Lewis William Roe

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Fast Facts
Type of person Individual
Date of birth 13 June 1841
Place of birth Montrath, Queen's County, Ireland
Date of arrival 1851
Principal occupation Solicitor
Date of death 15 Aug 1925
Place of decease Gawler

Arrived in 1851 on Board the vessel ‘Asia’. On which his father was the ships Surgeon Superintendent.1

William Roe Lewis served as the Secretary Loyal Gawler Lodge Oddfellows. Mr Lewis was Sunday School Superintendent and Warden for St George’s Anglican Church (he also had a large part in the erection of the church). He was also a Freemason at the Gawler Lodge. 2 Mr Lewis was Gawler’s first postal assistant and telegraph operator, thus having the privilege, of sending the first telegram from Gawler, as he had done from Salisbury, and later repeated at Gumeracha.

27 Adelaide Road was owned by William Roe Lewis, Solicitor of Gawler in 1888.3

In 1898 he was re-elected as Auditor of the Gawler Council. He was Treasurer and Chairman of Trustees of St George’s Church as well as a Synodsman in 1916.4

27 Adelaide Road was owned by William Roe Lewis, Solicitor of Gawler in 1888. 5

3 Turner Street, Gawler East was owned by William Roe Lewis and Peter Lewis in 1891.6

Two Twentyfirst Street was purchased by William Roe Lewis in February 1912.7

12c Lyndoch Road, Euke House was transferred to Joseph Wilcox the younger, storekeeper, and William Roe Lewis, gentleman, both of Gawler, in June 1879.8



There is ever a painful 'memory in the thought that good 'men who have faithfully served their day and generation must, by the inexorable decree of Fate, pass on and leave the conduct and control of temporal affairs to others who at their best have not the zeal, enthusiasm and ability to 'carry on' successfully. Such a thought more fully impresses itself when a district loses such a grand old man like Mr. William Roe Lewis, who passed onward on Saturday evening last, after a lingering illness of some months' duration.

The name of Mr. Lewis is a household word, for he grew up with the town and. district, and witnessed the many changes through the cycle of years that converted Gawler from a primitive settlement in virgin scrub to the growth it has attained to-day. What is more, he faithfully played his part, and closed a remarkable career with the feeling that whatever he had done he had also been able to live a life giving offence to none, remaining friends with all men. No greater tribute could be paid his memory than that of one of our well-known citizens — 'Mr. Lewis at tempted to live the right life, and he surely succeeded.'

To those of later generation it is difficult to comprehend a lifetime exceeding the span allotted by the Psalmist spent in the one neighborhood, and in times like the present when the average Australian is regarded as 'a casual individual,' that men could give of their time, talent and patrimony, that the future might be hewn out for the comfort and betterment of the community. Yet such is the reflex of the life of the late Mr. W. R. Lewis. Born at Montrath, Queen's County, Ireland, on June 13, 1841.

Mr. Lewis arrived in South Australia with his parents, Dr. and Mrs. Lewis, in September, 1851, and enjoyed his first meal in the district at the original Old Spot Hotel. Like all pioneers, Mr. Lewis had a soft spot in his heart for the ship that had conveyed them safely over the waters, for sailing in other days was more than an adventure, running into several months of anxiety with only frail boards between them and eternity, their faith pinned on the skill and navigating knowledge of the skipper. Thus the deceased used to speak of the 'good ship Asia,' a frail barque of 900 tons burthen.

Shortly after Mr. Lewis' arrival the State (then controlling telegraph and postal facilities) called for persons willing to become proficient in the mysteries of the new electric 'wire, the telegraph, and the youth went to Adelaide there to gain the necessary knowledge. He speedily mastered the intricacies, and when the telegraph line was extended northwards, was sent to Salisbury to open the first telegraph office there. Gawler was then enjoying a postal service, - the pioneer postmaster being the late Mr. Henry Calton, who was the veritable Poo Bah of the settlement, owning stores,' hotel, gardens, etc. He transferred the postal duties to Mr. George Gozzard, on the allotment opposite the Old Spot Hotel.

