward Wilmot (1841–1904)

The pioneers of the Darling Downs are passing one by one over the Great Divide. A few weeks ago Mr. Aland, whose name is inseparable from Toowoomba, joined the majority, and now Edward Wilmot Pechey, of Pechey, has gone. His death took place at Toowoomba. Mr. Pechey was born at Colchester (England) on 9th November, the birthday of our King) sixty-three years ago. His father was a Baptist minister, he was a surveyor, and for some time practised his profession in Queensland. But years ago he went into the saw-milling business, and, like Mr. Pettigrew, was one of the pioneers of that industry. In the belt of timber fringing the Range, from Highfields and Crow's Nest, are the former sites of a number of "Pechey's mills," marked by decaying logs, scraps of discarded machinery, and mouldering heaps of sawdust—shadowy relics of the past. At Pechey, on the Crow's Nest Railway, he erected a large mill, which has worked for years, and is still working.

Mr. Pechey occupied a seat in Parliament years ago. In the House he appeared to advantage on account of his scholarly attainments, his wide Australian experience, his knowledge of men and things, and his gifts as a debater. He was a capital public speaker. His friends always regretted his withdrawal from public life, and the present writer, a few weeks before his death, urged him to contest the Aubigny electorate at the next general election. Because of failing health Mr. Pechey declined, and no public requisition was prepared.

In religion Mr. Pechey was believed to be a Theosophist, but his attitude towards all religions was that of an inquirer rather than a believer. The true mission of Theosophy, he contended, was research. The quest for truth called the Theosophical Society into existence, and while it pursued its original object, and threw the searchlight upon the deep mysteries in life, it was in its proper sphere. But when it turned the Lamp of knowledge into a censer, commenced burning incense, and bowed down to worship, Mr. Pechey was no longer a Theosophist. His bent was so practical, and his reasoning powers so alert, that only diligent search and positive knowledge gave satisfaction. However, one can scarcely imagine him agreeing with Tennyson's—

"—we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see."

Mr. Pechey, in spite of the bent of his mind, believed heartily in the possibility of acquiring a knowledge of the unseen, conceiving "that things seen were not made of things which do appear." In regard to revealed truth he could see that—

"Our little systems have their day;
They have their day, and cease to be:
They are but broken lights"

Beneath all is the eternal purpose—the underlying truth upon which all systems rest.

The Mr. Pechey mentioned in Rolf Boldrewood's (T. A. Browne) "How I Wrote Robbery Under Arms" written for the January number of Fitchett's magazine, Life, is a cousin to the late E. W. Pechey. The doctor was staying at the Keightley's house, Dunn's Plains, near Bathurst. N.S.W. when the now famous fight with bushrangers took place. The late Mr. Pechey was wont to tell the story of the seige and of the doctor's and Mr. Keightley's armoured kitchen prepared to give the bushranger a warm reception, with great gusto. Keightley, it appears, boasted about his fortification; the bushranger got to hear of it. To them it was like grit in an oyster—it irritated. The oyster, 'tis said, covers the cause of annoyance with the remarkable substance that becomes a pearl. The freebooters, on the other hand, covered Keightley with their pistols when he was not in, and not able to reach his armoured kitchen. Thus his blockhouse, with loopholes, guns, and ammunition galore, failed at the critical moment. Burke, the bushranger, was in ambush behind a water butt at Keightley's door, to block Keightley as he made a dash for the blockhouse. Keightley, noticing that he was being "pinked" from that locality, looked behind the butt, with gun in readiness, and, spotting Burke, blew a hole through him. This circumstance seemed to unnerve Keightley, for, by some unfortunate move, he found himself forced to scramble up the roof of the house, and in this position surrender was, of course, inevitable. Mr. Keightley's life was spared on the promise of a ransom of £500. Mrs. Keightley's long ride to Bathurst to obtain the ransom has often been retold.

Mr. Pechey's family consists of five children. Two sons are in West Australia. With Mr. Aland and others he was a first trustee of the Toowoomba Grammar School. He was the last of the original trust.

Intimate friends always deplored the fact that the demands of business and the direction of his own affairs precluded Mr. Pechey devoting his time and talents to the public weal in the broad field of politics for which he had remarkable aptitude and ability. He would have been—

"A potent voice in Parliament,
A pillar steadfast in the storm."

As it was he found time to pursue the study of Sanskrit—the base of modern language. His library comprises many a volume of the theosophical lore. It is valuable for its Oriental literature and should be kept intact and—if the executors to the will are open to receive a suggestion—be set aside as a nucleus of a public library of Eastern literary treasure.

Original publication

Citation details

'Pechey, Edward Wilmot (1841–1904)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/pechey-edward-wilmot-14534/text25646, accessed 16 December 2019.

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