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TOLMIE, WILLIAM

William Alexander Tolmie (1833-1875)

William Tolmie was born on 21st March 1833, at Uiginish Farm on the shore of Loch Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye. He was the third son and fourth child of John and Margaret Hope Tolmie (née McAskill). William would have been eleven when his father passed away at Uiginish Farm. He would also have been with the Hugh McAskill family for a number of years before emigrating in 1852, aged 19.

From Skye, William went to Victoria in 1852. He married Sibella MacKinnon circa 1858; they had several children: Jessie Margaret, Hugh, and Lilias Katherine. William became Manager of the Bank of Australia in Geelong from 1859 to 1864, in which year he came to Dunedin to become a partner in Dalgety Rattray & Co. In that partnership he held Runs 148 ‘Benmore’, 176B ‘Manapouri’, and 391 ‘West Eyre’; while on his own account he had the freehold of ‘Wairuna’ and Run 78 ‘Waipahi’ (those two amounting to 26,000 acres).

William was a director of the Colonial Bank in Dunedin in 1874 and Minister of the House of Representatives for Portobello in 1874. In 1890 his estate was 21,766 acres, valued at £26,962. He was a friend of William Larnach and by marriage was related to Mathew Holmes and B.C. Haggitt who married his daughter Jessie. Hugh, his son married B.C. Haggitt’s daughter from his first marriage.

The Otago Witness of Saturday 23rd September 1865, page 12 records William on the subject of Chinese immigration:-

Mr W.A. Tolmie said at the Chamber of Commence meeting "That it is desirable that the immigration of Chinese into this Province be encouraged." His experience with Chinese in Australia was that they made very valuable colonists; were a well-behaved class, and produced large quantities of gold, and were large consumers. Mr R.M. Robertson seconded the motion. The Chinese did not drink, for they were a sober race. They were also a very orderly population generally and did not swell the criminal trails in a greater proportion than Europeans; they were seldom connected with great crimes, their principal ones being those which were connected with canning and cheating, and were clever at making spurious gold. They also laboured hard- were content with a small result, and were very frugal in their expenditure. Their organisation and manner of life enabled them to find gold in sufficient quantities to pay them, where Europeans would not work for it. There was work for Chinese where Europeans would not work…

This obituary notice in the Tuapeka Times, Volume VIII, Issue 485, 11 August 1875, Page 6, gives a good account of William's life in Dunedin:-

Death of Mr W. A. Tolmie.

None in Dunedin will read the account of the death of Mr W A Tolmie, MHR, without feeling that we have lost one who possessed the esteem and respect of the whole community. Mr Tolmie was only a week or two ago in good health, and attending to his business as usual, but a few days since he was attacked by bronchitis, which gradually increased in severity until yesterday evening. His state then appeared so dangerous that an additional medical man was called in, but despite all that could be done Mr Tolmie only survived till about seven o’clock last evening.

Mr Tolmie came to Dunedin about twelve years ago, and entered into partnership with the local firm of Messrs Dalgety and Co.; but soon retired from the business and devoted his attention to pastoral matters. In connection with the breeding of cattle and sheep his name is well known throughout the Colony, and whenever agricultural shows were held he was certain to have awarded to him a large number of prizes. Mr Tolmie also interested himself greatly in political affairs – both Provincial and Colonial- and for a long time held the position of Deputy-Superintendent of Otago. At the time of his death he was representative for Caversham in the General Assembly.

William Tolmie died on 8th August 1875 in Dunedin. He is buried in the Northern Cemetery with other members of his family.

Patricia Leslie


William Alexander Tolmie; photo taken after 1865, in Dunedin
Image courtesy of:
Patricia Leslie

Monumental Inscription


On the front of the monument:-

SACRED
TO
THE MEMORY OF
WILLIAM ALEXANDER TOLMIE
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE AUG. 8. 1875
AGED 42 YEARS.

I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE, HE THAT
BELIEVETH IN ME, THOUGH HE WERE DEAD, YET SHALL
HE LIVE. JOHN XI.XXV.

AND TO HIS WIFE SIBELLA
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE ON THE
24th APRIL 1903
AGED 65.

On the right side of the monument:-

HUGH TOLMIE ONLY SON
WHO DIED IN FRANCE FEB. 9. 1930
AGED 67 YEARS.
LILIAS KATE TOLMIE
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE FEB. 28. 1931
AGED 62 YEARS.



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