Philanthropists and Philanthropy

Home » Philanthropy » Thomas Walker (1804-1886) Businessman, Banker and Philanthropist

Thomas Walker (1804-1886) Businessman, Banker and Philanthropist

Thomas Walker was, during his lifetime and at his death, widely praised as a great philanthropist. He was variously described as ‘the Peabody’[1] of NSW and as a ‘Man of Ross’.[2] Such designations comparing him to other famous philanthropists were underlined by his very large bequest given to build a convalescent hospital which came to bear his name. At his death, quoting Horace Mann, one tribute to Thomas recorded that

‘the soul of the truly benevolent man does not seem to reside much in his own body. It migrates into the life of others, and finds its own happiness in increasing and prolonging their pleasures, in extinguishing or solacing their pains’. Such a soul had Thomas Walker.[3]

Thomas Walker

Thomas Walker

How philanthropic was the soul of Thomas Walker and how much did he migrate into the lives of others? While some attention has been given to his life, there has been little work done on that for which he is principally remembered and for which he attracted glowing praise: his philanthropy. Thomas was born on May 3, 1804, the elder son of James Thomas Walker, merchant, and his wife Anne, née Walker, of Perth, Scotland.[4]  His birthplace is usually said to be at Leith, Scotland, and he was certainly baptised in the church at South Leith on July 29, 1804, nearly three months after his birth.[5]  According to his marriage certificate, which is unlikely to be incorrect as Thomas himself probably supplied the information, he was actually born in England.[6] It would appear that at the time of his birth Thomas’ parents were resident there and later returned to Leith where Thomas was baptised.


Thomas came to Sydney in April 1822 on the Active when he was 18 years of age[7] and brought some family capital with him as, on his arrival, he deposited £2000 in the Bank of New South Wales.[8] He joined his uncle William’s business, Riley and Walker,[9] and by 1829 was a partner with his uncle and Joseph Moore in the firm of William Walker and Co.[10] Later, his younger brother Archibald,[11] who had arrived in the colony in 1832,[12] joined the partnership[13] and both Thomas and Archibald remained as partners in the firm until 1843.[14] Archibald returned to England, but Thomas remained in the colony and upon retiring from the company kept some of his capital invested with it. William Walker and Co had wide business interests as merchants, ship owners and pastoralists, and was a largely successful and profitable business which negotiated the uncertainties of colonial economic life and conditions. The depression of the 1840s was a particularly difficult time for the company and by 1849 Thomas had become insolvent.[15]  That he, by the time of his death, had the wealth he had was a remarkable achievement and business recovery which was assisted by the diversity of his financial interests.[16]

Port Phillip

In early 1837 Thomas, along with three others, set out from Sydney on horseback for Port Phillip.[17] Then aged 33, he was clearly impressed by the journey:

We do indeed lead a rough and queer life of it … Always in the open air. None of us has shaved these several days past, and in our straw hats, check shirts, and bush dresses we must look pretty figures. I have not slept with my clothes off since I left Yass. The glorious freedom we have in the bush has its charm, and there is a wildness that pleases.[18]

Walker not only benefitted from the experience, but also saw Port Phillip as an investment opportunity and over the next few years acquired extensive land holdings. He acquired some six acres in Melbourne and also blocks in Geelong, 480 acres at Yan Yean and altogether he held 12,700 acres of freehold land in the Port Phillip area and he purchased all this for a total outlay of less than £10,000. In the name of his Sydney company, William Walker and Co, he held squatting runs at Port Punka, Thologong, Junction, Murray, Hayfield, Omeo B, Tom Groggin and Banyena. Over time, the prudent sales of these various holdings contributed significantly to his capacity to engage in further investments which led, in turn, to the creation of his substantial wealth.[19]


Around this time, the need for communication between ports and with England led to a proliferation of attempts to form steam navigation companies, sometimes with a bewildering similarity in their names. This has confused researchers and led to some misunderstandings. Skehan says that by April 1833 Thomas had formed the ‘Australian Steam Navigation Company’.[20] While newspaper reports of the time used the designation ‘Australian Steam Navigation Company’ of the company formed at this date,[21] its actual name was the Australian Steam Conveyance Company and Thomas was not mentioned in contemporary reports as a founder nor as an original board member.[22]  Thomas does, however, chair a meeting for the founding of the British and Australian Steam Navigation Company[23] on February 15, 1839, and in February 1840 a different company was formed which became known as the Australian Steam Navigation Company.[24] Through William Walker and Co it is this latter company in which Thomas was a shareholder, as well as being the initial treasurer.[25] Its life was short lived, however, and it was dissolved in August 1841.[26]

In August 1839, the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company was formed[27] and in July 1851, due to the need to expand its operations and increase its capital, this company was dissolved and the Australasian Steam Navigation Company (ASN Company) was formed.[28] These alterations meant that the Company could expand its activities within Australasia, while still servicing the route from Sydney to the Hunter River[29] and one of its iron steamships, launched in 1875, was even called after Thomas’ residence, Yaralla.[30] This is the company of which Thomas became a director in 1855 and he remained involved in its governance until 1879.[31]


Bank of NSW Singleton , 1884 (Photo Credit R.F. Holder)

Bank of NSW Singleton , 1884 (Photo Credit R.F. Holder)

Thomas was also involved in colonial banking. Skehan writes that in 1826 Thomas was a director and major shareholder of the Bank of Australia,[32] but this is almost certainly incorrect in terms of Thomas being a director at the age of 22 years.[33] He was elected as a director in 1831,[34] however, and reappointed when a new deed of co-partnership came into effect on July 1, 1833,[35] and he was deputy chairman at least by October 1843,[36] the year the bank failed. Skehan also says that Thomas was a director of the Bank of New South Wales during the 1843 economic crisis,[37] but Thomas did not become a director of the Bank of New South Wales until 1859.[38] In 1843, serious questions were raised as to the management of the indebtedness of the bank by the directors. A committee was appointed to investigate and report to a shareholder’s meeting and it is onto this committee that Thomas was appointed.[39] The result of this committee’s report is unknown but at least by 1848 Thomas, along with four others, was appointed an auditor of the Bank.[40] After serving nearly ten years as a director of the Bank of New South Wales Thomas became chairman in 1869, a position he retained until his death in 1886.[41]

Thomas’ banking insights were particularly valued by Shepherd Smith, the General Manager of the Bank of New South Wales. Walker and Thomas Buckland were the source of much of the strength and stability of the Bank’s board and together with Smith were a ‘firm trio of leadership’. Smith said of Walker that he was ‘one of the most active and painstaking Presidents we have had’ and that he never undertook any great thing for the Bank without first discussing the matter with Walker and Buckland.[42] Smith

had a high regard for his integrity and his ability, as well as a great respect, and even affection, for his obstinacy on certain topics, one of which was Walker’s refusal to countenance any increase in the capital of the Bank. Smith relied on him in many difficult passages, particularly his handling of negotiations over the government account when Walker could provide a weight of influence to counter the political trafficking of colonial treasurers.[43]

Social and Political Views

Thomas expressed concern for the Aborigines and also had strong views on immigration, land laws and the abolition of state aid to churches.[44] He acted upon these views by writing to the newspapers and became involved in a few cases by organizing attempts to further such views.


