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The strange career of William Beresford

Bolton, G. (1984) The strange career of William Beresford. Early Days, 9 (2). pp. 5-16.

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Abstract

He must have been a memorable character, because yarns about him were circulating for years after he died. Gilbert Parker, the eager young Canadian journalist who traversed Australia in 1889, heard stories about the ex-convict journalist Beresford who had been an aristocratic clergyman in the Old Country and spent his old age as tutor to a settler's family in the York district.' W.B. Kimberly in the astonishingly far-ranging collection of information which he picked up in 1897 for his History of West Australia also made some mention of Beresford. But the goldfields' generation of Western Australians soon forgot the ex-convict past, and Beresford remained largely unremembered until the early 1960s when Beverley Smith drew attention to his vigorous journalism as one of the founders of the ex-convict Fremantle newspaper, the Herald, in the late 1860s and 1870s. William Beresford was particularly notable as the first of Western Australia's columnists, writing under the pen-name of 'An Old Sandalwood Cutter'. Under the guise of a shrewd if semi-literate working man Beresford tilted at the pretensions of Western Australia's ruling class, those officials and merchants and graziers who cherished their invitations to Government House, those would-be colonial politicians who with the coming of representative government vied to cut a figure in the Legislative Council. There was an irony here because Beresford was neither semi literate nor a working man. It was known that he was transported from the York assizes in 1855 for forgery, that his profession was described as 'clerk', and that he was in reality a clerk in holy orders, a clergyman gone to the bad. One account stated that he had been Anglican Dean of Cork, and he was often referred to as 'the Honourable and Reverend William Beresford'. But even Beverley Smith managed to reveal little of his past, and so the question remained to excite one's curiosity: How did a broken down aristocrat grow into 'An Old Sandalwood Cutter'? What events in William Beresford's past shaped the sort of character whom he became in Western Australia?

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Inquiry
Publisher: Royal Western Australian Historical Society
Publishers Website: http://histwest.org.au/
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/15215
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