Thomas Walker (philanthropist)

Thomas Walker (philanthropist)

Thomas Walker (1804 - September 2, 1886) was an Australian politician and banker; he and his daughter Dame Eadith Campbell Walker were important philanthropists.

Thomas Walker was born at Leith, Scotland, in 1804, and came to Sydney as a young man. About the year 1822 he joined the firm of W. Walker and Company, general merchants, the senior partner of which was his uncle. Some years later he acquired this business in partnership with a cousin, and carried it on successfully. He was made a magistrate in 1835, in 1837 visited Port Phillip, and in 1838 published anonymously an account of his experiences under the title, "A Month in the Bush of Australia".

In 1843 he was elected one of the representatives of Port Phillip in the first elected New South Wales Legislative Council, and in January 1845 he was one of the six members of the council who signed a petition praying that Port Phillip should be made into a separate colony. Walker, however, gave up taking an active part in politics, though he kept his interest in them and published some pamphlets on the land question. His financial affairs prospered, and he invested widely. His special interest was the Bank of New South Wales, of which he was president for many years before his death. The statement that he was one of the original founders of the bank is not correct, but his uncle was one of the early shareholders. He died in 1886 leaving a large fortune. He was survived by a daughter.

Walker was a conscientious, benevolent man who went about doing good. He took a personal interest in his benefactions, and at one period employed an agent, searching out and relieving cases of distress. In 1882, just before taking a trip to Europe, he distributed £10,000 among benevolent institutions, and under his will £100,000 was set aside to found the Thomas Walker Convalescent Hospital. In its first 20 years nearly 18,000 convalescent patients, all non-paying, received the benefit of this hospital. In the early 1900s, author Henry Lawson was several times a patient there, treated for his alcoholism. After the death of his daughter, Eadith Campbell Walker, 51 years later, two-thirds of the income from £300,000 of his estate was set aside for the upkeep of this hospital, £100,000 was used to found the Dame Eadith Walker convalescent home for men, and one-third of the income from another sum of £300,000 was set aside for its maintenance. The remaining two-thirds of the income was appropriated for the upkeep of the Thomas Walker convalescent hospital and the Yaralla cottages built by his daughter, Dame Eadith Campbell Walker, who devoted her life to philanthropy, making the poor and distressed her special concern. She supplemented her father's endowment of his hospital, gave liberally to other hospitals, and worked on many committees.

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