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William Oswald Gilchrist (1843–1920)

The death of Mr. William Oswald Gilchrist in London, as announced in yesterday's Herald, removes another of the early captains of Australian industry.

As a partner in the firm of Gilchrist, Watt, and Co., he was from 1864 intimately associated with the progress of the country, and did much towards its development.

The firm of Gilchrist, Watt, and Co. was founded in 1828, in Sydney, by the late John Gilchrist to do general, pastoral, mercantile, and shipping business, under the style of "J. Gilchrist." Shortly afterwards the founder was joined by the late Mr. John Alexander, and the business became known as "Gilchrist and Alexander." In 1852 Mr. J. B. Watt, a nephew of Mr. Gilchrist, joined the company, and in the following year Mr. Alexander retired, when the firm assumed its present name of Gilchrist, Watt, and Co.

Since then many changes have taken place in the personnel of the company, but throughout it has remained in the Gilchrist and Watt families.

Mr. William Oswald Gilchrist was a son of the founder, and though born in Scotland came to New South Wales when he was 21. For 10 years he remained here an active partner in the business. Its ramifications extended throughout the country, the pastoral interests being very large. In the early days it was not the practice of the banks to give assistance to settlers. This department of finance came within the scope of the great business houses, which in turn were assisted by the banks. In this way a large proportion of the company's funds was invested in the land, thereby helping to establish the great primary, industries.

Gilchrist, Watt, and Co., established a shipping line between England and Australia, and helped in the establishment of another line, and acted as managing agents for many companies. This part of the company's business, however was transferred to a new company, owned by the company and John Sanderson and Co. which is now known as Gilchrist, Watt, and Sanderson, Ltd. This firm acts as agents for the P. and O. Branch Line, the Blue Funnel Line, and other shipping companies.

Mr. W. O. Gilchrist went to England in 1883. He returned in 1886, and remained in Australia for about a year, but although residing in England since he retained an active interest in the firm, and became senior partner upon the death of Mr. J. B. Watt in 1897.

Mr. Gilchrist was a director of the Union Bank; a director of the Liverpool and London and Globe Insurance Company, and a director of the North Coast S.N. Company; besides having financial interests in a number of other commercial firms. In the pastoral industry he was a director of many station properties, both in New South Wales and Queensland. He held large interests in Llandillo (sheep) Station, near Walgett, New South Wales, and Glenprairie (cattle) Station, near Broadstone, Queensland, and Strathmore (cattle) Station, on the Burdekin River, Queensland.

Mr. Gilchrist, though personally a man of retiring disposition, was well known throughout Australia and widely esteemed. He was a keen yachtsman, and with the yacht Mistral, built by the late Mr. Henry Dangar and sold by him to Mr. Gilchrist, he won many races.

In 1876 Mr. Gilchrist married Miss Clara Knox, daughter of the late Sir Edward Knox, and sister of the Chief Justice of the High Court, and of Mr. E. W. Knox, general manager or the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Mr. Gilchrist had one son and four daughters. The son was killed in an accident early in 1914, and two sons-in-law were killed in the war, Colonel Geddes, of the Buffs, and the Rev. Rupert Inglis, a son of Sir John Inglis, of Lucknow. The daughters are all married.

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Citation details

'Gilchrist, William Oswald (1843–1920)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 25 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


14 February, 1920 (aged ~ 77)
London, Middlesex, England

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