Walker’s time in the bush in 1837 permitted him to view aboriginal life and caused him to make observations about the impact that ‘civilised’ life had had on their communities. In May 1837, he expressed some fine sentiments when he wrote:

The Australian aborigine, in his unsophisticated state, and before they receive the fatal taint, which seems unhappily to be the doom of all the children of nature, on whom the blight of European intercourse falls, may be called the polished … savage ….To the philanthropic mind, the doom of this and all other uncivilized people is a stain … Let us therefore redouble our individual exertions of benevolence, feeble and inadequate as they must be to ameliorate the sad condition to which we have reduced them … we ought to ask ourselves … do we do all in our power to mitigate the inflictions, injuries, and sufferings, that a dire necessity has imposed upon this humble race – for the asylum with the utmost profusion of worldly comforts we have found, by thus trespassing and encroaching upon the soil of their inheritance and birth-right![45]

Given such lofty expressions of concern and exhortation to himself and others it is perhaps surprising that Walker, who benefitted greatly from the appropriation of Aboriginal lands, seems to have given little, if anything, of significance to any organisation that worked with the Aborigines.[46] Perhaps his donations and actions have been undetected or perhaps youthful high-mindedness, as expressed in the above quotation, was a passing phase. It should be pointed out that Thomas’ executor, JT Walker, made a payment of £500 from the estate to the Aborigines’ Protection Association towards a new mission at Brewarrina in 1887. As JT Walker had considerable discretion in such allocations, and Thomas made no specific allocation of his funds for Aboriginal work in his will, it is unknown if this donation reflects the executor’s interest or that of his deceased cousin.[47]

State Aid to Religion

In the mid to late 1850s, Walker was a vocal and involved supporter of moves to abolish State support for religion in NSW.[48]  He said it was ‘well known that he felt a deep interest in the question, and that he had always been opposed to the so-called aid to religion.’[49] In one sense then it was unsurprising that he was a leader in the setting up of ‘the Society for the Abolition of State aid to Religion’[50] and was subsequently elected a vice president of the Society. Yet Walker did not often personally inject himself into organizational activity on social issues to agitate for change. That he did so on this occasion would seem to indicate he felt strongly about the issue. The Society seems to only have existed for a brief time, but the need for it proved short-lived as the abolition of State aid to Religion took place in 1862. Walker’s speeches at the time were strong and colourful, using expressions such as ‘a delusion, a snare’, ‘tyranny and folly’;[51] he thus seems to have been rather passionate on the issue:

The system seemed to him to be a monstrous absurdity that they should be called upon to support and contribute to what they might think were the errors of others; each was called upon, in turn, to support the errors of another. He could not imagine such a system productive of much satisfaction. It did not in any way appear to him that religious establishments would suffer by the change in the system. He was quite sure that religious establishments would not in any degree suffer by being left to the support of those who believed them worthy of support.[52]

The rationale for his opposition seems not to have been any anti-religious or secular world view so much as his belief, which was held by many clergy as well, about the inappropriateness of the state, in a multi-religious society, forcing its members to financially support religious expressions with which they did not agree. It was, he thought, as unhelpful for the state as it was for the churches themselves which would benefit from not being dependant on state support. For Walker ‘it was altogether a misnomer to call this an aid to religion, since the connection with the State was most pernicious to true religion’.[53]

Immigration and Land

Thomas held strong views on immigration and as early 1835,[54] and again in 1838, he presented testimony to a committee of the legislature of the Colony on emigration and transportation. In his view, increased migration to the colony was essential to its continuing prosperity for without it ‘nothing can save us from premature ruin and decay’ as they could no longer depend on the largesse of the mother county. He believed the NSW government needed to encourage migration through borrowing funds and the issuing of bonds in England against the value of land sales,[55] and he expressed concerns about the lack of female immigration. It appears Thomas had also prepared a long written statement that he insisted should be put on record and printed by the Committee. The Committee declined to do so because there were in it ‘several expressions which were very unbecoming respecting the acts of His Excellency the Governor and the government, with respect to the emigrants who came out under the bounty system’.[56] Walker was clearly incensed by this and petitioned the Executive Council on the matter.

The reaction to Walker was a highly negative one. In less than respectful language he petitioned the Council to complain which led to the observation by Bishop Broughton[57] that Mr Walker lacked the necessary respect that ought to be accorded to the Council and that he ‘might be a man of business, but it was impossible to be in his company many hours without discovering that he had much to learn’.[58] Walker’s complaint was rejected by a unanimous vote of the Council. He clearly had a high opinion of his own views and he was not very diplomatic in their expression; neither did he take too kindly to what he considered to be actions designed to stifle their expression. These views and his testimony were widely reported in the newspapers of the time and were influential in forming public opinion.[59]

Just prior to leaving on a trip to England in 1840, he expressed his determination ‘to do all in his power when in Britain, to advance the commerce of the Colony, and to promote Emigration thence to these Colonies’[60] Thomas was true to his word and took the opportunity to express his views in London to Lord Stanley, Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, on a ‘Loan Scheme’ to promote immigration in an attempt to influence British policy on the colony of NSW.[61]

Walker’s strong views on land and its administration and disposal never abated. As chairman of the Bank of New South Wales, after the bank had agreed to take £250,000 from the Government at 4% in 1876, he pointed out to shareholders

that the large government balances represented not increased wealth but merely a transfer of land and the creation of debt, and that this process would create trouble unless migration were encouraged to make the high-priced land productive.[62]

His views later found robust expression in regard to Robertson’s Land Acts. Joy captures these succinctly:

Walker strongly criticized Robertson’s Land Acts of 1861. When they came up for review in 1878 and 1884 Walker wrote several pamphlets condemning the policy of free selection before survey. He claimed that the Acts did irreparable injury to the pastoral industry and the State, created an army of debtors, and disposed of the people’s land at less than its true value. Though old he wrote trenchantly, using such terms as fraud, corruption, blackmail, evasion, deceit, perjury and waste, and not hesitating to impute dishonesty to some politicians and Lands Department agents. In place of free selection Walker advocated creation of special agricultural reserves where genuine farmers could obtain land without taking the best from the runs and causing antagonism between squatters and selectors.[63]

Parliamentary Representation

In December 1842 Thomas, and his sister Joanna Walker, arrived on the Sarah in Port Phillip back from a trip to Britain. They remained in Melbourne for some weeks and Thomas announced his intention to stand as a candidate for election for the seat of ‘Port Phillip’ and he spent some time canvassing for election. During this time he ‘abstained from making any profession of political faith’[64] and promised only to devote his best energies to their service.[65] By March 9, Joanna and Thomas had returned to Sydney and in June 1843 he was elected one of Port Phillip’s representatives in the first part-elective New South Wales Legislative Council.[66] In 1845, he signed a petition for Port Phillip to be made a separate colony, but by July 14 of that year he had decided there were better uses for his time and he resigned the seat to devote more time to his growing financial interests.[67] Public service through politics did not really interest him for business was his primary interest.

Thomas’ contribution in the public arena was to be much broader than his short parliamentary career. His views were also heard through letters to the editor, testimony at Parliamentary committees, speeches at the Bank of New South Wales, as well as at general and commercial organisations such as the Chamber of Commerce. His contributions to political debate on the various issues that interested him ‘were selective and always discreet, and like his contemporaries, designed to further his family’s business interests.’[68]

 Colonial Education

Thomas made a small contribution to the development of education within the colony and, unusually for him, this support was not so much financial as personal for it required some of his time in governance. This was unusual because apart from business organisations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, he did not involve himself in organisational governance roles. In order to set up the Australian College a meeting of stakeholders was held on the December 23, 1831, for ‘the education of youth in the higher as well as the elementary branches of Useful Knowledge’ and Thomas Walker was among those appointed to the council.[69] The College had a Scottish and Presbyterian flavour to it for the Rev John Dunmore Lang was its leading light, the appointed masters were ministers or licentiates of the Church of Scotland, and its Council numbering  among it prominent Scots. As with many things involving Lang and his financial management it was to have a controversial life.[70]

Initially, it seems to have proceeded well and at the 1834 annual meeting Thomas moved that ‘the present state and prospects of the Institution, is considered highly satisfactory by the Meeting, and warrants the hope of its future prosperity and efficiency.’[71] In 1836, Thomas chaired the annual prize giving. Prizes were determined by a progressive approach to assessment which used the number of tickets for effort a student had accumulated from their masters throughout the year as the way to determine prizes rather than the results of the final exam. Thomas ‘expressed himself highly gratified with the prosperous state of the institution and congratulated the professors on the rapid progress which the pupils were making under their tuition.[72] This positive attitude did not continue for long. By September 1841, Thomas was among a number of subscribers who called upon Dr Lang to convene a meeting to consider the present state and future prospects of the Institution.[73] His connection with the College ceased with its closure at the end of 1841 although the College reopened five years later and continued until 1854.[74] Burkhardt observes that during the College’s years of operation (over half of which Thomas was on its council):

