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William Cain (1831–1914)

from Argus

William Cain, n.d.

William Cain, n.d.

from Pastoral Review, 16 November 1914

The news of the death of William Cain, at his residence, Anderson street, South Yarra, which occurred last evening, will be received with considerable regret. Although of late the state of Mr. Cain's health was such as to forbid his taking any active part in public life, he was for many years a leading man of affairs.

Born in the Isle of Man in 1831, William Cain's choice of an occupation was influenced by that of his father, a harbour contractor, and he was educated at Liverpool with the object of following in his parent's footsteps. He came to Australia almost as soon as he had attained his majority, and in the year after his arrival he began business as a contractor. Among the Melbourne buildings in the erection of which he was interested, the chief of many was the Town Hall. It is worthy of note that Mr. Cain, who, with Mr. J. Lawrence, was the contractor for the erection of this building, was the mayor of the city when, on November 8, 1887, the foundation of the portico, which was not part of the original plan, was laid. He successfully carried out the contract for the construction of the Benalla to Yarrawonga railway, and in the late seventies and early eighties he completed similar contracts in New South Wales, among them that for the Orange and Molong line.

Mr. Cain's municipal career began in 1881, when he was elected to the City Council. The town clerk at that time was the late Mr. E. G. FitzGibbon, and fellow-member of the council recall with interest the keenness of the controversies which were waged between the two men. A subject which was a fruitful source of debate was the question of the depth of the storm-water channel which was to drain Elizabeth Street. With that foresightedness which distinguished him, Mr. Cain pointed out that money would eventually be saved by having a channel so far from the surface that, when Melbourne should be sewered, it would be of sufficient depth to prevent the water swamping the tradesmen's cellars. The value of this and other arguments was perceived in after years. A matter in which Mr. Cain was also interested was the adequate provision of parks and gardens for the metropolis, and in this he could always rely for support on Mr. FitzGibbon, whose work in this direction is his lasting monument. In 1886 Mr. Cain was elected Mayor of Melbourne, succeeding Mr. J. C. Stewart. He retained the position for a year.

As far as Melbourne was concerned, Mr Cain relinquished his contractor's business before being elected to the Legislative Council, of which he became one of the members for Melbourne in 1903, and remained a member till 1910. After he had ceased to undertake contracts, he devoted himself to the interests of the companies with which he was identified. Among these were the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Limited, of which he was a director; more than one Newcastle coal company; the National Trustees, Executors, and Agency Company Limited, the Squatting Investment Company Limited, and others. He was also with the late Sir Malcolm McEacharn and the late Mr. J. B. Watson, jun., a trustee under the will of the late Mr. J. B. Watson, the Bendigo mine-owner and investor. For a considerable period Mr. Cain was identified with Goldsbrough, Mort, and Company Limited. He was also largely interested in station property and pastoral areas in this State and in Queensland. The deceased gentleman was foremost in church work, and was a lay canon of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Mr. Cain is survived by his widow, formally Miss Jane Cobbold, eldest daughter of Mr. Arthur Cobbold, and sister of Mr. R. Cobbold, of Queensland; and three sons.

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Citation details

'Cain, William (1831–1914)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

William Cain, n.d.

William Cain, n.d.

from Pastoral Review, 16 November 1914

Life Summary [details]


21 April, 1831
Rushen Abbey, Isle of Man, England


29 October, 1914 (aged 83)
South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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