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McARTHUR, William Gilbert Stewart (1861-1935)

W G Stewart McArthur, 1911 (OGCA)

W G Stewart McArthur, 1911 (OGCA)

McARTHUR, Sir William Gilbert Stewart (1861-1935), '

Supreme Court judge, Sir William Gilbert Stewart McArthur was the son of Peter McArthur, who, arriving from Islay, Scotland, in the ship Mary Hay, settled at Meningoort, Camperdown, in 1839. Stewart was born on the family property, Meningoort in 1861, and entered Geelong College in 1873. Soon he became prominent as a scholar and on the field of sport. In 1877 he matriculated, but remained at school studying Honours, and in 1879 took First Year Law and Arts from school without attending the University lectures. This unusual feat was attempted by four Geelong Collegians. He left school in 1880 to enter Trinity College on the understanding that he transferred to Ormond College when that building was completed towards the end of the same year. Stewart was always proud at having been the first boy to enter Ormond College under the then, Dr John H McFarland, from which he graduated LLB in 1882. He was the first President of the Old Ormond Collegians' Association.

Proceeding to Selbourne Chambers in 1883 he read with J B Cox, later a Judge in the County Court, and was called to the Bar in 1884, although he had qualified a year earlier. He was first on the Gippsland Circuit of Warragul, Sale, Bairnsdale, and later, Shepparton, and established a large practice in the County Court. However, he was attracted by the work in the Supreme Court, took silk in 1912, and, declining the offer of a County Court Judgeship, prosecuted a successful career at the Bar. He married Margaret nee Rutherford in 1890, a daughter of a grazier. He inherited his father’s property in 1917.

In 1920, he was elevated to the Supreme Court Bench by the Lawson Government, and he continued this work until ill-health forced him to retire in 1934. He was well known for his painstaking interest in his cases, and the thorough way in which he scrutinised every detail before pronouncing his considered judgement rather than his oratory. His work was recognised when he was knighted on 6 June, 1935, in the King's Birthday Honours, a month before his death at Meningoort. He was interred at Camperdown. He was a notable supporter of the Old Geelong Collegians’ Association during its early years and was President in 1911-12.

Sir William Gilbert Stewart, 1935.

Sir William Gilbert Stewart, 1935.

His career as a sportsman was also distinguished, for at College he played with the Cricket Team from 1877 to 1879, and as its Captain in 1879. He also played in the Football Team in 1877 and 1878. In the Annual Report of 1877, his football playing was described as “very light, but plays well; very fast and a good kick, does good service on the wing.” At cricket, he was described as “one of the prettiest bats in the team, played a good innings against Hawthorn (Grammar School), but has one weak spot; fields well at point.” At the annual Geelong College Sports in 1879 he won the 440 yards steeplechase (The Masters’ Cup), came second in the 100 yd (The Maiden Plate), the 440 yards (The Ladies Cup) and on aggregate, second in The Geelong College Cup. In 1879, he played also with the Corio Cricket Club and the Geelong Football Club. He was then one of the only two schoolboys playing cricket with a Senior XI, the other being R A D Hood, of Merang, Hexham. At Ormond, in 1881-82, he rowed in the Ormond College Crew, and was captain of both Cricket and Football. He played football with Essendon in 1880-81, acting as captain for part of the season in the latter year, and was a leading cricketer for Camperdown. One of the founders of the Bohemian Club, he was President for some years, and later became President of the Melbourne Club, and a keen supporter of the Squash Racquet Court. As a member of the Bohemian Club Tennis Four he won the Lawn Tennis Association Premiership in 1885. He was also one of the best "whips" in Victoria, and for some years drove the Bohemian four-in-hand coach to the Melbourne Cup and other VRC outings; he won distinction at tennis, football, cricket, buck jumping, and in later life played golf as a member of the Royal Melbourne Club.

grazier and developed a legal practice often based on County Court appearances. Not known for his speaking skills he relied in court on a patient and reasoned approach. During 1911-12 he occupied the position of President of the Old Geelong Collegians' Association, and has at all times been one of their most ardent supporters. In 1917 he inherited his father’s property at Meningoort.
' He retired in 1934 due to ill-health and, not long after was knighted, but died at Meningoort that same year. He was interred at Camperdown.

Sources: Pegasus May 1920 Page 29-30; Pegasus September, 1935 Pages 58-60; J McI Young, 'McArthur, Sir William Gilbert Stewart (1861 - 1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, Melbourne University Press, 1986, pp 195-196.
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