The Australian College made a significant contribution to elementary and secondary education in the colony.  At that time, New South Wales was changing from a penal colony to one which was based increasingly on the immigration of free settlers, the development of commerce and rural expansion. The college was an early indication of the great significance that Scottish traditions in education and schooling would have in Australia.[75]

 Marriage and family

Jane Steel Walker

Jane Steel Walker

Thomas was not a young man when he married. Skehan writes that he met and proposed to Jane Steel Hart (1832-1870) the daughter of Thomas Hart of StAndrews, Fife and Agnes née Swinton, while on a trip back to Scotland.[76] It is also said that he brought his fiancée back to Sydney, with his youngest sister, Joanna, acting as chaperone.[77] Such statements about Jane, apart from her name, age and family connections, are unsupported by primary documentation and while the story of a Scottish proposal might be true, it is more probable that Jane was resident in NSW when Thomas met her and proposed marriage. On her death certificate it says she had been in the colony of NSW for about 16 years prior to her death which make her arrival around 1854, some six years before her marriage to Thomas on July 25, 1860, when he was 56 and she was 28 years old.[78]

After Thomas and Jane’s marriage they did not live at Durham Cottage where he had been living with his sister Joanna, but in a house on Thomas’ Concord property which Jack argues most persuasively was Yaralla and not Woodbine as proposed by Skehan.[79] Jack says that in 1857 Edmund Blacket was commissioned to design a house at Concord. Tenders for its construction were sought from bricklayers and carpenters in September of that year and the house ‘Yaralla’ was completed and occupied by 1858.[80] His designation as ‘Thomas Walker of Yaralla’ began in 1860 on his wedding documentation and announcement, and must have originated with Thomas himself. He had owned the property on which the Yaralla was built since 1848,[81] and the house was finished being built sometime shortly before his marriage.

A daughter, Eadith, was born to Jane and Thomas in September 1861 at neither Yaralla nor Durham Cottage, but at Campbell’s Bay.[82]  Jane’s arrival and marriage to Thomas had not received universal approval. Joanna did not like her and made no secret of the fact, as Thomas’ younger namesake revealed in his diary in a visit to Aunt Joanna less than two weeks after the wedding:

Cousin Joanna misses Cousin Tom very much a fact that is very evident and it makes her feel dull, also Cousin Joanna has a dislike to (sic) Cousin Tom’s wife, she said that herself.[83]

The cause of the dislike is unclear. It may have been the marital age difference but perhaps, and more likely, with the marriage Joanna had lost her place and purpose as Thomas’ housekeeper and confidant, a relationship that they had shared at Durham Cottage[84] since at least 1845.[85] So frosty were relations between the two women that Jane would not even come to visit at Durham Cottage[86] and by the end of 1860 Joanna had temporarily returned to Scotland.[87] This meant that Joanna was not present in the colony when Eadith was born and it seems Eadith was born not at a Walker residence, but possibly at the residence of Robert Campbell at Campbell’s Bay.[88] Eadith’s middle name was ‘Campbell’ which would seem to testify to the close relationship Thomas had with the Campbell family.[89]

Robert Campbell

Robert Campbell

Almost nothing is known of Jane’s life prior to her marriage. She was able to play the piano[90] and it is possible she was a music governess at Miss Law’s Establishment for the Boarding and Education of Young Ladies in Muir Street, Hamilton, Scotland, in 1851 prior to her coming to NSW.[91] In February 1862 Thomas, Jane, Eadith and a servant set sail for England on the Duncan Dunbar[92] and they travelled through Britain and the Continent returning to Australia two years later in February 1864 aboard the Orwell.[93] In order to take this extended break from business Thomas resigned numerous directorships which he resumed on his return.

Little is known of Thomas, Jane and Eadith’s family life. In January 1870, Jane took Eadith (then aged 8) and her friend Annie Masefield (aged 5) [94] via the City of Hobart steamer for a month’s holiday to Tasmania.[95] Annie, who was later to join the Walker family as an adopted daughter, was the daughter of George Robert Masefield, a school teacher, and his wife Annie nee Summerbell. The family appears to have been known to the Walker family and Annie was to become a significant figure in the Walker’s lives.[96] On Boxing Day of that same year 38 year old Jane died from ‘diarrhoea after congestion of the lungs’ which was of six months duration,[97] and was buried at St John’s Anglican Church, Ashfield.

On the death of her mother Edith was nine years old[98] and was to be raised in the company of her Aunt Joanna’s adopted daughter,[99] Annie Masefield. Joanna was assisted in this responsibility by Margaret Moon,[100] a former Walker family governess and a friend of Joanna.[101] Contrary to Skehan’s view that Joanna was overseas and returned to care for Eadith, Joanna had no need to return to NSW in response to Thomas’ request for help as she had continued to live at Durham Cottage in Lower Fort Street after her return from Scotland in 1862.[102] In June 1874, a few years after Jane’s death, Joanna discontinued any occupation of Durham Cottage and moved permanently to Yaralla.[103] Life at Yaralla was busy with numerous visitors and visits to Sydney by steamer often returning by rail, various board meetings for the Bank of NSW and the ASN Co for Thomas to attend, and trips to Cooerwull and to Killoola, Thomas’ property at Bathurst.[104]

In the years after 1877, Thomas was increasingly concerned with his health and consulted various doctors.[105] In his diary he noted the weather, the comings and goings of those at Yaralla as well as these health concerns. In his most personal and revealing entry in 1878 he acknowledges his debt to his sister, Joanna:

I am now writing this memo of my illness from which I now appear to be in a way to recover. Dr Deck[106] with the assistance and advice of Dr Bucahon[?] has I have no doubt treated my case properly but I feel that I owe much very much to the indefatigable and most assiduous and careful nursing I have had on the part of Joe it is impossible for anyone to have done more for me in that way that she has done and to her care I am indebted for my recovery. At one time I thought I was about to be called and I have no doubt my nervous system has had a shock which will render me more vulnerable to similar attacks. What I have suffered from is I understand rheumatism of the heart and stomach and other vital organs and if I would hope to prolong my life a while longer I have to guard as much as I can against a reoccurrence of such an attack[107]

After this he did exercise watchfulness over his health and life and lived another eight years.


On the occasion of Walker’s departure for England in 1840 a dinner was given in his honour by the mercantile community. In a speech by the chairman of the evening, Richard Jones, the worth of Walker was summarised as one who interested himself in the true welfare of the Colony

particularly in extending its trade, organising useful institutions, promoting immigration, and last but not least in getting arrangements made for establishing extensive steam-communication between this Colony and the rest of the world. This conduct in a private inhabitant he considered was taking the best means to obtain political power for as soon as these things were accomplished, there would be no more occasions for Missions to Downing Street hitherto found to produce little or no effect.[108]

There is no mention in this speech of Walker’s role as a philanthropist in promoting the ‘true welfare of the Colony’. This is not because the mercantile community would see philanthropy narrowly only as remedial and not community building, as much of Walker’s philanthropy was later to be,[109] but rather because Walker had yet to be, at this stage in his life, a philanthropist to any significant degree. Thomas had devoted himself to ‘higher speculative pursuits’[110] and in doing so continued to amass a substantial fortune. Despite the fact that he was regarded by some as tight-fisted, he was also said to be conscientious and benevolent.[111] At his death, he left £100,000 to build and endow a Convalescent Hospital at Concord, and he also bequeathed an additional sum of £20,000 for charity. He was not without his critics, however, and in an article written at the time of his death it is suggested that, like most men who have accumulated a large fortune, he never allowed himself to be influenced by brotherly kindness when transacting business, and sometimes showed he possessed a grasping nature.[112]

