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Walker, Alice Octavia (1841–1936)

In the Herald of May 13 there appeared a notice of the death of Miss Alice Octavia Walker, at the age of 95 years. With the passing of this old lady, a chain that stretched back into the eighteenth century was snapped.

On two occasions I spent some hours with Miss Walker, and during the interviews she made frequent reference to her "pa"—and her father was born in 1791! This gentleman, Thomas Walker, entered, as a young man, the commissariat branch of the British Army, and was present at the Battle of Waterloo. After the war he accepted an appointment as a deputy-commissary-general in New South Wales, where he arrived in 1818. A few years after his arrival Mr. Walker married, at St. John's, Parramatta, Anna, the second daughter of John Blaxland, of Newington. He built a home for his bride on the Parramatta River, which he named Rhodes, after an ancestral home at Leeds in England, and from the house the station Rhodes derives its name. Later on Mr. Walker was transferred to Tasmania, and on the bank of the South Esk River he built another home, also called Rhodes, Fourteen children were born to this couple, and Miss Walker was the last surviving child.

Miss Walker's mother, before her marriage, was interested in natural history. She stuffed animals and bred silkworms. Some of the silk she produced was taken to China and woven into a scarf, which she wore on her wedding day, in 1823. Miss Walker's home, Rhodes, Homebush-road, Strathfield, was a veritable historical museum. On the walls were a number of oil paintings of the Blaxland family, including a fine picture of John Blaxland, and one of Miss Walker's mother. Over the fireplace was a drawing of her father, and in the hall were pictures of the two Rhodes. A beautiful old cedar sideboard occupied one side of the dining-room, and in this room was the folding table used by her father on the field of Waterloo.

In Miss Walker's company one was taken back to the early days of New South Wales, to the days of generous hospitality when a picnic might last for three days, and a wedding was an excuse for a week's festivities. Miss Walker only knew her grandfather, John Blaxland, when she was a small child, as he died four years after her birth, but from her mother she learnt that he was a perfect father, doing everything he could to make his family happy and comfortable. She could speak, however, from her own knowledge of the men and women, and events of the fifties and sixties of last century.

Miss Walker's youngest sister Adela married a son of Bishop Nixon, and another sister, Marion, became the wife of the late Rev. C. F. Garnsey, then rector of Christ Church, Sydney, and a widower with a family of ten children. Mrs. Garnsey died in 1927, in her 92nd year, a long life distinguished by good deeds. Another of the sisters, Annie Frances, has left an enduring record of her artistic ability In a collection of paintings of Australian flora, now in the Mitchell Library, Sydney. Another well-known Australian family became connected with the family when Harriett Walker was married to the Honourable James Norton.

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Citation details

'Walker, Alice Octavia (1841–1936)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/walker-alice-octavia-15434/text26649, accessed 15 September 2019.

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