Open main menu

The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Walker, George Washington

< The Dictionary of Australasian Biography

Walker, George Washington, son of John Walker, was born in London on March 1st, 1800. The family belonged to Northumberland, and Mr. Walker was educated at Newcastle-on-Tyne, where he entered into business as a draper. In 1831 Mr. James Backhouse and Mr. Walker were accredited by the Society of Friends on a religious mission to the Australian colonies, especially with the view of endeavouring to improve the condition of the convict population. They arrived in Hobart in Feb. 1832, and began the work of their mission. They remained three years in Tasmania, visiting all the settled districts, inspecting chain gangs and convict stations, including those of Macquarie Harbour and Port Arthur. From Hobart they proceeded to Sydney, and spent two years in similar work in New South Wales, extending their travels to Moreton Bay (now Brisbane) and to Norfolk Island, which they found to be Macquarie Harbour over again with an extra shade of darkness. Their reports to the Governors of Tasmania and New South Wales had considerable influence in inducing reforms in the treatment of the prisoners. Returning to Hobart, they sailed thence for South Africa. On their way they visited Melbourne, at that time (1837) a mere group of huts, also Adelaide and Swan River (Western Australia). Arriving at the Cape, they travelled by waggon to the utmost bounds to which white men had then penetrated, visiting the mission stations and inquiring into the condition of the native races. His eight years of missionary travel completed, Mr. Walker returned to Hobart, where he married a daughter of the late Mr. Robert Mather, and for some years carried on business as a draper. He was one of the founders of the Hobart Savings Bank (1845), of which he undertook the direction, and eventually gave up his business to become manager of the institution. He was an earnest advocate and promoter of the temperance and other philanthropic movements. He died at Hobart Feb. 1st, 1859. A life of Mr. Walker, by Backhouse and Tylor, was published in London (1862). The Walker family belonged originally to Wylam-on-Tyne, near Newcastle, having held an estate there from the time of the Reformation. About the middle of last century an elder branch migrated south to the neighbourhood of Leeds, while the branch from which Mr. Walker was descended went into business at Newcastle-on-Tyne. The family were Unitarians, but when a young man Mr. Walker joined the Society of Friends. He began life as owner of pottery works near Newcastle, but, owing to losses through the misconduct of a relative, the works were given up.