To illustrate this point the article recounted an event whereby Walker displayed such a nature:

… he had a debtor a few years ago who owed him about £40,000. As security for the debt he held a mortgage over a property which was worth considerably more than the sum he had advanced. Mr. Walker coveted this property, and he hoped to obtain it by the easy process of a foreclosure. When, therefore, the time had come for action, he sent a notice to his debtor demanding payment of the amount he owed, and intimating that if the money were not forthcoming on a certain day, he would foreclose the mortgage. The demand surprised the debtor, but as he did not desire to let the property pass out of his hands, he set to work to raise the money. He was successful in his endeavour, and a day or two before the expiration of the time fixed upon, he sent or – offered his creditor a cheque for the entire sum. Mr. Walker was deeply mortified and he showed his mortification and something also as well, by refusing the cheque on the ground that it was not a legal tender and insisting upon being paid in currency. He supposed that his debtor might not be able to get together 40,000 sovereigns within the specified time. But he was mistaken; and on the morning of the last day allowed for the payment of the money a procession of about ten clerks was seen walking into the City Bank carrying between them the gold that was required to satisfy the claim.[113]

While acknowledging his many acts of charity, the article concluded that despite his philanthropic activities ‘no one cared to do business with him.’[114] The truth of this story about Walker did not go unchallenged but even Walker’s defender said of him that

He was eccentric, no doubt, and when offended by a person to whom he had lent money was wont to be disagreeable. But truthful stories might be easily told of most generous treatment by him of needy men in whose integrity he had full confidence.[115]

Pointedly the author of the article, whose truth was being disputed, had not just singled out Walker for comment, but also mentioned for comparison another colonial philanthropist who was interested in medical philanthropy. This philanthropist was John Hay Goodlet, a contemporary of Walker, and the article commented on Goodlet’s work in providing the Consumptive Home at Thirlmere. Unlike the comments about Walker no critical remarks were made about Goodlet’s business ethics, and the article was unstinting in its praise of him, noting that ‘Mr Goodlet has never displayed any ostentation in connection with this charity; on the contrary, he has conducted it so quietly that the bulk of citizens do not even know of its existence.’[116] By the juxtaposition of these comments, one suspects that the newspaper was making a social judgement on the relative degrees of integration of Goodlet and Walker’s philanthropic and business attitudes.

With regard to philanthropists, it is difficult to compare the amounts given and the manner in which they were allocated as one cannot be sure that all donations have been uncovered. Indeed, it is doubtful if the full extent of Walker’s benevolence is known. Sufficient information has been uncovered, however, to give an indication of the outlines and trend of his generosity and approaches for he gave away considerable sums of money, some $19.88 million (2011 value).

Walker, however, only began to give in any significant way in the last two decades of his life with a gift of £1,000 to the Sydney Infirmary in 1868, and the promise of a further £1,000 for the construction of the Prince Alfred Hospital. By the time of his death some 18 years later in 1886, the cumulative value of his donations was $4.38 million (2011 value), and it is only the gifts under the terms of his will that raise his cumulative giving to $19.88 million (2011 value). Walker’s estate was valued at of $153.02 million (2011 value). From these figures it would seem that though Walker gave during his lifetime, he gave mostly through his estate for his estate giving constituted some 80% of his total giving.

Walker gave spasmodically and mostly over the last 20 years of his life. When he did give, he frequently gave a substantial sum of money, often donations of some hundreds of pounds, and in some cases even gifts of £1,000 at a time. Whether it was the donor’s intent or not, such large donations caught people’s attention, were commented upon and widely reported. Walker often stipulated that his donations be held in trust, and that the interest from the donations be applied in his name as his annual donation to the particular organisation. His approach was an efficient, time-effective, and business-like approach to philanthropy, but it meant a reduction in the interaction he had with the body receiving his philanthropy.

Walker rarely, if ever, involved himself in the administration of a charity,[117] and his giving was often at ‘arm’s length’. It was reported that, for a time, he employed an agent to privately seek out and relieve people in distress,[118] and this ‘arm’s length’ approach to his philanthropy is seen in the distribution of some £10,000 when he left the colony for England in 1882. Being too busy, he left it to two trusted friends to distribute the funds after his departure; he did not even stipulate the causes to which the funds were to be applied, and his friends were to distribute the money as they saw fit. From his estate, while £100,000 was left specifically for a convalescent hospital, the additional sum of £20,000 was a bequest for undesignated charity. Walker did not stipulate where it was to go, but simply left its allocation to the discretion of the executors. Nor did he give much direction concerning the convalescent hospital; he had said that

for a considerable time past I have had it in mind to establish on part of my land here (Yaralla) a hospital … But the pressure of other claims on my time has prevented me from carrying this into effect’.[119]

Though he did say that it should be built across the bay from the Yaralla house and that the building should be ‘correct sightly & pleasing to the eye but certainly not expensively ornamental.’[120] In giving for his great convalescent hospital project, which provided a much needed facility, Walker displayed a detached benevolence, leaving it until his death to make funds available and thereby also leaving the organisation of the hospital’s planning, construction and maintenance to the trustees of his will.

This approach to philanthropy, with Walker giving his money but neither his time nor sometimes even selecting which charities to support, could be interpreted as the actions of a man who wanted to do something for society, but who was aware of his strengths and limitations. It could also be viewed as the actions of a person who perceived it as a duty to fulfil without much personal commitment to the objects of his philanthropy.

Yet it is obvious from Walker’s philanthropy during his lifetime that certain causes did capture his personal attention for he made several large donations that supported particular cultural and civic objectives. In 1877, he spent almost £1,000 to purchase a ‘Mr. Hargraves superb conchological collection’ and presented it to the Museum.[121] Then, in 1881, he expended some £1,500 in the purchase of Marshall Wood’s statue ‘Song of the Shirt’ for donation to the Art Gallery,[122] £500 to transport an organ for the Great Hall at Sydney University,[123] and an additional donation of £5,000 for scholarships for students (both men and women) at the university.[124]  He also made donations to various hospitals both in Sydney and within county NSW and even Queensland, yet many of these donations were actually made and determined by the trustees of his 1882 gift or the executors of his estate which presumably were made because they considered that Thomas would approve of such organisations as suitable recipients.[125]

Being the father of a daughter perhaps influenced Thomas’ social views on the role of women in society. In 1881, when Eadith was 20 years old, he provided to the University of Sydney £5,000 for scholarships, the interest of which was to be so used ‘that a large portion of it- say a fourth, or a third , or a half …[be used] for the assistance of students of the female sex’.[126] The donation was motivated by his approval of the recent decision of the University to admit women students:

This appears to me a great and important step in a right direction, its tendency to elevate the social position of women, and thus largely promote the well-being and higher interests of civilized life … that these advantages should be afforded equally to all women as to all men, seems to me to be no more than what is just and right.[127]

When the donations made by Walker prior to his death are examined, removing those made in 1882 as they were not determined by him, certain trends become apparent; Walker gave almost nothing to the church.[128] It was commented at his death that he was an ‘ardent believer in the principles of Christianity, and recognised the obligation which the Founder of the system imposed on believers to do good to all men according as they had opportunity’,[129] and yet he showed no desire to be of any great assistance to any institutional church. In his will he explicitly excluded religious work when he left £20,000 to ‘Charitable (not religious) Institutions established or to be established in New South Wales.’[130] Walker, it was said, was a man of narrow view but very charitable yet such charity excluded the church and it was commented at his death that

on his deathbed Archbishop Whately thanked God that he had never given a shilling to a street beggar. Mr Thomas Walker could have made a similar statement concerning the churches. He had a strong and unchangeable dislike to every religious denomination, and it is said that during the last half century not one of them received a single subscription from him.[131]

