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australian rowers profiles and history

Robertson, William Hon.

Oxford University Boat Club (UK)

William was the son of the same named William Roberston (1798-1874), who was a prominent pastoralist and first settlor of Victoria.

In a biography of William Roberston Senior, the Australian Dictionary of Biography contains the following information on our William Roberston Junior.

William, the second son, was born on 29 March 1839 and educated at the High School, Hobart, and Wadham College, Oxford (B.A., 1862) and in 1861 rowed in the winning crew against Cambridge. In 1863 he was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple, before returning to Melbourne where he was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1864 and practised until 1876. On 24 April 1863 at Tunbridge Wells, he had married Martha Mary Murphy of Melbourne, by whom he had two sons and three daughters.

In 1871-74 William held the seat of Polwarth and South Grenville in the Legislative Assembly. In 1876-77 he visited Europe and North America. He won the seat again in 1880 and supported the Service reform bill but lost at the July elections; he held the seat in 1881-86. In 1886 he was elected to the Legislative Council for South Western Province but took little part in debates. He had leave of absence from August 1887 and retired by rotation next year.

William was a Colac Shire councillor from 1877 and president in 1880-81. An active supporter of the Colac Agricultural Society, he was a promoter of the 1879 Colac Regatta and its first president. A staunch Presbyterian, he supported the Colac Presbyterian Church and also other denominations. He inherited the splendid stone mansion, The Hill, where he lived the life of a 'hospitable and sport-loving country gentleman'. He died in an operation for cancer of the throat on 23 June 1892, leaving an estate worth £50,000.

Key Rowing Highlights

1861 - The Boat Race, four seat for Oxford University - First

1879 - First President of the Colac Rowing Club and promoter of their regatta

Compiled by Andrew Guerin
August 2023


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