James Thomas Walker: banker, Federation father, Australian senator

Gibson-Wilde, Dorothy Mary (1992) James Thomas Walker: banker, Federation father, Australian senator. PhD thesis, James Cook University of North Queensland.

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View at Publisher Website: https://doi.org/10.25903/780w-z438


Australian history offers few biographies of Federation Fathers other than those of outstanding figures such as Edmund Barton or Alfred Deakin; biographies of conservative politicians in early Federal Parliament and of middle-class white-collar workers are also scarce. Nor is there a study of the history of William Walker & Company and Walker Brothers & Company, influential firms in the wool industry and mercantile affairs of early New South Wales.

Based on the diaries and papers of James Thomas Walker, which have been virtually ignored by scholars to date, this study contributes new knowledge on these topics. Walker was a prominent banker and financier—indeed the last outstanding member of a family prominent in Australian commercial history for a century—and a Federation Father, now virtually forgotten, who served as an Independent Freetrader in the first Federal Parliament. The thesis traces Walker's background and identifies the influences that shaped his career.

Born in Leith (Scotland) in 1841, he died in Sydney in 1923, a few weeks before his 82nd birthday. He came to Australia first at the age of four years in a sailing ship; he died only twelve years before British Imperial Eastern Airways instituted a regular service from Britain to Australia. In 1859 he joined the staff of the Bank of New South Wales in London; returning to Australia in 1862 he was appointed Accountant at the Rockhampton Branch. In 1866 he received instructions to leave immediately to open and manage the first branch of the Bank at Townsville, then barely eighteen months old. Subsequently he served in managerial positions with the Bank at Toowoomba and Brisbane, but resigned m December 1885 after twenty-five years service, to become General Manager of the newly-established Royal Bank of Queensland.

In 1886 his cousin Thomas Walker, one of Australia's wealthiest men at the time, died leaving a daughter lacking both the experience and the training to manage her father's extensive interests. In 1887, bowing to family pressure, Walker resigned his position and moved to Sydney to become Managing Trustee of the Thomas Walker estate. There he became a well-liked and respected figure in the world of finance and economics, a board member of a number of companies, notably the Australian Mutual Provident Society, Burns Philp & Company, and the Bank of New South Wales of which he served as President from 1899 to 1901. He was also a noted philanthropist with a keen interest in education and health; he served on the Councils of both St Andrews College and Women's College of the University of Sydney and of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and supervised the building and management of the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital at Concord.

Long a supporter of Federation of the Australian colonies, he was elected in 1897 one of the ten delegates from New South Wales to the Federation Convention; he was in fact the only member of the Convention who was not a politician. He was responsible for ensuring that the Upper House of Federal Parliament should be called 'The Senate' and for devising the plan that formed the basis for solution of the fiscal problems that had impeded agreement on Federation. Elected as a Senator in the first Commonwealth Parliament, Walker was particularly notable for his staunch opposition to racist legislation; he was the first man to state in Federal Parliament that the Aboriginal people had owned the land before the arrival of European settlers.

Item ID: 73708
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Walker, James Thomas, Biography, Bankers, Federal government, Bank of New South Wales, Townsville, Australian Politics
Copyright Information: Copyright © 1992 Dorothy Mary Gibson-Wilde.
Date Deposited: 05 May 2022 04:47
FoR Codes: 43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4303 Historical studies > 430302 Australian history @ 100%
SEO Codes: 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1307 Understanding past societies > 130703 Understanding Australia’s past @ 100%
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