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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Clarke, Hon. Sir William John

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Clarke, Hon. Sir William John, Bart. M.L.C., LL.D., J.P., is the eldest son of the late Hon. W. J. T. Clarke, M.L.C. (q.v.), and was born in 1831 in Tasmania. Sir William first arrived in Victoria in 1850, when he spent a couple of years in the study of sheep farming on his father's Dowling Forest station, and afterwards in the management of the Woodlands station on the Wimmera. For the next ten years he resided in Tasmania, working the Norton-Mandeville estate in conjunction with his brother, Mr. Joseph Clarke. In 1862 he assumed the management of his father's concerns in Victoria, and on the latter's death in 1874 succeeded to his estates in that colony. Sir William early evinced a very strong interest in farming pursuits, and introduced a scientific instructor in the person of Mr. R. W. E. McIvor, who lectured on agricultural chemistry for the benefit of the colony generally. Amongst Sir William Clarke's donations to public objects may be mentioned the gift of £2000 to the Indian Famine Relief Fund, of £10,000 towards building the Anglican Cathedral at Melbourne, of £7000 to Trinity College, Melbourne University, and many others. In the domain of sport Sir William has figured prominently as a patron of coursing and yachting. He is the recognised head of the three Masonic constitutions in Victoria—a unique position not held by any other individual in the craft. On the death of Mr. John Thomas Smith, Sir William became Prov. Grand Master of the Irish Constitution; he followed the late Mr. A. K. Smith in the office of District Grand Master of the Scotch Constitution; and on the demise of Captain Standish in 1883, Sir W. J. Clarke was offered the position of District Grand Master of the English Constitution, the Prince of Wales signifying his warm approbation. The foundation stone of the Freemasons Hall in Melbourne was laid by him in March 1885, the finished building being consecrated by him to Masonic purposes in March 1887. Sir William founded, by a gift of 3000 guineas in the year 1882, the "Southern Province (Victoria) Scholarship," in the Royal College of Music, England, the distinction being first won in 1883 by Miss Ada Beatrice Bloxham, and in 1887 by Miss Isabella Webster. To the Melbourne Public Library he has presented some admirable statuary by Mr. Charles Summers and a full-length portrait by Mr. Dowling of Lord Melbourne, the minister after whom the Victorian metropolis is named. In 1886 Mr. Chevalier painted to Sir William's order, "The Renunciation of Prince Gautama," a work considered the painter's masterpiece. The defence movement has been encouraged by Sir W. J. Clarke's offer of valuable prizes for competition among the military and naval forces; and in addition a battery of three Nordenfeldt guns, commanded by Lieutenant Rupert Clarke—Sir William's eldest son—is horsed and maintained at his expense. Sir William has represented the Southern province in the Legislative Council since 1878, and in the following year he was President of the Melbourne International Exhibition; for his services in connection with which, he was raised to the baronetcy in Dec. 1882. Sir William was a member of the Victorian Commission to the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886, and had the honorary degree of LL.D. conferred on him by the University of Cambridge during the same year. Sir William Clarke married, firstly, on Nov. 23rd, 1860, Mary, second daughter of the Hon. John Walker, M.L.C, of Tasmania, who died in 1871; and secondly, on Jan. 21st, 1873, Janet Marian, eldest daughter of the late Hon. Peter Snodgrass, M.L.C. and granddaughter of the late Colonel Kenneth Snodgrass, C.B.