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Sir William Grey Ellison-Macartney 1917-1920

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Alternate image text Sir William Ellison-Macartney was the first Governor to have a car.

When he took up the position in 1917 he brought with him his two cars and a chauffeur. Sir William was born in Dublin in 1852 but as an Ellison not Macartney. It wasn't until he was seven that his father hyphenated the name, probably due to a condition set by a maternal uncle from whom he received an inheritance.

Sir William was well educated, attending Eton and Exeter Colleges, and Oxford where he studied history, law and politics. He became a Conservative Member of Parliament and focused heavily on Irish issues. In fact, he convened the meeting that inaugurated the parliamentary Ulster Unionist Party. In !912, he was appointed Governor of Tasmania and knighted at the same time.

Irish Nationalists protested that his Orange links would offend Tasmanians sympathetic to Home Rule. He had served as the grand secretary of the Freemasonry's Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland that believed in a divided Irish population at home but also in the Australian colonies. Apparently his role as Governor or Tasmania was not a happy one because he was regarded as a cold and remote figure. He took comfort in his freemasonry serving as grand master of the Grand Lodge of Tasmania and later, as WA Governor, replaced Archbishop Riley as the grand master in Perth.

His term in WA also did not get off to a good start. His critical comments about Tasmanian politicians - and his Orange leanings - had preceded him, making people nervous of his attitude. When World War I finished in 1918, WA's economy was depressed and there were growing Irish problems.

The Governor's loyalty to the Orange cause offended many people who were sympathetic to Home Rule. It is written that his time as Governor was a sad and non-performing event when there were three changes of political leadership. He returned to England after his service and devoted himself apparently to educational and philanthropic good works.

He died at Chelsea, London, in 1924.

Reviewed 2012 - 2013

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