Pearson was born on 20
September 1818 into an old Scottish family at Hilton, Kilmany, Fife,
Scotland the son of Captain Hugh Pearson R.N and Helen née
Littlejohn. After his father’s death in 1839, he abandoned his love of the
sea and attracted to stories from Tasmanian pioneers of the pastoral
prospects of southern Victoria, he migrated in September 1840 on the John
Cooper arriving in Adelaide in March and headed straight to the Port
Phillip settlement. From there, he drove cattle into northern Gippsland via
Albury and Omeo before establishing Kilmany Park pastoral run (14,500
acres) in September at the junction of the Thomson and Latrobe rivers near
Sale later purchasing the freehold at auction (1868); at the time only
Angus McMillan (Sale Cemetery) and his party of explorers had settled in
the area. Other pastoral stations owned by Pearson devoted to cattle
raising were Marysville (22,900 acres); Hill End (23,000 acres); Tangel
Hills (15,300 acres) and Grass Hills (15,300). Yet it was the decision to
become the largest investor in the famous Long Tunnel mine at Walhalla,
Victoria in June 1865 that made Pearson wealthy; his 900 shares purchased at
£5 each soon rose to £212 paying dividends of £512 a share over the next
forty years. “Aristocratic in looks and stern in demeanour”, he went on to
represent the area in the Legislative Assembly (1864-67) and the Legislative
Council (1881-93); The Argus noted that Pearson was “not by any means
a demonstrative man in politics, he was one of the class of legislators who
are steadfast in their devotion to principle”. The most prominent of racing
men of his time reputed to have won over 300 races, in 1887 he came within
20 guineas of owning the great Carbine - “the greatest horse
Australia ever saw” - yet in fourteen attempts Pearson never won the
Melbourne Cup having failed with Prince (1861)
in the first Cup; Viscount (1865 & 1866); Sparrowhawk (1866 &
1867); Kestrel (1869); Contessa (1872); Dolphin (1873);
The Czar (1881); Commotion (1883, 1884 & 1886); Magnet
(1883); Plausible (1884 & 1885); Arsenal (1885) and
Firelock (1890 & 1891). A foundation member of the Victoria Racing Club
(V.R.C) on 10 March 1864, by far his greatest horse owned was Commotion
(“the Carbine of his day…perhaps the stoutest horse that ever ran
in Australia”) who in 1884 won the Canterbury Plate, the Bagot Plate,
Midsummer Handicap, the Essendon Stakes and the Champion Stakes; a heavy
better he thought nothing of laying £1,000 on one of his horses. Pearson
died from heart disease at his home Craigellachie - 2B Lynedoch
Avenue, East St. Kilda on 10 August 1893 survived by his wife Eliza née
Travers (d 1896) whom he married on 4 August 1859 and bore him seven
children; Hugh (1860-74), Henry (1861-80), William (1864-1919; married
Sophie née Gooch, 1887), John (1866-1925; married Olive née
(q.v.) (1869-1920), Helen (1871-91) and Laura (b 1874; married Percy
Miller). Pearson’s estate was valued for probate at £196,500.
(above) William Pearson
(Reproduced with kind permission of the
Victorian Parliament Library)
(above) Kilmany Park
(La Trobe Picture Collection,
State Library of Victoria,
ADB Volume 5 1851-90 (K-Q).
The Argus 15 October 1849 & 11 August 1893.
The Australasian 2 February 1867, 12 August
1893 & 23 September 1893.
The Age 11 August 1893.
Thomson, K & Serle, G., “A Biographical
Register of the Victorian Legislature 1851-1900” (1972).
Henderson, A., “Henderson’s Australian
Corfield, J & Persse, M., “Geelong
Grammarians. A Biographical Register Vol I 1855-1913” (1996).
Pacini, J., “A Century Galloped By. The first
hundred years of the Victoria Racing Club” (1988).
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