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TOLMIE, William Alexander (1833-1875)

TOLMIE, William Alexander (1833-1875)

William Tolmie was among the founders of Geelong College as a member of the first Geelong College management committee in 1861.

Born on 21 March 1833 at Duirinish, Scotland he married Sibella McKinnon (1837-1903). His parents were John Tolmie (1793-1844) and Margaret Hope MacAskill (1809-1889).

Dunedin's Otago Daily Times published a lengthy obituary after his death:
'From what we can gather, Mr Tolmie arrived in Victoria about the end of 1852, and after visiting the country districts for a few months, he entered the service of the Union Bank of Australia at the age of twenty. In that service he continued a much respected officer until the year 1859, when he was induced to join the Colonial Bank of Australasia by the offer of the managership of the Geelong branch of that Bank. In Geelong he made many friends both for himself and the Bank.

He, however, severed his connection with the Colonial Bank about the end of 1864, and came to Dunedin as a partner in the firm of Dalgety, Rattray, and Co. It may be Added that from the time of his arrival in, Victoria, Mr Tolmie and the late Mr George Webster were connected by ties of friendship with our fellow-citizen, Mr W. J. M. Larnach, who has thus been deprived of two of his oldest associates within a few weeks.

At the expiry of Mr Tolmie's term or partnership in the house of Dalgety, Rattray, and Co., he decided upon abandoning mercantile pursuits, and he betook himself entirely to stock breeding at the property which he had acquired at the Waiwera. His success as a breeder of first-class sheep is well-known throughout the Colony. Paying attention to merinos in the first instance, he, by the introduction of the best strains of blood from the flocks of Australia and Tasmania, soon gave to his stock a name second to none in New Zealand. Indeed, his merinos were never beaten at any of the principal shows in Canterbury and Otago. He afterwards turned his attention to the breeding of long-woolled sheep with no less success; and at the present time there are on the Clinton and Waipahee properties stud flocks of Leicesters, Lincoln, as well as sheep of the Romney Marsh breed, which have all been highly spoken of by competent judges.

Regarding Mr Tolmie's political career, it may be mentioned that lie was gazetted Deputy Superintendent on the 10th August, 1871; and held the office in the absence of the Superintendent at the Assembly that year. In May, 1872, he was elected M.P.C. for the Peninsula district in the place of Mr James Seaton; and in September, 1872, Mr Tolmie was elected M.H.R. for Caversham, in the room of Mr Cantrell, deceased. On the 19th November, 1872, Messrs Tolmie, Turnbull, M'Dermid, and M'Arthur, were appointed members of the Executive Council in the room of Messrs Reid, Bradshaw, Bathgate, Cutten, and Shand. Mr Tolmie on that occasion was appointed Provincial Secretary and Secretary for Land. He also held this position in a subsequent Executive, which included himself and Messrs Turnbull, Bastings, Turton, and M'Dermid. On July 10th, 1873, there was a reconstruction of the Executive, that is to say, Mr Tolmie retired and his place was taken by Dr Webster.

It will not, however, be in connection with his career as a public man that Mr Tolmie will be remembered by those whose good opinions he most valued while he was still amongst us. While he brought to bear upon political questions and the administration of the affaire of the Province the shrewdness and good sense of an excellent man of business, he instinctively shrank from the turmoil of debate. Nor had the intrigues of political life any charm for him. He was not a party man, and it was his declared custom to give his vote, as a rule, in accordance with the merits of a question. While displaying such independence, he could never have been a successful, politician. While it is true, therefore, that as a public man the name of Mr Tolmie may in a few years, be almost forgotten, the recollection of his social qualities will not be erased from the memories of those who had the pleasure of meeting him on terms of intimacy.

Of a genial and humorous disposition, he made many friends, but never lost them. His services were always freely given to heal up the troubles of others, and his hand was ever ready to help in an unostentatious manner where charity was needed. Stricken down in the prime of life, while in the possession of apparently good health, the announcement of his death has proved a severe shock to those with whom he was associating but a few days ago. To-day, an outward tribute of respect will be paid to his memory, but the sorrow which will be felt for his loss can only be known to those who knew him. We express our heartfelt sympathy for the sorrowing ones who are left behind, and we trust that the knowledge that this sympathy is shared by many will aid to soothe the sad feelings of those who have so suddenly been bereaved of a husband and a father.'

The Tuapeka Times described his final illness:
'None in Dunedin will read the account of the death of Mr W. A. Tolmie, M.H.R., without feeling that we have loat one who possessed the esteem and respect of the whole community. 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.'

He died in Dunedin, New Zealand on 8 August 1875 and was interred on 11 August 1875 in the Northern Cemetery, Dunedin.

No Tolmie children attended Geelong College.

Sources: Otago Daily Times (Dunedin NZ) 11 August 1875 p3; Tuapeka Times 11 August 1875 p6.
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