With the extension of the telegraph to Gawler Mr. Lewis was removed from Salisbury and sent on Northwards to become postal assistant and telegraph operator, thus having the privilege, of sending the first telegram from Gawler, as he had done from Salisbury, and later repeated at Gumeracha. In those days the telegraph business was kept apart from the postal work, and Mr. Lewis' first office was a front room in the Old Spot Hotel. He, however, did not long continue in the service, for after 12 months he turned his attention to law, and entered the office of the late Mr.F. F. Turner, in premises where the Institute now stands. He served his articles, and was called to the bar in September, 1S63, and was thus one of the oldest practising solicitors in the State, being deposed' of the unique honor as the oldest lawyer by Mr. Davidson, of Mt. Gambier, who preceded him to the bar in March, 1862.

Mr. Lewis spent one year at Gumeracha as Clerk of the Court and solicitor, and then, in 1865, commenced business on his own account in Gawler. When Mr. F. F. Turner left the town in 1880, to take up a responsible Government position in Adelaide he generously handed his connection over to Mr. Lewis without charge. The deceased had therefore, carried on the practise of his profession for 62 years, in 1901 associating with his brother, Mr. F. H. Lewis, 'under the style of Messrs. W. R. and F. H. Lewis. When the Bank of Adelaide gave over offices in Murray Street, Mr. Lewis secured the substantial premises and appropriately named the building 'Ex-bank,' a name that became very familiar in war work during those terrible years of strife, and since in the more peaceful penetration of missions to the heathen.

Throughout, Mr. Lewis conducted his business with the greatest probity, and became. an ideal lawyer reminiscent of the fine old English controllers of family estates. Never at any time had he ambition for the limelight of the pleader in the Courts of Law, and although he successfully appeared for many years, his aim was always along the line of conference between the aggrieved, with common sense prevailing. Independence, resoluteness, and loyalty to friends and party were marked features of the late Mr. Lewis' character. Steady and methodical in thought and in act, he was not hasty in forming conclusions , but when he did arrive on a certain course, he was' persistent in his decision, although always ready to accept and respect the digerings of others. Is it any wonder that he was highly respected and loved wherever he was known?

As a young man the late Mr. Lewis was brought into close association with the giants of those days men such as the late Hon. James Martin, Dr. Nott, Messrs. George Isaacs, E. L. Grundy, Gep. Warren, L. S. Burton, Jas. Harris, W. Barnet and others—whose principal labors were the establishment of a corporation and town, and the building, and promotion of an Institute that should be, second to none in the young colony. The young man loyally shouldered his duties, and for the greater part of the time was the hon. secretary when the Gawler Institute gave the State its national song, 'The Song of Australia' as well as the publication of South Australia's History in two volumes by Mr. Edwin-Hodder, the late Mr. George Fife Angas buying the manuscript prepared by Mr. H. Hussey for the Institute's prize of 200 guineas. His culminating effort, perhaps, was the fancy fair in 1863, on the Park land when whole bullocks were roasted to feed the people, and the financial result was £400, this being the high-water mark of such gatherings in South Australia up to that time. Among the guests were Sir Dominick Daly (Governor) the members of the Ministry, the Mayor of Adelaide and other influential citizens.

It was under his direction and organisation that the Institute fulfilled many of its undertakings, which gained for the town its complimentary title of 'The Colonial Athens.' The deceased had lively recollections of the famous Gawler Humbug Society, the organisation that was promoted in satire and on the spur of the moment against friendly societies in general, but which lived to become a power in the land, and finally return one of its members, Mr. E. L. Grundy, to Parliament. So wide became the society's ramifications, that it ultimately gave birth to a newspaper to record its happenings, 'The Bunyip' merging from this society of other days. Mr. Lewis could tell many humorous stories of the libel actions of this newsheet, and of the popularity of its printer, who courageously fought every action in the interests of justice and free speech for the press.

Mr. Lewis had a wonderful record of long service with many organisations, and a feature was that where he had to withdraw active interest owing to increasing business demands, and latterly on account of increasing years, he, nevertheless, retained association by financially connecting himself with all institutions aiming for the progress and welfare of the district.

As in the Institute, he occupied the Presidential chair, and followed this up by becoming a trustee, a position he held at the time of his death. The Memorial Institute appeal had his admirable backing and support, and although in the Autumn of his life maintained an interest that put to blush many who could easily have afforded the time and opportunities better than he. Up to 12 months ago he was one of the treasurers of the fund. In 1872 Mr. Lewis was appointed financial secretary of the Gawler, branch of the-M.U., I.O.O.F., and held the post for 50 years, when he resigned.

