William D. Kekwick

William D. Kekwick

The forgotten man of Australian Exploration.

William Darton Kekwick arrived in South Australia in 1840 and worked as a storekeeper in partnership with Thompson at Burra. On 29 May 1851 he declared himself 'insolvent and unable to meet engagements'. When the goldrushes started Kekwick left, along with many thousand other South Australians for the Victorian diggings where he remained for a number of years. When he returned to South Australia he was introduced by his brother, D. Kekwick to James Chambers, who employed him to help John McDouall Stuart with his survey work in the far north.

The two men got on well together and Kekwick became second in command on Stuart's later explorations. In a letter, written on 8 February 1860 from Moolooloo station, Kekwick wrote to his brother, 'I am down again as you see after an absence of six months from Adelaide and over four months from here. The causes that have led to my coming down this far are to obtain fresh assistance and material to prosecute our further explorations in the north west. We go out this time for six months, first to solve the mystery of the lake or inland sea, secondly to fix the centre and plant a union jack there, then if possible wait for rain to carry us to the far north west coast'.

Kekwick was again second in command on the final crossing of Australia in 1862. The event was reported to his brother by Kekwick who wrote, 'We have planted Britain's flag on the shores of the Indian Ocean. The country is of the very best alluvial soil and the vegetation luxuriant in the extreme. Our journey has been a most interesting one and water and grass are most abundant'. The letter was finished at on 30 November 1862 at Mount Margaret Station, when he informed his brother that, 'You will be very much pleased and gratified to hear of the safe arrival here of all our party and the unbounded success that has attended Mr Stuart's third attempt to reach the coast. Our return has been one series of hard pushes on account of the extreme dryness of the season so that our horses are nearly exhausted. Mr Stuart has been very ill indeed all the way down and had to be carried on a stretcher'.

Kekwick later went into business at Port MacDonnell. In 1871 he returned to Adelaide in the hope to find employment with the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line. Being unsuccessful he once more started gold mining. This time on a reef at Echunga in the Adelaide hills.

When William C. Gosse planned an expedition in 1872, the Commissioner of Crown Lands secured Kekwick's services and he was appointed third in command and collector of botanic and natural history specimens. On reaching Beltana he became seriously ill and was taken to Nuccaleena for medical treatment. Unfortunately he did not respond and died there on 16 October 1872 at the age of forty-eight, leaving his wife and four children not too well provided for. He was buried at Blinman.

A request by Derrington to the Commissioner of Crown Lands for some form of government assistance for Kekwick's family was denied as 'he had only been a few weeks in the temporary employ of the government'. A few weeks later Derrington tried again when he asked for the sum of $600 for Mrs Kekwick and her four children who were all under the age of eight years. This time the Commissioner was more sympathetic. After all, he said, Kekwick's health had suffered from the many trips into the interior.

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