Robert David HAMILTON
d. 10 Nov 1935 

 

Gayndah Gazette, Friday, November 22, 1935

DEATH OF ROBERT HAMILTON , Abercorn Pioneer

On Sunday, 10th inst., at the General Hospital, Brisbane, there passed away after a long illness a well known identity, the "G.O.M." of Abercorn. It is only a little over 12 months, October 7th, 1934, since the whole of the Abercorn district was shocked and plunged into gloom over the sudden and unexpected demise of Mrs. R. Hamilton, at a comparatively early age of 63, who died from a sudden heart attack before she had even time to say good-bye to her relatives standing near. Since then her husband, Mr. Hamilton, has not enjoyed the best of health and only came out of the Eidsvold Hospital a few months ago after a particularly severe illness, as a result of which he lost the use of his lower limbs. Having recovered all his physical and mental faculties from the waist upwards and hoping to effect a complete recovery, he set out for Brisbane, accompanied by his daughter, Mrs. Roach (who had come all the way from Charleville to help in the nursing), to see if a specialist could effect an improvement. The deep x-ray treatment and hospital atmosphere was too much for him in his enfeebled health and he passed peacefully away on Sunday, 10th.

The body in a beautiful silver mounted coffin was sent from Brisbane on Monday's train and arrived at Abercorn on Tuesday afternoon.

The coffin was covered in beautiful wreaths from the relatives and friends of the deceased residing in Brisbane. Upon arrival at Abercorn the body was taken to the Abercorn Homestead, the residence of the deceased, where many more beautiful wreaths were added from the people of the district. At 5 p.m. on the same day the funeral took place, the internment being in the private cemetery of the family between the homestead and the railway line, alongside his well beloved wife and helpmate.

The funeral service was conducted by the Rev. Stevenson, who, in a sincere and touching address from the graveside, exhorted them all to take the life of Robert Hamilton as an example for a true Christian to follow. "Not often did he have the privilege of officiating at the graveside of a man like this who always placed his God before everything else. One felt that God actually dwelt in him and he in God. A true Christian if ever there was one."

The funeral, though arranged suddenly, was largely attended by people from all over the district as the "Old Boss" as he was affectionately called, was loved and respected by all classes and sects. The chief mourners were Mr Reg. J. Hamilton and Miss Helen I. B. Hamilton and Mrs. Reg. Hamilton, Mr. and Mrs. J. Pickering, and I. Pickering. Representatives Masonic (Eidsvold) Messrs T. W. Williams, S. Waite, and B. P,. Chapman were present, also the Eidsvold Shire Council was represented by Cr. Avard, the deceased having served on the Council both as a member and chairman. The pall bearers were Messrs T. W. Williams, S. Waite, W. H. Bartlett, R. Bartlett, E. B. Chapman, and Phil O'Dwyer.

The deceased, who was 72 years of age is survived by five children, Mr. W. F. J. Hamilton. (Main Road Surveyor), Brisbane, Mrs. E. E. Harslett (Amiens), Mrs. F. Roach, Mr. Reg. J. Hamilton and Helen I. B. Hamilton, all of Abercorn.

For the last twelve years he has followed grazing principally at Abercorn, being the first of the new settlers to take up land here under the Upper Burnett and Callide Land Scheme. For years before that land was thrown open he was writing articles on the possibilities of the Upper Burnett, and was the first newspaper correspondent for five papers for the Upper Burnett, before the various towns grew and developed their own individual correspondents. However he continued to correspond from Abercorn for the "Daily Mail," "Maryborough Chronicle," "Gayndah Gazette," "Bundaberg Times" and "Monto Herald" until illness overtook him. For over twenty years he had been corresponding for the "Courier" and "Mail."