Organ at St Lukes Concord

Organ at St Lukes Concord

While as a general statement this comment about Walker’s philanthropy towards the church is true as he did not give for the spiritual mission of the church by donations to missions, or Sunday schools, or clergy stipends, he did give a few times to various church building projects mainly in the 1850s. Some of these projects were the construction of Windsor Church (£2 in 1835),[132] St Andrews Cathedral (£50 in 1854), St Philips Church (£20 in 1854), St Anne’s Ryde (£10 in 1857), a harmonium for St Luke’s Concord/Burwood (£100 in 1858), and towards a new church in Burwood/Concord (£100 in 1859) and Kurrajong Presbyterian (£10 in 1866). Lastly, to commemorate his daughter’s 21st birthday in 1884, he gave a Hill organ to St Luke’s Church Concord/Burwood at a cost of £500.[133]

Walker’s own practice, in respect of religious organisations, was not to give financial help to the church to pay its ministers. Against this background, one of his speeches during a meeting on the abolition of State aid to Religion was telling in terms of his personal attitude to religion. On that occasion he said:

If a man would not contribute to his own religion, to what would he contribute? Above all things in the world a man should provide himself with the means of enjoying his religion; and the true way to do so was by supporting a minister of that religion.[134]

Applying such a sentiment to Walker himself it would mean that if Walker were a man who was religiously committed then he would, as a priority, support the clergymen of his religion. The evidence is that though Walker gave funds for many things including some minor support for the erection of church buildings, he did not give money as a priority to the financial support of a clergyman of the Church of England Church or any other church. Couple this fact with the instruction in his will for no money to be given by his executors to religious organisations, one can only conclude that he was not, and did not regard himself as, a religious man. His religious affiliation, usually described as Church of England for he was married and buried by this denomination, was largely nominal.

Expressions of Walker’s religious beliefs are rare and little can be said about his personal beliefs. He wrote a rather detailed diary on his journey into Victoria in 1838 and makes no mention on any Sunday entry of thoughts about Sabbath observance or any reference to God apart from one entry. This entry is in his musings, for the benefit of his family, on the situation of the Aborigines were he says:

The omnipotent Ruler of the universe, before whom the savage and the sage stand alike, has permitted, for some wise purpose, the balance of wrongs to preponderate so immeasurably in the scale, ‘where much will be required’ that it is not without reason and humility we ought to ask ourselves – (while filled with wonder at His mysterious dispensations) – do we do all in our power to mitigate the inflictions, injuries, and sufferings, that a dire necessity has imposed upon this humble race.[135]

Such religious expressions were deistic and intellectual at best and evidenced no personal, life or evangelical commitment to Christ as was common in nineteenth century Sydney. Walker rarely attended public worship though his daughter, Mrs Moon and his sister Joanna did. In his diary in the period 1878-1881 he attended church only once and that was for a funeral and his characteristic Sunday diary entry for that period was ‘the ladies went to church’.[136]

Walker’s explicit lack of support for the organisation of the church and its specific spiritual mission suggests that, while he held to the moral imperatives of Christianity, he was not committed to the church and its spiritual philanthropy. A more accurate description of his philanthropy was that he ‘delighted in acts of beneficence, and during his lifetime gave away many thousands of pounds for the relief of those suffering, and in aid of various charitable enterprises.’[137] Yet even this description does not do justice to his philanthropic emphasis. His emphasis is seen in those donations he gave which were £500 or more (excluding those given in 1880 which he did not personally decide) which are listed in the table below.

Donation 500

From this information it becomes clear that Walker gave his strongest support to ‘charitable enterprises’ that were largely designed to build the civic structures of colonial society, with its emphasis on scholarships at the university, support of hospitals, cultural and educational support for the Art Gallery, the University Organ, the Royal Society building[138] and Museum acquisitions. He also showed support for philanthropy as improvement in his support of the Sydney Female Refuge Society.

In summary, Walker was a significant philanthropist in terms of the amount of money he gave while he lived. The causes that reflected his philanthropic emphasis were those civic causes that built up the amenity of colonial society. In his will, he left his largest philanthropic donation for the construction of a Convalescent Hospital which continued his civic building philanthropy, and his interest in developing hospital facilities. The remainder of his bequest also demonstrated his ‘arm’s length’ approach to philanthropy in that he left it to the discretion of his Trustees to determine the distribution of the bequest. It is evident that Walker’s primary interest was not philanthropy but business. He concentrated his time on business and left the personal commitment to philanthropic causes to others.

It was reported on his death by the SMH, and copied by other papers of the time, that

It is well known to many people that Mr Walker kept an agent constantly employed in searching out, inquiring into, and relieving cases of distress. The amount of money he dispensed in this manner was considerable. Often he himself was his own almoner, and he took pleasure in visiting the numerous persons whom he relieved.[139]

The first part of the statement, though remarkable, is consistent with his general uninvolved approach to philanthropy. The latter part of this account speaking of Walker’s personal interest in philanthropy seems at variance with his lack of personal attention to the details of philanthropic giving displayed in his career and especially in 1882 and through his will. If this latter statement is true, and there is no evidence to dispute its accuracy, it adds to the complexity of his approach to philanthropy and somewhat softens the view that his philanthropy was at ‘arm’s length’.

One obituary in the Evening News, quoting the words of Abraham Lincoln, said of Walker that he had died as he had lived ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right’.[140] Certainly the Evening News had reason to be grateful to Walker and they clearly had not forgotten that he had publically and financially supported of them in the contempt of court proceedings against them in late 1880.[141] There were some business associates who would find this particular assessment of Thomas Walker rather overly generous and gracious,[142] but there were also many who benefited from his civic and personal philanthropy. The Evening News had also quoted Horace Mann’s description of the soul of truly benevolent man migrating ‘into the life of others and finds its own happiness in increasing and prolonging their pleasures’ and said ‘Such a soul had Thomas Walker of Yaralla’.

Such praise evoked a rival paper to publish an article, which self-confessedly was an Advocatus Diabolus (Devil’s Advocate), which questioned the near sainthood that was conferred upon Thomas at his passing. While this article was less than generous in its description of the paucity his giving, which was more extensive than it mentioned, it raised a valid point. It argued the ‘charitable man’ is to be measured not by the amount given, which in Thomas’ case seemed to impress people, but the sacrifice required to give for ‘there is no charity without sacrifice’.  It asked the question ‘how philanthropic was Thomas?’ for in fact he gave a very small proportion of his wealth to charity even though he was surrounded by great need.

‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ Among the ‘charitable’ ones he was, perhaps, the best, but after all, how much of charity did this man of millions show?[143]

It is true that Thomas with his immense wealth could have done much more to help relieve the suffering and the need of the society in which he lived, but he did give away substantial sums of money which earned him the reputation as a great philanthropist. Principally, however, Thomas saw himself as a business man not as a philanthropist.

Horace Mann’s description of the soul of the benevolent man did not really fit Thomas for he did not enter into the lives of people in his philanthropy nor was philanthropy his focus in life. If his philanthropic contribution to society was not as significant as it could have been then his contribution to the economic development of the colony was immense. The banking, shipping, trade, commerce and pastoral development of the colony all benefited immensely from Thomas’ commercial activities which provided him with great wealth, but also provided employment and prosperity for the people of NSW and beyond. A balanced assessment of Thomas’ impact on the life of the colony of NSW must be that through his business life, and to a lesser extent his philanthropy, he made a great contribution to its welfare and well-being.

Dr Paul F Cooper, Research Fellow, Christ College, Sydney

The appropriate way to cite this article is as follows:

Paul F Cooper Thomas Walker (1804-1886) Businessman, Banker and Philanthropist 21 May 2016 available at thomas-walker-1804-1886-businessman-banker-and-philanthropist

I wish to acknowledge the co-operation and assistance of Patricia Skehan and the Canada Bay Heritage Society. While this paper differs from Skehan at a number of points her seminal work on Thomas Walker was extremely helpful in the formulation of this paper.

