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Smith, William (1844–1893)

by Neil Smith

William Smith was born in Old Cumnock, Ayrshire, Scotland on 5th February 1844 to James, a boot maker, and his wife Agnes. James, Agnes, William, James Jnr, and baby Alexander arrived in Sydney on 15th March 1855 on the Nepaul with 337 other government migrants and went to live in Pyrmont near Agnes’s brother, Robert Dunsmore. James and Agnes had another four children in Sydney. In the 1860s the building industry was booming with Pyrmont sandstone being widely used in the more important buildings. James senior became a quarryman and William a stonemason.

On 12th October 1866 William married 19-year-old Scottish immigrant, Janet Fyfe, at the Smith family home in Bowman St, Pyrmont.

William was a sub contractor on the Callan Park asylum and while there he formed a friendship with J. C. Low of contractors Low and Kerr. When Callan Park was completed in 1883 a partnership of Low and Smith was formed to build the new Bathurst Gaol. The stone façade of the entrance gates of this structure is an example of William’s work. One of the Colonial Architect’s supervisors for this project was James Milne Pringle, and on completion of Bathurst Gaol in 1888 the building firm of Smith and Pringle was established and operated from a yard at Waverley. One of the first projects of Smith and Pringle was the foundation for the memorial statue of Rev. Dr. John Dunmore Lang in Wynyard Park. The entrance gates to Centennial Park, repairs to Sydney University, and the new Australian Club, at the intersection of Macquarie and Bent streets, followed. William was a member of the Builders and Contractors Association of N.S.W.

William had a strong tenor voice and for many years was precentor of St. Stephen's Church, Sydney, and also took an active part in the Liedertafel, where his voice was of great service. During his stay in Bathurst, he took an active part in the Highland Society as a singer at their concerts. He was a kindly, genial, manly man.

William died at his home, “Logan Brae”, Woollahra, on the 30th August 1893 from Haemoptysis, and Bright’s disease and was buried in the Presbyterian section of Waverley Cemetery. He was survived by his wife Janet, six daughters and six sons.

Original publication

  • unpublished, April 2012

Additional Resources

  • funeral, Sydney Morning Herald, 4 September 1893, p 7, column 1

Citation details

Neil Smith, 'Smith, William (1844–1893)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 28 September 2020.

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