Robinson, William Cleaver Francis (DNB01)

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ROBINSON, Sir WILLIAM CLEAVER FRANCIS (1834–1897), colonial governor, born on 14 Jan. 1834, was the fifth, son of Admiral Hercules Robinson [q. v.] He entered the colonial service in 1855 as private secretary to his elder brother (Sir) Hercules George Robert Robinson, afterwards first Baron Rosmead [q. v. Suppl.], who was then lieutenant-governor of St. Kitts. In 1859, when his brother became governor of Hongkong, he accompanied him thither in the same capacity. He was president of Montserrat in 1862, and from January to October 1865 he administered the government of Dominica. From 23 May 1866 to 1870 he was governor of the Falkland Islands, and from 5 July 1870 to November 1873 governor of Prince Edward Island. During his administration the question of political union with the Dominion of Canada was debated, and his patience and judicious counsels assisted to bring about the union in July 1873. On 14 Nov. 1874 he was appointed governor of Western Australia. He assumed the administration on 11 Jan. 1875, relinquishing it on 6 Sept. 1877, after his appointment as governor of the Straits Settlements. In 1878 he proceeded to Bangkok on a special visit to invest the king of Siam with the G.C.M.G., on which occasion he was invested with the grand cross of the order of the Crown of Siam, which he received permission to wear. On 10 April 1880 he again assumed the office of governor of Western Australia. During his second governorship of the colony he was successful in wiping out a debt of 80,000l., and leaving a balance of 32,000l. in the treasury. He remained until 17 Feb. 1883, when he became governor of South Australia. In 1889 he left Adelaide to assume the acting governorship of Victoria, during the absence on leave of Sir Henry Brougham Loch (afterwards Baron Loch) [q. v. Suppl.] His administration extended from 9 March to 18 Oct. 1889, and was marked with great success. After a second brief tenure of office from 16 to Nov., he proceeded to England. His administration was so acceptable in Victoria that, at the conclusion of Sir Henry Loch's governorship, the premier and the leader of opposition were about to send a joint request to the colonial office that Robinson might be nominated his successor when they learnt that Lord Hopetoun had been appointed. He was nominated for the third time governor of Western Australia, that he might by his administrative experience and previous knowledge of the colony facilitate the inauguration of responsible government in the last Australian crown colony. While in London he rendered considerable assistance both to the colonial office and to the Western Australia delegation in aiding the passage of the constitution bill through parliament. He left England for Perth in September 1890. He retired from active service in 1895.

Robinson was created C.M.G. in 1873, K.C.M.G. in 1877, and G.C.M.G. on 24 May 1887. He was a musical composer of some note, and wrote among other compositions a number of well-known songs, including 'I love thee so,' 'Imperfectus,' and 'Thou art my Soul.' Among his part songs were Autumn Woods '(1885), 'For Thee '(1885), 'From o'er the Sea' (1886), and 'The Rose in October' (1888). He died at his residence, 5 Cromwell Houses, South Kensington, on 2 May 1897. On 7 April 1862 he married Olivia Edith Dean, daughter of Thomas Stewart Townsend, bishop of Meath. By her he had three sons and two daughters.

[Burke's Peerage, s.v. 'Rosmead'; Mennell's Dict. of Australian Biogr. 1892; Parker's Sir William C. F. Robinson, reprinted from the Centennial Magazine, July 1899; National Observer, 7 Nov. 1891; Colonial Official Lists; Times, 3 May 1897; Hodder's Hist. of South Australia, 1893, ii. 96-123.]

E. I. C.