[1] Freemans Journal (Sydney, NSW), July 26, 1884, 16. George Peabody (1795-1869) is often referred to as the ‘father of modern philanthropy.’ He was almost certainly the first American who was known first and foremost for his charitable giving. Before he turned to philanthropy, Peabody was a merchant banker—indeed, he created one of the most important American banks of the 19th century. All told, it is believed that Peabody gave away about $8US million of his $16US million fortune within his lifetime. Peabody’s generosity was hailed as an example for his contemporaries.

[2] The Man of Ross was a poem by Alexander Pope (1688-1744).The Man of Ross was John Kyrle, an English philanthropist who died on November 7, 1724. [accessed 26/2/2015]

Rise, honest Muse! and sing the Man of Ross:

Pleased Vaga echoes through her winding bounds,

And rapid Severn hoarse applause resounds.

Who hung with woods yon mountain’s sultry brow?

From the dry rock who bade the waters flow?

Not to the skies in useless columns tost,

Or in proud falls magnificently lost,

But clear and artless, pouring thro’ the plain

Health to the sick, and solace to the swain.

Whose causeway parts the vale with shady rows?

Whose seats the weary traveller repose?

Who taught that heaven-directed spire to rise?

‘The Man of Ross,’ each lisping babe replies.

Behold the market-place with poor o’erspread!

The Man of Ross divides the weekly bread:

He feeds yon alms-house, neat, but void of state,

Where Age and Want sit smiling at the gate;

Him portioned maids, apprenticed orphans blest,

The young who labour, and the old who rest.

Is any sick? the Man of Ross relieves,

Prescribes, attends, the med’cine makes, and gives.

Is there a variance? enter but his door,

Balked are the Courts, and contest is no more.

Despairing Quacks with curses fled the place,

And vile Attorneys, now an useless race.

[3] Evening News (Sydney, NSW), September 3, 1886, 5. The original quote is from Horace Mann not Mason. Horace Mann, Lectures, Annual Reports, Education, 1867.  Reprint. London: Forgotten Books, 2013. 208-9.

[4] Previous work on Thomas Walker has been done by W. Joy, ‘Walker, Thomas (1804–1886)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 30 November 2015. Patricia Skehan, The Walkers of Yaralla, (P. Skehan Publishing, Concord, 2000), is a mine of information but frustratingly often does not cite references for many of its statements. Janette Holcomb, Early Merchant Families of Sydney (Australian Scholarly Press, North Melbourne, 2013) gives an excellent account of the commercial challenges facing the Walker family. These works do not give much significant analysis or detail of Thomas Walker’s philanthropy.

[5] Thomas Walker Baptismal Register South Leith Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Reference ID: 2:18RRC4T

[6] Marriage Certificate Thomas Walker and Jane Hart July 25, 1860. NSW BD 514/1860.

[7] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (hereafter SGNSW Advertiser), April, 26, 1822, 2; NSW and Tasmania Australia General Muster 1806-1849; Skehan, The Walkers of Yaralla, 10.

[8] This information comes from Skehan, The Walkers of Yaralla, 13, 15.

[9] W. Joy in Walker, Thomas (1804-1886) incorrectly identifies the business as William Walker & Co which did not come into being until 1829. The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, June 28, 1822, 2.

[10] Joseph Moore and Thomas contributed £10,000 and William £20,000 to the partnership which expired on June 30, 1836. SMH, January 2, 1844, 2.

[11] The various authors on the Walkers (Joy, Holcomb and Skehan) give conflicting identities to the Archibald Walker who joins the partnership in William Walker and Co in 1836.  Archibald is described as a ‘cousin’ of Thomas by W. Joy, ‘Walker, Thomas (1804–1886)’, the ‘uncle’ of Thomas (Holcomb 125) and then in the following paragraph in Holcomb as a ‘sibling’ of Thomas. It is probable that Archibald was in fact the younger brother of Thomas. This seems to be the view of Skehan, The Walkers of Yaralla 16, 86. This view is supported by a report in The Australian (Sydney, NSW), June 15, 1841, 2 where in a court action against the company of William Walker and Co, Thomas is described as the brother of Archibald. Archibald left the colony in 1846, (SMH, February 23, 1846, 2) a few years after Thomas and Archibald Walker left the partnership of William Walker and Co. Maitland Mercury and Hunter River Advertiser, February 25, 1846, 3.

[12] Skehan, The Walkers of Yaralla, 16 says the date of arrival of Archibald is 1826 ‘the arrival of Master A Walker and servant, from England, appeared in print on 17 May 1826’. No reference is given for this and a search of newspapers of and around that date has failed to find any reference to such an arrival, though William Walker, and son is reported in newspapers of that date as having recently left for England. The Australian (Sydney, NSW), May 17, 1826, 3.  Holcomb on the other hand gives the date as August 1832 on the ship the Brothers Holcomb, Early Merchant Families of Sydney, 123. A Mr. A Walker did arrive on that date Sydney Herald, August 27, 1832, 2.

[13] Skehan, the Walkers of Yaralla, 16.

[14] Geelong Advertiser (Geelong, Vic), February 26, 1844, 2.

[15] Holcomb, Early Merchant Families of Sydney, 162.

[16] Holcomb, Early Merchant Families of Sydney, 155-168 gives a detailed account of the challenges facing William Walker and Co and of Thomas’ part in them.

[17] The others were Lachlan McAlister, Henry Dutton and Thomas Brown. The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic), December 8, 1934, 4.

[18] The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic), December 8, 1934, 4.

[19] The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic), December 8, 1934, 4.

[20] Skehan, the Walkers of Yaralla, 22.

[21] SGNSW Advertiser, April 16, 1833, 2. In their defence it should be noted that those seeking to form the company had since May 1829 been using the designation ‘Australian Steam Navigation Company’ for their proposed company but when forming the company used the name ‘Australian Steam Conveyance Company’.

[22] SGNSW Advertiser, April 16, 1833, 1.

[23] SGNSW Advertiser, February 19, 1839, 3.

[24] Its formal name at the time of formation was the ‘Australasian Steam Navigation Company’. SGNSW Advertiser, February 25, 1840, 3.

[25] SGNSW Advertiser, February 25, 1840, 3. The company had a capital of £250,000 with shares at £50 and Thomas held 20 shares. SMH, April 2, 1841, 2.

[26] SMH, August 6, 1841, 2.

[27] SMH, August 2, 1839, 2.

[28] SMH, July 2, 1851, 2.

[29] Later the Hunter residents were dissatisfied with the service provided by the new company and formed a company of their own The Hunter River New Steam Navigation Company of which Thomas Watson was a shareholder. SMH, July 9, 1856, 5. In 1887 the Australasian Steam Navigation Company was taken over by the newly founded Australasian United Steam Navigation Company. Australasian Steam Navigation Company (1851 – 1887) Encyclopedia of Australian Science [viewed 11/12/2015] See also Ronald Parsons, An history of Australasian Steam Navigation Company and Australasian United Steam Navigation Co. Ltd, Adelaide, 1960.

[30] The iron steamship Yaralla was launched on 9/11/1875 at Lobnitz Coulbourn & Co Renfrew, Scotland. It was registered in Sydney in 1/2/1876 and wrecked on Naselai Reef, off Suva in 1906. [accessed 14/12/2015.

[31] The Argus (Melbourne, Vic), August 2, 1855, 4; Riverine Herald (Echuca, Vic), January 9, 1879, 2.

[32] Skehan, The Walkers of Yaralla, 24 no source is given for this statement.

[33] The bank opened on 3 July 1826 in George Street, Sydney. The first directors of the bank were: Thomas Macvitie (managing director), Edward Wollstonecraft, John Macarthur, Richard Jones, Thomas Icely, John Oxley, George Brown, W.J. Browne, Hannibal Macarthur, James Norton, and A.B. Spark. Sydney James Butlin, Foundations of the Australian Monetary System, (Sydney University Press, Sydney, 1968), 196.

[34] SGNSW Advertiser, July 2, 1831, 3.

[35] SMH, June 27, 1833, 3.