He was honored by the brethren by the public unveiling of his photograph in the lodge room. He was similarly honored by the Institute committee, as a result of public subscriptions, and an enlarged photograph of him was hung in the banqueting room of the Lodge of Fidelity of Freemasons, on the occasion of the opening of the new room. Mr. Lewis was raised to the chair of Fidelity Lodge in 1883, and a couple of years ago was paid the courtesy of being asked to control one of its regular meetings. He was auditor to the Corporation for nearly 30 years, and from 1873 until the society automatically exhausted itself, was the secretary of the Permanent Building and Investment Society. In the early days the Gawler A.H. and F. Society had Mr. Lewis as secretary, his remuneration being £10 and commission on members' subscriptions: Several shows were held in different sites, including the sheds and workshops of the Hon. Jas. Martin- the society then going into recess for want of a suitable ground for an outdoor exhibition. Mr. Lewis was also associated with the Literary Societies' Union and Model Parliament, the Gawler Cottage Homes, the D.T.N.S, the Adelaide University Gawler centre and for more than 50 years was connected with the Gawler branch of the' British and Foreign Bible Society’ as treasurer, as was his father before him.

In sport Mr. Lewis was a foundation member of the Gawler Bowling Club and retained his connection throughout, and was also Patron and President of many sporting bodies. His association with St George's Church; Gawler, dates back to 1863, where he assisted in the proposed erection of this historic edifice. Two years later he was appointed Warden for the first time, and since has filled the office several times as well, as that of Sunday School Superintendent and lay reader for many years. The history of St George's reveals the dogmatic determination of the men in other days to fulfil the visions of the architect, and although the church was erected piecemeal, as money was available, Mr. Lewis was really the only one of that band to see the beautiful building lifted from nothing until it gained the ideal, the installation of the memorial peal of bells in the massive tower. Although a staunch worker in his church his outlook on life was broad and unbiassed, and all denominations can look with gratitude upon his munificence that the betterment of man might be accomplished.

Space could be filled at will recounting the life history of a resident whose example many could copy with much profit, but to -those to whom, he was known there is no better memory than that it was their privilege to have associated and labored with one of God's gentlemen. Mr. Lewis took for his life companion Miss Jones, the parents of the young couple being old friends in the Motherland, and who both became' pioneers in the Gawler district. The family issue was one son and two daughters, the son being the only survivor of his father. He is Mr. W. H. J. Lewis (Sack), A.S.A.S.M, and for years associated with the Hydraulic department in Western Australia, being first employed on the construction of the goldfields water, scheme and since, in charge of that most important venture. The daughters were Mrs. B. W. R. Dunn, and Miss Nan Lewis. There are four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Mr. Lewis' surviving brothers are Mr. Richard Meade Lewis; now resident at Gawler South, and Mr. Fred Henry Lewis, co-partner in the legal firm.

The remains were interred in St George's cemetery, on Monday morning, a service being held in S. George's Church prior to the cortege moving off for the last resting place. The coffin bearers were Messrs. L. R. Wake, Geo. Bright, Arthur Smith and J. Rawling, and the burial service was read by the Rev. S. T. C. Best.

Please <click here> to view photos related to Mr Lewis.

[Researched by Allen Tiller]

Related Articles


  • Asia 1851. State Library of South Australia. https://bound-for-south-australia.collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/1851Asia.htm
  • 2. 'The Law Courts.' Bunyip (14 April 1893) p. 4. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article97237016
  • 3. Town of Gawler. 2 Twenty-first Street. Gawler South. Flight Path Architects Heritage Review 2020 VOL 4 pp.74-76
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Town of Gawler 27 Adelaide Road. Flight Path Architects Heritage Review 2020 VOL 4 pp. 8-12.
  • 6. Town of Gawler. 3 Turner Street. Flight Path Architects Heritage Review 2020 VOL 4 pp. 57-59.
  • 7. Town of Gawler. 2 Twenty-first Street. Gawler South. Flight Path Architects Heritage Review 2020 VOL 4 pp.74-76
  • 8. Town of Gawler. 12c Lyndoch Road. Flight Path Architects Heritage Review 2020 VOL 3 pp.25-28.
  • 9.GAWLER'S GRAND OLD MAN.' Bunyip (21 August 1925) p. 8. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article96636433
Oddfellows Procession 1897
Oddfellows Procession 1897
William Roe Lewis - Bunyip Newspaper 1925
William Roe Lewis - Bunyip Newspaper 1925

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