Notable South Australians/Sir Wm. Cleaver Francis Robinson, K.C.M.G.
Sir Wm. Cleaver Francis Robinson, K.C.M.G.,
WHO was appointed the Queen's representative in South Australia, arrived in Adelaide on February 19th, 1883. He is the fourth son of the late Admiral Hercules Robinson, of Rosmead, County Westmeath, Ireland, and a brother of that most popular of Australian Governors, Right Hon. Sir Hercules Robinson, G.C.M.G. He first entered official life in 1855 as Private Secretary to Sir Hercules Robinson, then Governor of St. Kitts, and accepted the like office at Hongkong on his brother's removal to the Chinese empire. Five years after, in 1862, he received the appointment of President of Montserrat, in the Antilles, and entered upon his duties in that flourishing locality. At the close of 1865 he was made Administrator of the Government of Dominica, and continued in that office for nine or ten months. In 1866 he was appointed Governor of the Falkland Isles, and in 1870 of Prince Edward's Island, where he remained three years, and at the end of his term of office was nominated C.M.G. In 1874 he was nominated to the government of the Leeward Islands, but subsequently accepted instead the Government of Western Australia, After successful administration of affairs in that settlement, he went to the Straits Settlements to Sir W. F. D. Jervois, who had received directions to proceed to Australia and report upon colonial fortifications. Before entering upon this new sphere of duty he was created a K.C.M.G., and whilst still Governor of the Straits Settlement, was entrusted with a special mission to Bangkok, to invest the King of Siam with the insignia of the order of G.C.M.G. For this service His Siamese Majesty created him a Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of his kingdom. Sir William returned to Western Australia in 1880 as its Governor, and by his progressive policy, good judgment, and high administrative ability, speedily became a favourite with all classes. The financial condition of the colony was then in a very depressed state, complaints existed as to the public accounts, the audit was in arrear, and there was a debt on current account of £79,000. At the close of the session of 1881 it was gratifying to find that the financial equilibrium had been restored, without any stoppage of public works. At the close of the session of 1882 the financial condition of Western Australia had so much improved through the exertions of Sir Wm. Robinson, that he was congratulated on all sides by the colonists, and received a well-merited eulogy on his endeavours from the Secretary of State, Lord Kimberley.
Sir William Jervois was, undoubtedly, an able Governor, but his successor will, if I mistake not, ere his term of office expires, win equally golden opinions. In these progressive times Governors act a different part to that some were wont to do in the early colonial days. The Governor now, like the king, may justly claim the title of "Father of his people;" he no longer "sits at home at ease," revelling in a life of indolence, and drawing his salary without showing something in return. He goes hither and thither, interesting himself in all pertaining to the welfare of the colony over which he presides, evidencing by his presence, his counsel, and judicious conduct a worthy example for many to follow. Since his arrival. Sir William has not been idle; he has visited everything of note in the metropolis and environs, whilst country townships have been honoured with his presence, to the no small satisfaction of the residents, who have in every instance shown their appreciation of his coming in a marked degree. It is gratifying to find that in a land like this, where little encouragement has been offered to art, and its companion poetry, a patron and friend to these should arise in its Governor. Being himself a composer of no mean order, he is naturally attracted towards all that is beautiful and excellent in the realm of art or song; and with this fact before us, may we not hail it as an omen that a healthy feeling in favour of what has an elevating and ennobling tendency will now set in, and encouragement given to genius be more promising than heretofore! Sir William Robinson's best known composition here is entitled "Unfurl the Flag." From the time this song was first sung, and its accompaniment played in the Town Hall (on the day His Excellency was sworn in), it has been a favourite in many households, and invariably given by vocalists in every town where demonstrations in his honour are made.
UNFURL THE FLAG.
(Words by Mr. Francis Hart.)
Australia's sons, your flag unfold,
And proudly wave the banner high,
That ev'ry nation may behold
Our glorious standard in the sky.
Unfurl the flag that all may see
Our proudest boast is liberty.
Rejoice in fruitful, teeming soil.
In fleecy flocks and noble kine;
Rejoice in fruits of manly toil,
For honest labour is divine.
Unfurl the flag, etc.
Rejoice in treasures 'neath the earth,
In precious gold, in store profuse;
Grant us to know its noblest worth.
Its object and its fitting use.
Unfurl the flag, etc.
In visions hopefal, fair, and bright,
Our country's future shines afar,
When as a nation we unite
'Neath Freedom's blest and beaming star.
Unfurl the flag, etc.
Rejoice, Australia's eons, but ne'er
Forget your fathers' native land—
Dear England, glorious and fair,
She claims your heart and willing hand.
Unfurl the flag, etc.
To England, Queen, and Austral clime
Unite in true and loyal toast;
And let it be your song sublime
That freedom is our country's boast.
Unfurl the flag, etc.
Lady Robinson is a daughter of the late Right Rev. Bishop Townshend, of Meath, and united her lot with that of Sir William in 1862, before his departure for Montserrat. Her ladyship is known as a friend of the deserving, and greatly interested in all charitable and philanthropic movements. Sir William is the patron of several clubs and societies, and his patronage is seldom withheld from any worthy object. His second son, Mr. Douglas Robinson, is a midshipman on board H.M.S. "Nelson."
A few of the most important of Sir W. C. F. Robinson's colonial services may be thus summarised. Whilst President at Montserrat, in September, 1872, he prepared a Bill which was an undoubted improvement on the existing constitution, as this enactment prevented the creation of fictitious votes, by which two or three persons were able to control the elections of almost every parish, and render the Executive Government powerless. K. B. Hamilton, Esq., Governor of the Leeward Islands, in writing on this matter, informed President Robinson that "he had rendered a great service to the island by causing this measure to be passed."
Whilst Administrator of the Government of Dominica in 1865, Sir William was instrumental in arbitrating judiciously between contending parties in the Assembly, when a Bill for the change of constitution of Dominica was being passed, and he was highly complimented by the Secretary of State for his coolness and prudence; Lord Cardwell signifying to him at the same time "Her Majesty's entire approbation of his conduct."
Governor Robinson's support of the claims of Captain D. Miller, R.N., an officer of Lloyd's Salvage Association, whilst engaged in protecting their interests from illegal sales of maritime property at the Falkland Isles, in July, 1868, is a matter of history; but the facts of the case will bear revival. A vessel named the "Coquimbana," with a cargo of copper of considerable value, was wrecked there, and illegally sold for a merely nominal sum. Captain Miller was engaged by Lloyd's Association to recover the same for the Committee, but encountered so much opposition from the residents of the islands, that he would have been unable to resist it successfully but for the prompt assistance of the Governor. It is gratifying to note that this valuable cargo of copper was secured to Lloyd's Association, and the Duke of Buckingham expressed his approval of the "energetic and successful" measures taken by the Governor to have the case thoroughly investigated.
When Lieutenant-Governor of Prince Edward Island, in May, 1873, Sir William was instrumental in bringing about a political union of that island with the Dominion of Canada, and received the congratulations of Lords Kimberley and Dufferin for the ability and judgment displayed in effecting that object.
In 1881, Sir William, whilst Governor of Western Australia, made certain regulations under "The Pearl Shell Fishery Regulation Act," by which the lives and freedom of the aboriginal natives were better protected, and justice more effectually administered in the outlying districts of that colony.
Sir William C. F. Robinson is one of the most popular Governors South Australia has ever had, and the earnest desire of our colonists is, that he may long be spared to exhibit that marked ability which has hitherto been instrumental in conserving their rights, and making this portion of Her Majesty's dominions a field for enterprise and colonization.