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William Lonsdale (1799–1864)

The same mail which brought intelligence of the exaltation of an ex-official of Victoria to a subordinate position in the English Government, informs us of the demise of another whose name must be ever (historically at least) associated with the early days of the colony. We refer to Captain William Lonsdale. Captain Lonsdale was the senior of our public servants, and was officially connected in one or other prominent capacity with the colony from 1838 until November, 1855, when he was relieved upon what are in constitutional parlance termed "political grounds." He was originally sent down here from Sydney by Sir Richard Burke, the Governor of New South Wales, to fill the office of Superintendent, and was accompanied by an extraordinary specimen of a henchman named Joseph William Hooson, better known by all old colonies by the very appropriate soubriquet, "Blatherem." Captain Lonsdale was soon superseded in his office by Mr. C. J. Latrobe, who acted as "Superintendent" until the era of separation in 1850, when he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor. Captain Lonsdale was, however, comfortably provided for as Sub. Treasurer, and the "Treasury " was then contained within the four walls of a four roomed brick cottage in the western part of Chancery lane, though in a short time transferred to a wattle and daub building upon the now fast-disappearing Batman's Hill. On the separation of Post Phillip from New South Wales, Captain Londale was at his own request appointed Colonial Secretary, his successor in the Treasury being the late Mr. Alistair McKenzie, who resigned the shrievalty for the more lucrative and more honourable post. Captain Lonsdale was in no way fitted for his new position, and the miserably feeble exhibitions he used to make in St. Patrick's Hall in the days of the old Legislative Council, will never be forgotten by those who witnessed them. His incapacity for conducting the business of the country even in a sort of semi-nominee Assembly, was such that the present Chief Justice–the Attorney-General Stawell–kept a sort of perpetual watch over "old Billy," and ultimately became the leader on the Government Benches. This state of things continued until the arrival of Mr. John F. L. Foster, with a commission in his pocket to succeed Captain Lonsdale, and the latter was again translated to the Treasury, where he remained for some time a painstaking, plodding, punctual man of figures, without a scintilla of genius or talent of any kind. After his retirement from office, he departed from the colony, with few, if any, to regret him, for he left no mark upon the public mind; and if remarkable for anything, it was for quietly securing a snug billet, and knowing well how to keep it. By his death, a pension of £900 a-year reverts to the public purse. We may add that Point Lonsdale, Lonsdale Ward, and Lonsdale street were called after him, and one of the most popular of the blackfellows to be seen scampering and begging about the town a few years ago was also well known as "Billy Lonsdale," also in compliment–though rather too highly coloured–of the departed captain. Herald, 16th inst.

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'Lonsdale, William (1799–1864)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 October, 1799


28 March, 1864 (aged 64)
London, Middlesex, England

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