The deceased had the distinction of filling two full lives in two different countries, as his 45 years before he came to Australia was packed with exciting incidents, and his 27 years in Australia have, though not quite so colourful, been enough for a “life” for the average man. Some of his overseas life may be gleaned from the condensed report appearing in a leading English paper of July 31st, 1908. “It is with universal regret that the residents of Willesden and district learn of the impending departure of Divisional Inspector Robert Hamilton, who, as chief of police of the Harrow Parliamentary Division since 1906, won the respect of all who came in contact with him. With the officers and men under him he was the most popular of chiefs, and his retirement is a matter of genuine sorrow and regret to the whole force. The public too, in him lose a zealous and courteous officer. As a horseman he has few equals, and, mounted on his favourite black charger “Tim”, the inspector was a familiar and notable figure in the streets of London. That his services were always efficiently discharged was testified by the Chairman of the Petty Sessions Court on Thursday when he referred at the Court to the loss they were sustaining in losing Inspector Hamilton, who retires on full pension in a few weeks after 26 years service to go farming in Australia.

The inspector has had an eventful career. Born in Ireland in 1863 he preferred life in London to political squabbles in his native country. Becoming a police constable in 1882 he quickly gained promotion, becoming police sergeant at Bow Street in six years, within fourteen years becoming inspector in charge of ‘A’ division, four years later becoming Mounted Divisional Inspector of Clapham Division. Mr Hamilton early distinguished himself in the suppression of the outrages on the Victoria embankment and was on duty at many momentous events, including the opening of the New Law Courts, the review of the troops on their return from Egypt by her Majesty the late Queen Victoria, while at Bow Street he was concerned in the protection of public buildings from dynamite outrages. He also assisted in the arrangements of many famous trials at Bow Street, including the trial of O’Donnell for the murder of Carey, the Parnell Commission, in the matter of "The Modern Babylon."

He assisted in quelling the riots in Trafalgar Square, and made history by arresting John Burns and Cunningham Grahame, who were defended at the trial by the present Prime Minister. Mr. Burns' opinion of the inspector, when some years later he recommended him for the position of Chief Constable of Yorkshire, is interesting. "I have great pleasure in recommending to you, etc, the high standard of character, great ability, initiative firmness and general capacity of Inspector Hamilton. I have had exceptional opportunities of watching his private, and public career. In the first he has always been a gentleman, and in the latter a firm, genial, kindly and just official. The inspector has been on duty at many famous strikes, and has done duty at Royal residences on many occasions, being a bit of a favourite with royalty. He has guarded several foreign representatives, including the famous Li Hung Chang. He was on duty at the funeral of Mr. Gladstone, the Diamond Jubilee, and the departure and return of the South African troops. Also the relief of Ladysmith, and was at the War Office on Mafeking night. As the Mounted Inspector he accompanied the procession to the city for the Proclamation of King Edward VII, and just prior to that was at Buckingham Palace for the funeral of Queen Victoria, at House of Lords for the opening of King Edward's first Parliament. He accompanied the French President to the city this year, and at the Guildhall was recognised by Hon John Burns, and warmly greeted. Mounted on "Tim" he did wonderful service on duty in Hyde Park in dealing with the suffragette question, and, being an Irishman, Mr. Hamilton was much impressed by the charm and beauty of the ladies. Mr. Hamilton finished his career in keeping clear the streets for one of the most memorable events "The Grand Marathon Race," when he maintained perfect order amongst one of the largest crowds ever seen.

During his active career he received many commendations and decorations from dignitaries of the Church, Law and governing bodies, and is the possessor of some interesting photographs of himself taken with Royalty, including that taken with Her Majesty the late Queen. Mr. Hamilton in his time has conducted thousands upon thousands of prosecutions and it is his proud boast that he leaves the service with not a single enemy. He also preserves many excellent newspaper cartoons of himself humorously depicting his zeal and activity.

