McPHERSON, Sir William Murray (1865-1932)


McPHERSON, Sir William Murray (1865-1932)
premier of Victoria and public benefactor
was born at Melbourne on 19 September 1865, the son of Thomas McPherson, iron and machinery merchant. On leaving school he entered his father's business and gained a leading position in Melbourne commercial circles. He became president of the Melbourne chamber of commerce, and was a Melbourne harbour trust commissioner from 1902 to 1913. He was also a member of the Hawthorn city council and in 1913 was elected to the legislative assembly for that electorate. He was treasurer in the Bowser (q.v.) ministry from November 1917 to March 1918, and held the same position in the succeeding Lawson ministry until February 1924. He became leader of the Nationalist party in 1927, and premier and treasurer on the defeat of the Hogan government in November 1928. The effect of the world depression on Australia, which began soon afterwards, caused McPherson much anxiety and the strain affected his health. Legislation passed by his ministry included acts liberalizing the conditions for the purchase of land by settlers and extending the benefits under the workers' compensation act; but it was difficult to do much in the financial conditions of the period. McPherson was defeated at the general election at the end of 1929, took a holiday in 1930, but never fully regained his health. He died suddenly on 26 July 1932. He married in 1892 Emily Jackson and was survived by a son and two daughters. Lady McPherson died in 1929. He was created K.B.E. in 1923.
McPherson was a highly successful man of business who became a sound, cautious, and far-sighted state treasurer. He was a man of great integrity and strength of character, much liked on both sides of the house. His countless acts of private benevolence were known only to his wife and himself, but two large gifts give him a place among Australian philanthropists. In 1924 he gave £25,000 towards the building of the Emily McPherson school of domestic economy at Melbourne, which was so named as a tribute to his wife, and in 1929 he gave a further £25,000 to the Queen Victoria hospital for women and children, as a memorial to his mother, Jessie McPherson.
The Argus and The Age, Melbourne, 27 July 1932; Burke's Peerage, etc., 1931; Year Books of the Commonwealth of Australia, 1923-30.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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