[36] SMH, June 26, 1845, 3.

[37] Patricia Skehan, The Walker Family and Their Philanthropy, Nurungi, No 182, Canada Bay Heritage Society, October 2011.

[38] The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, November 1, 1859, 2. He resigned the position on his going to England with his wife and family in 1862. SMH, April 11, 1862, 1. He was re-appointed  in 1864. Sydney Mail, October 29, 1864, 3.

[39] SMH, October 14, 1843, 3.

[40] The Shipping Gazette and Sydney General Trade List (Sydney, NSW), January 29, 1848, 27. It is unclear how long Thomas acted in this capacity as he was not appointed an auditor in 1849. SMH, July 20, 1849, 3.

[41] Goulburn Herald and Chronicle (Goulburn, NSW), October 30, 1969, 5; Globe (Sydney, NSW), May 1, 1886, 3.

[42] R. F. Holder, Bank of New South Wales Volume One: 1817-1893 (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1970), 395.

[43] Holder, Bank of New South Wales, 395.

[44] Skehan, The Walkers of Yaralla, 81-82 quotes ‘Thomas Walker’ as having views on the war in Sudan which were opposed to the sending of NSW troops. This is an error as Thomas Walker was very supportive of sending of troops to Sudan to which cause he donated £1000. SMH, February 19, 1885, 8. The ‘Thomas Walker’ Skehan refers to is the freethought thinker and parliamentarian of the same name born in 1858 and who died in 1932. F. B. Smith, ‘Walker, Thomas (1858–1932)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 30 December 2015.

[45] Thomas Walker, A Month in the Bush of Australia (London, 1838), 32. Entry is for Friday May 19, 1837.

[46] The one exception seems a £1 donation to the German Aboriginal Mission in 1839.The Colonist (Sydney, NSW), August 31, 1839, 3.

[47] SMH, November 26, 1887, 5. I suspect it is more the interest of JT Walker that determined the donation.

[48] Empire (Sydney, NSW), July 17, 1855, 3.

[49] SMH, October 18, 1859, 4.

[50] Empire (Sydney, NSW), July 4, 1856, 5.

[51] Empire (Sydney, NSW), July 17, 1855, 3.

[52] Empire (Sydney, NSW), July 4, 1856, 5.

[53] SMH, October 18, 1859, 4.

[54] The Australian (Sydney, NSW), August 11, 1835, 4.

[55] Sydney Herald, August 17, 1838, 2.

[56] The Australian (Sydney, NSW), October 16, 1838, 2.

[57] Broughton had been enthroned Bishop of Australia, on 5 June 1836, in St James’ Church, Sydney.

[58] The Australian (Sydney, NSW), October 13, 1838, 2.

[59] Sydney Monitor (NSW), September 10, 1838, 2.

[60] The Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser, March 16, 1840, 4.

[61] Australasian Chronicle (Sydney, NSW), June 23, 1842, 2; June 25, 1842, 4.

[62] Holder, Bank of New South Wales, 344.

[63] W. Joy, ‘Walker, Thomas (1804–1886)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 4 April 2016.

[64] Australasian Chronicle (Sydney, NSW) January 31, 1843, 2.

[65] Launceston Advertiser (TAS), 16 February 16, 1843, 3.

[66] SMH, July 4, 1843, 2.  He was elected on 1 Jun 1843 and resigned on 31 Jul 1845.

[67] SMH, July 16, 1845, 2.

[68] Holcomb, Early Merchant Families of Sydney, 168.

[69] The Colonist (Sydney, NSW), February 4, 1836, 1-3.

[70] The Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser, October 15, 1841, 2.

[71] The Colonist (Sydney, NSW), March 17, 1836, 3 – 4.

[72] SGNSW Advertiser, December 24, 1836, 2.

[73] Sydney Herald, September 24, 1841, 3.

[74] Burkhardt, G. 2014. The Australian College. Dictionary of Educational History in Australia and New Zealand (DEHANZ), 24 April. Available:, accessed online 23 February 2016.

[75] Burkhardt, G. 2014. The Australian College. Dictionary of Educational History in Australia and New Zealand (DEHANZ), 24 April. Available:, accessed online 23 February 2016.

[76] I can find no primary documentation to support this statement about Thomas’ return to Scotland and proposing to Jane there .Patricia Skehan, The Walker Family and Their Philanthropy, Nurungi, No 182, Canada Bay Heritage Society, October 2011. Marriage Certificate Thomas Walker and Jane Hart July 25, 1860. NSW BD 514/1860. Jane’s grave stone gives her name as ‘Jane Steel Walker’.

[77] Patricia Skehan, Walker, Thomas, Dictionary of Sydney, 2011,, viewed 18 December 2015. No references are cited for this insight into Walker’s personal life.

[78] Empire (Sydney, NSW), July 30, 1860, 1. Thomas’ age on his wedding certificate is listed as 58. Jane is listed on her wedding certificate as 28, on Eadith’s birth certificate as 30 and on her death certificate as 40. Her grave stone gives her date of birth as 2nd of July 1832. The children of Agnes Swinton and Thomas Hart for which birth entries have been found are Margaret Crawford Hart (b. 7 Jan 1824), Alexander Hart (b. 10 August 1825) and Agnes Steele Hart (b.2 Jul 1828). Scotland Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950) FamilySearch.

[79] Ian Jack, History of Yaralla Estate, September 2005, 9. Canada Bay Heritage Society Archives.

[80] Ian Jack, History of Yaralla Estate, 9; SMH, February 20, 1857, 9. See also advertisement for a considerable quantity of sand for use at Concord. SMH, June 4, 1858, 1.

[81] Ian Jack, History of Yaralla Estate, 7.

[82] Eadith’s Birth Certificate NSW BDM dated 19 October 1861, no. 1913.

[83] Thomas Walker (1842-1865) entry 5 August 1860, 6. This Thomas Walker was born 13 August 1842 and drowned at Yaralla 23 January 1865. He was a brother to Senator JT Walker.

[84] J.T. Walker in his notes on his life ‘A Birthday Retrospective , 1903, (Society Archives)  ‘Some Personal Reminiscences’, 2 records that in 1848 just prior to his family’s return to Scotland he was ‘one of the family who lived at ‘Durham Cottage’, Lower Fort Street, with Cousins Tom and Joanna’.

[85] Joanna arrived in Victoria on 2/12/1842, The Australian (Sydney, NSW), December 12, 1842, 2 and in Sydney on 9/3/1843 SMH, March 10, 1843, 3. They did not take up residence at Durham Cottage until 1845. Prior to this Durham Cottage had been a boarding house run by Mrs. Eliza Watkins. SMH, November 3, 1842, 3; November 24, 1843, 4; The Australian (Sydney, NSW) July 22, 1844, 2; January 28, 1845, 3.

[86] Thomas Walker (1842-1865) Diary entry 14 August 1860, 23.

[87] Thomas Walker (1842-1865) Diary entry 1 January 1861, np. J.T. Walker in his notes on his life ‘A Birthday Retrospective , 1903, 10 records Joanna as being in London in 1861 (‘staying in Orme Square, and enjoyed my esteem in spite of making me feel small at times by here ‘candid friend’ criticisms’).  She possibly returned on the Madras arriving in Sydney on July 12, 1862. Empire (Sydney, NSW), July 14, 1862, 5. She advertised for a laundress for Durham Cottage in August 1862.  SMH, August 12, 1862, 1.

[88] For an account of the Campbell Wharf and house see Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW) November 20, 1875, 20.

[89] It is also shown by the fact that Thomas was a pall bearer at the funeral of Robert Campbell in 1846. C. E. T. Newman, The Spirit of Wharf House, the Campbell enterprise from Calcutta to Canberra 1788- 1930 (Angus and Robertson, Sydney: 1961), 169.

[90] Thomas Walker (1842-1865) entry 11 August 1860, 20.

[91] 1851 Scottish Census 30/03/1851. Parish of Hamilton, Scotland.