Resuming his life in Australia the late Mr. Hamilton arrived here accompanied by all his family, excepting his eldest son, Robert Peyton Hamilton, who was a distinguished English engineer and would have endangered his prospects to have left England just then. Arriving in Queensland he took up farming at Crows Nest. He soon found that in those days there was very little chance for the advance of his children's future on the land, and the Government being anxious to avail themselves of his services he shifted the family to Sandgate and started to travel along the coasts of Queensland, collecting evidence, etc. for the Government in the suppression of smuggling - particularly opium, which was very rife just then. Remaining at this for some time, but not being enamoured with the mosquitoes in the North in the summer, he resumed life at Sandgate with his family, but he was soon in harness again as the big tramway strike came on and he was immediately appointed an inspector of the special constable and served immediately under the Commissioner (Major Cahill). Peace and quietness having been restored he threw himself into local affairs of Sandgate and held many positions all at the one time, being secretary of five associations, including Liberal Association, also secretary for the local M.L.A., Mr Tom Bridges, Sandgate Town Band, Boy Scouts, Vicar’s Warden and Synodsman for the Church of England, as well as presiding on the bench at the Justices Court at the district court. It was here he became famous in Queensland over the police battering incident. While at service one Sunday morning a gang of Brisbane hooligans, being drunk and disorderly in the main street, the local police sergeant went to arrest them, but they bashed him to insensibility with beer bottles and were kicking him to death before a terrified crowd. Somebody ran down to the Police Station and told the sergeant’s wife, who ran into the church and asked Mr. Hamilton to come to her husband’s assistance. Mr. Hamilton was taking the offertory plate around, but he left off to run over, and took a “bash artist” in each hand and told the remaining one to follow behind, which he did looking very sheepish, and single handed and unarmed he locked the three of them up in the lock up, completing the action by presiding on the Bench next day and administering justice.

Shortly after this the family removed to Morningside, where the Hamilton's general store was started. Here Mr. Hamilton threw himself into public life again and occupied a host of offices in most of the local organizations, including Vicar’s Warden again. Here too history repeated itself as while at service one morning, the Sergeant of Police being away, they sent for him, as an Irishman, worried over the thought that his family of a beautiful little girl about six years and boy of about three years, were doomed to purgatory, suddenly, without warning, cut the little boy’s throat and was trying to do the same to the little girl. The mother, a strong woman, was putting up a great fight, with all her arms slashed from the razor, calling out to her neighbours for help, but all they would do was to throw stones on the roof which only further excited the maniac. At last somebody ran for Mr. Hamilton, who slipped out of the Church and broke open the door, and was in time to save the wife and little girl and get the maniac to the Police Station.

From Morningside he shifted to Ascot, but spent most of his time up on the Upper Burnett, where his son was engaged in surveying what was to be known as the Upper Burnett and Callide Land Scheme. Upon the land being open for selection he balloted for the well-known Spa Water blocks, and was successful. Deciding to go in for grazing and mixed farming he sold up his home at Ascot after a while and proceeded to make his home permanently on the Burnett. It was not long before Abercorn Homestead was well known for its hospitality, Abercorn being the name - family name - given to his new property by Mr. Hamilton. The lands Department and Railway Department, as a nice gesture to the “old boss” named the railway station and district after his place and home. All his life on the Burnett, with the exception of a trip round the world a few years ago, may be said to have been devoted to the betterment of the conditions of the residents of the landholder of the Upper Burnett.

Forming the first Local Producers’ Association (the Cynthia branch) he was the president for a great number of years, many necessary and beneficial reforms were effected. Resigning on account of being elected to the Eidsvold Shire Council as the first representative of the new settlers, he soon became a dominating force, and at the first subsequent elections he was elected chairman. He has held many other responsible positions, and during the whole of the time has kept the name of the district ever before the public per medium of his excellent M.S.S. to the various papers. His loss leaves an irreplaceable void could one find the person that could get contentment from continually serving the public - no matter how much abuse he received as his reward. It is very hard to find one that, with the training, natural gifts and unique experience as of the deceased, is financially independent enough to be able to do so in a new settlement. A staunch Protestant and “Tory” he was tolerant enough to number amongst his best friends all classes and sects and was beloved and respected by all. He suffered a big loss in the Great War when two of his sons were killed in action, Lieutenants Robert and Herbert, the former not having been seen since he left the old country.