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SIR WILLIAM CHARLES WINDEYER, POLITICIAN & JUDGE (1834-97)

This incoming newspaper wrapper from Great Britain (H&G #E9) was issued in 1889 with the brown Half Penny QV indicium. It was postmarked ‘57' with an 8-barred elliptical obliterator from Beaconsfield, Buck., and it had a handstamp ‘DEFICIENT POSTAGE ½/ FINE _______4d, as well as a large handstamp ‘d. It was addressed to Hon W.C. Windeyer M.A., Tomago, Hunter River, N.S .Wales (Figure 1).

William Charles Windeyer was born at Westminster, London on 29 September 1834, the only child of Richard Windeyer, barrister and journalist, and his wife Maria Camfield. He arrived in Sydney with his parents in the Medway in 1835. His father died in 1847 and his mother, with friends and relations, managed to retrieve their house and part of the land at Tomago N.S.W. (3 k from Hexham, and west of Newcastle), from the insolvent estate. All his life, he liked to return to Tomago and work in the garden.

Windeyer was educated at a private school and at the King’s School, Parramatta in 1850-52, and in October 1852 he gained a scholarship at the University of Sydney, where he graduated B.A. and M.A. in 1856 and 1858. He read law in the chambers of E. Broadhurst and was admitted to the NSW Bar in 1857. In December of that year he married Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Rev. R.T. Bolton at Hexham. He was supported in politics by Sir Henry Parkes and in January 1859 he became crown prosecutor for the northern districts. He resigned in May to run for the seat of Paddington unsuccessfully, but he was successful for the Legislative Assembly seat at Lower Hunter, in June 1859. From 1860 to1872 he represented West Sydney, and from 1876 until 1879 he was the member for the University of Sydney. He was the Solicitor General from 1870-72 and Attorney General from 1877-79. He was an MLA for a total of 20 years, during which time he sat on 50 parliamentary committees.

He was the main mover in revival of the Volunteer Force in 1860 and he rose to major in 1868 in the Sydney Battalion of the Volunteer Rifles. In August 1879 he resigned from parliament, and was appointed temporary judge of the Supreme Court, and 2 years later he became permanent. He sat mainly in common and criminal law, as judge in Divorce and deputy-judge in the Vice-Admiralty Court. He proved controversial in criminal cases, for he believed that retribution was demanded for criminal acts. Hostility to Windeyer reached a climax in 1895 when he imposed the death penalty on George Dean for poisoning his wife. Despite such a contentious episode, his eminence as a judge was widely recognized by those qualified to assess it.

Windeyer visited England for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1887. He was made an honorary doctor of laws at the University of Cambridge, and was knighted in 1891. When he retired from the bench, he accepted a temporary judgeship in Newfoundland in 1897. He died in Bologna Italy on 12 September 1897, survived by his wife, 3 sons and 5 daughters. He was described as ‘singularly able, conscientious, zealous and hardworking ....in some respects he was misunderstood, for those who knew him best know what a tender heart he had and what depth of sympathy he possessed for all those in distress and misery’ (Figure 2).

I am indebted to John Courtis of Hong Kong for the newspaper wrapper.

This paper relies upon the entry for Windeyer in the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.

At a later date a N.S.W. 1d red ‘Sydney Views’ postcard postmarked NORTH SYDNEY/ MY 9/ 92/ N.S.W came on the market, addressed to Lady Windermere, Roslyn Gardens, Rushcutter’s Bay, a suburb of Sydney (Figure 3).

The reverse was an invitation to a meeting, as follows:

WOMEN’S INDUSTRIAL GUILD (LEAGUE).

Associates, and all those interested in the working of the Women’s Industrial Guild (League), are invited to a PUBLIC MEETING, to be held in the London, Liverpool and Globe Insurance Company’s Board Room, 62 Pitt Street, Sydney, on Wednesday, 11th May, at 3 p.m. Lady Jersey will preside.

A PRELIMINARY MEETING of Associates will be held at the Guild Room, A.J.S. Bank Chambers, corner of King and George Streets, on Monday Afternoon at 3 o’clock.

Business:– To propose Managers and Secretaries for the various departments, and to arrange other matters preparatory to the Special Meeting, at which the Countess of Jersey will preside on Wednesday.

A good attendance is urgently requested.

MAI ARNOLD

Hon. Manager and Secretary (Figure 4)

.

These meetings have several points of interest, in that both meetings were to be held in prestigious buildings, a Lady Jersey who was a Countess was to preside at both, the card was addressed to Lady Windeyer, I had never heard of this Guild, and because the postcard became available months after I wrote the original paper on Sir William Windeyer, I did not associate Sir William with Lady Windeyer. In spite of the different addresses, Tomago, N.S.W. in ca. 1889 for the former, and Rushcutter’s Bay, Sydney in 1892, there is little doubt that the two addressees were husband and wife.

Firstly, Sir William used his Tomago address as a retreat, and in the late 1880's and early 1890's, his occupation would have required him to work in Sydney, whilst he was in session as a judge. In his biography, it was noted that William encouraged his wife, Lady Windeyer in her leading role in charitable organizations; as a pioneer of women’s rights, especially their claim to be enfranchised; and, her prominence in the organization of the Women’s Industrial Exhibition in 1888.

Mary Elizabeth Windeyer was born in Sussex England, in 1837, the second daughter of Rev. Robert Bolton and his wife Jane and the family arrived in Sydney on the Strathfieldsaye in July 1839. She spent her childhood in Hexham, N.S.W. and married William in December 1857. In the period 1859-76 she bore him 8 surviving children, and during episodes of illness she lived in Tomago, N.S.W. Her entire working life was devoted to charitable endeavours, particularly as a champion of orphans’ welfare and women’s rights. She helped to establish the Ashfield Infants’ home (a foundling hospital open to mothers with illegitimate children) and in the establishment of the Women’s Hospital, Crown Street, Sydney. She became Lady Windermere when William was knighted. When William died unexpectedly in Italy in 1897, she went to live in Tomago and died there on 3 December 1912. Her picture, as the first president of the Women’s Suffrage League, is seen in Figure 5.


 
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