[92] The Age (Melbourne Vic) January 27, 1862, 4. It left Sydney on February 11, 1862.

[93] Empire (Sydney, NSW), February 26, 1864, 4. The statement of Skehan, Walkers of Yaralla, 107 ‘Returning to Australia. Thomas and his wife lived in Durham Cottage in the city, spending weekends in the little cabin called Woodbine at Concord’ cannot be correct given the difficult relationship that existed between Joanna and Jane.

[94] Annie Elizabeth (nee Masefield) Sulman (June 13, 1864 – December 26, 1949).

[95] Empire (Sydney, NSW), January 22, 1870, 2.; The Mercury (Hobart, Tas), January 28, 1870; March 2, 1870, 2; Sydney Mail, March 12, 1870, 12

[96] David Carment, Searching for Annie Masefield, 2016 8, [accessed 11 March 2016].

[97] Patricia Skehan, The Walker Family and Their Philanthropy, Nurunghi, No 182, Canada Bay Heritage Society, October 2011. Says she suffered from tuberculosis at least from the birth of Eadith but her death certificate does not use the word consumption or tuberculosis but ‘diarrhea following congestion of the lungs’ a condition of six months duration. Arthur Renwick was the doctor and there seems to be little reason why, Renwick, who was very familiar with tuberculosis should not have described it as such if Jane had suffered from it. Jane Walker Death Certificate NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages 2171/1870.

[98] Skehan, The Walkers of Yaralla, 108.

[99] Annie was adopted by Joanna Walker (See Annie’s wedding notice SMH, May 15, 1893, 1.) This would make her an adopted cousin to Eadith but no doubt the relationship was most appropriately referred to as that of sisters.

[100] Thomas Walker (1804-1886) Diaries for 1878-1881, indicate that Margaret Moon (1830 – 1928) the widow of Dr. John Moon (died 1866) lived at Yaralla and often accompanied Eadith and Annie on various outings, sometimes with but usually without Joanna. ML J. T. Walker papers, ca. 1790-1962. MLMSS 2729/Box K54292 item 15.

[101] SMH, December 8, 1928, 19.

[102] The following entries seem to indicate that Joanna was present in Sydney continuously from 1862-1870 though her presence in 1870 is less certain though she is present at Jane’s burial Death Certificate Jane Walker NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages 2171/1870. Empire (Sydney, NSW), July 14, 1862,5; SMH, August 12, 1862, 1; September 9, 1862, 1; July 25, 1864,1; October 25, 1864, 8; February 20, 1865, 8; March 4, 1865, 10; December 28, 1866, 8; Empire (Sydney, NSW), April 22, 1868, 8; SMH, August 5, 1868, 8; September 1, 1869, 8; November 11, 1869, 8; March 16, 1870, 2; October 10, 1870,2.

[103] SMH, June 24, 1874, 10.

[104] Thomas Walker (1804-1886) Diaries 1878-1881. ML J. T. Walker papers, ca. 1790-1962. MLMSS 2729/Box K54292 item 15.

[105] This decline in Thomas’ health at this time is mentioned in the official history of the Bank of New South Wales. R. F. Holder Bank of New South Wales Volume One: 1817-1893 (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1970), 314.

[106] Dr. J F Deck MD MRCSE was associated with Dr. C F Fischer who also advised Thomas on his health. Thomas Walker (1804-1886) Diaries 1878-1881 see diary entries 13 August 1881, SMH, June 7, 1877, 1.

[107] Thomas Walker (1804-1886) Diaries 1878-1881 Diary entry around 18 March 1878.

[108] Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser, March 16, 1840, 4. Italics in the original newspaper report.

[109] Walker’s philanthropic emphasis was on giving to civic causes that built up the amenity of colonial society.

[110] At his death he held some £416,316 in mortgages, £165,000 in debentures, £143,583 worth of shares in Banking, Shipping and Coal companies and land worth £194,410. Walker also had assets in other Australian colonies. NSW State Records, Thomas Walker Estate Papers. SMH, September 3, 1886, 5.

[111] W. Joy, ‘Walker, Thomas (1804-1886)’ Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1967) 565.

[112] The Brisbane Courier (Brisbane, Qld), September 23, 1886, 6.

[113] The Brisbane Courier (Brisbane, Qld), September 23, 1886, 6.

[114] The Brisbane Courier (Brisbane, Qld), September 23, 1886, 6.

[115] The Brisbane Courier (Brisbane, Qld), September 25, 1886, 5.

[116] The Brisbane Courier (Brisbane, Qld), September 23, 1886, 6.

[117] He did however serve as a member of the first Legislative Council for the District of Port Phillip for a little over 2 years from 1843 – 1845.

[118] The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (Maitland, NSW), September 7, 1886, 3.

[119] The Last Will and Testament of Thomas Walker of Yaralla

[120] Supreme Court, Probate Division, n. 13992 as quoted in Jack, History of Yaralla Estate, 11.

[121] SMH, July 6, 1877, 4.

[122] Illustrated Sydney News and New South Wales Agriculturalist and Grazier, August 6, 1881, 15.

[123] SMH, March 15, 1881, 5.

[124] SMH, July 22, 1881, 3.

[125] The amounts Walker personally decided are shown where there not amounts shown the gifts to these institutions were made by his Trustees/Executors: Hospitals at Bathurst Bequest, Bathurst (£500), Bourke, Carcoar, Cowra District Bequest, Sick Children (£1000), Glen Innes Bequest, Maitland, Maryborough QLD, Parramatta, Prince Alfred fund (£2000), St Vincents (£1200) and Yass.

[126] SMH, July 22, 1881, 3. The University had Thomas’ covering letter to the donation published in the press at his request.

[127] SMH, July 22, 1881, 3.

[128] He did, however, give £100 in 1859 for the building of a church in Concord which would seem more the act expected of a responsible local citizen rather than any commitment to the church itself.

[129] The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (Maitland, NSW), September 7, 1886, 3.

[130] ‘Last Will and Testament of Thomas Walker,’ August 26, 1873. NSW State Records, 13660, 3, 17/2169, Series 3-13992 Thomas Walker, Date of death, September 2, 1886, Granted on 22 November 1886. This provision and other stipulations in the will about not giving to ‘religious’ institutions explains why JT Walker, a loyal and active son of the Presbyterian Church, who was for a time sole Trustee of the Estate did not use his discretion to allocate money to any Church institution.

[131] Richard Whately (1 February 1787 – 8 October 1863) was an English theologian and economist who served as Anglican Archbishop of Dublin (1831-1863). The Brisbane Courier (Brisbane, Qld), September 10, 1886, 3.

[132] SGNSW Advertiser, November 17, 1835, 1.

[133] Skehan, The Walkers of Yaralla, 184.

[134] Empire (Sydney, NSW), July 4, 1856, 5.

[135] Walker Diary, 32.

[136] Thomas Walker (1804-1886) Diaries 1878-1881. See entry 5 January 1879; 18 May 1879.

[137] SMH, September 16, 1886, 5.

[138] This donation resulted in Walker being elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Society of NSW, joining a list of fourteen distinguished men of science, including Darwin, Huxley, Owen and Hector. Roy MacLeod, Archibald Liversidge, FRS Imperial Science under the Southern Cross (Sydney: Royal Society of NSW and Sydney University Press, 2009), 227.

[139] SMH, September 3, 1886, 5. The article makes a number of statements about Walker’s business life that are inaccurate in detail but the overall picture given is generally correct.

[140] Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865. Evening News (Sydney, NSW), September 3, 1886, 5.

[141] Evening News (Sydney, NSW), October 13, 1880

[142] An example of the tough business practice of the partners in Walker and Co is to be seen in JTE Flint v Walker – see Janette Holcomb, Early Merchant Families of Sydney, 163-165 for an outline of the case.

[143] Port Augusta Dispatch, Newcastle and Flinders Chronicle (South Australia), October 22, 1886, 3-4 quoting the ‘Sydney Bulletin’.

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