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William Colburn Mayne (1808–1902)

As announced briefly in our issue yesterday Captain William Colburn Mayne passed away at his residence, Viewbank, Cheltenham-road, Burwood, on Sunday morning. Captain Mayne had attained the ripe old age of 95. He had lived in retirement for several years, and although he had filled many responsible positions in New South Wales was always one desirous of avoiding notoriety of any kind. Naturally retiring in disposition he shrank rather from the public gaze, although on occasions he would entertain his many old friends with reminiscences of the old regime. Born on July 22, 1808, he was the son of Captain John Mayne, of Lattin, county Monaghan, Ireland, by his first marriage. He received a good education at Feinaiglien School, Dublin, and, exhibiting considerable mental gifts, entered Trinity College, Dublin, where his early education was considerably advanced. Exhibiting a desire for military life young Mayne was gazetted ensign in the fifth Northumberland Regiment, subsequently called the Northumberland Fusiliers. He became a lieutenant (unattached) on half-pay, and afterwards exchanged into the Fusiliers in 1826 on full pay. Lieutenant Mayne, after a course in the senior department of the Sandhurst Royal Military College, obtained a first-class certificate and received a captaincy in his old regiment. In 1838 Captain Mayne's health necessitated his retirement from military service, and in November, 1838, he left the old country in the ship Hero of Malown, the voyage occupying nearly six months. Arrived in New South Wales, Captain Mayne engaged in agricultural and pastoral pursuits, and remained on the soil for several years, rapidly acquiring colonial experience, which his natural intelligence and vigour enabled him to turn to advantage, he spent some time at Llangollen (Cassilis), Melville Plains (Liverpool Plains), and St. Clair (Falbrook), in this State, and at Rosenthal on the Darling Downs, which was then part of the mother colony. He rented Tongabbie estate, near Parramatta, from Major Wentworth, and watched the growth of Sydney from this quiet place. Captain Mayne's first public appointment was as Crown Lands Commissioner for the district of Wellington in December, 1846. He held this position for about six years, and was then appointed Inspector-General of Police for the colony. Captain Mayne's next notable advancement was as a member of the Legislative Council, and when responsible government was instituted in 1856 he became the representative of the first Ministry in the Upper House. When the Donaldson Ministry vacated office the Hon. Captain Mayne resigned his seat in the Upper House, but his absence from public prominence was but short, for on September 18, 1856, he received the appointment of Auditor-General for the colony. He retained this position till November 10, 1864, when he was appointed the first Agent-General for New South Wales in London. Captain Mayne's fitness for the position, which he filled with credit, was tested during the early days, and he acquitted himself honourably and well. In 1867 Captain Mayne went to France as chief of the New South Wales Commission for the Paris Exhibition. His period of office as Agent-General having terminated at his own request in 1871, Captain Mayne returned to the colony. In later years he again paid a visit to England and the Continent, spending four years away from his adopted home. For the last 20 years his life had been spent in quiet walks. He had been a witness of the marvellously steady progress of the colony, and had taken no inconsiderable part in guiding and aiding that progress. The venerable gentleman went to live at Burwood, then a quiet country place, several years ago, and there his wife died, leaving a large family. Viewbank, where he died, was his Burwood residence. During his long and useful career Captain Mayne saw the arrival and departure of 13 Governors and the political rise and fall of many colonial notables. He was in the State or connected with it while 30 different Administrations were in power, but latterly he shrank from the turmoil and hurly-burly of politics. Almost to the end he retained his mental faculties. The teaching he had received at his early school and college days remained with him, and his wonderful memory was a constant theme for surprised and delighted comment among his numerous friends. He was proud of New South Wales and proud of the great men who had predeceased him, and who in their lives had helped to mould the future of the colony.

Captain Mayne leaves two surviving sons—John Thomas Goulburn Mayne and Horatio Ramsay Mayne—and several daughters and relatives. The funeral is to take place to-day at Enfield Church at 2.30 p.m.

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Citation details

'Mayne, William Colburn (1808–1902)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 July, 1808
Wicklow, Wicklow, Ireland


31 August, 1902 (aged 94)
Burwood, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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