[Editor: This article was published in Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (Newcastle, NSW), 21 March 1938.]
Ald. R. Kilgour
Death ends long career
Seven times mayor
Ald. Robert George Kilgour, seven times Mayor of Newcastle, and a man with an outstanding record in public life, died at 5.50 p.m. yesterday. He was 71.
In the local government life of Newcastle district, in its public and charitable institutions, its business and sport, Ald. Kilgour took a most active and honourable part. His interests were widespread; his enthusiasm for work for the public good did not wane until his last illness began several months ago.
Ald. Kilgour’s record in public life gives some indication of the time and energy he devoted to the advancement of the district where he was born, though it does not show the high quality of his service nor the way his association and support were prized.
He was a member of the Newcastle City Council, with one brief break of a few months, for 28 years. In that time he was Mayor seven times; no other man sat on the city’s Mayoral chair for so many terms. His work as Mayor was not done in easy years — several of his terms were times of great stress and tribulation for the city and the council. He worked hard for the formation of the Newcastle District Ambulance Transport Brigade, and when it was created, served on its board, for several terms as chairman. He was one of the enthusiasts who worked for the creation of the Newcastle District Abattoir Board; that, too, he served as board member and chairman.
The Newcastle Show Association has the benefit of his service as vice-president and a member of the committee. During the war years both he and Mrs. Kilgour were among the hardest workers of Newcastle for patriotic and charitable causes. He was tremendously fond of bowls, but to play was not enough. He served several clubs, and then the association as office-bearer, finally reaching the position that showed the esteem in which bowlers held him — President of the Newcastle District Bowling Association. He had held that office for several years, and he prized it highly. These did not exhaust his public activities; he was worker, supporter or office-bearer for many other charitable and worthy organisations.
From 1910 to 1914 Ald. Kilgour was Manager of the Newcastle and County Mutual Building, Land and Investment Co. Ltd., and he became a director of the company about 12 years ago. He had been chairman of directors for seven years. He held the office of Newcastle District Registrar for many years, and was interested in a number of business and commercial agencies.
Born at Cook’s Hill
Robert George Kilgour was born at Cook’s Hill on January 31, 1867. His father was the late Mr. James Kilgour, one of the first school-teachers of the district. His mother had been Miss Margaret Wrightson before her marriage, and was the only daughter of Mr. George Wrightson, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, who came to Newcastle with the first locomotive to run in the northern district. Robert Kilgour’s father taught first in a private school at Tighe’s Hill, and incidentally preached the first sermon in that areas. When he died at Raymond Terrace he left a family of seven, of whom Robert, then 14, was the eldest.
The family returned to Cook’s Hill and Robert entered the audit office of the Railway Department, which at that time was in charge of Mr. Charles Goodchap. After seven years in the service he resigned, and was employed in various private businesses in town and country storekeeping. In 1915 he opened a business as a general commission agent in Newcastle. He succeeded his brother (the late Mr. James Kilgour) as manager of the Newcastle and County Building Co., with which he remained for seven years. He was eventually appointed to the board, and later became chairman.
Mr. Kilgour entered Newcastle City Council about 28 years ago. At his first attempt he was elected at the top of the poll for Macquarie Ward. At each succeeding appeal , he held that place in the ward, and subsequently, on the abolition of the wards, he still maintained his success, being re-elected on each occasion. He was Maylor seven times, and during three of his terms the world war was in progress. In those years Newcastle district won the Commonwealth honour flag for having raised the greatest number of recruits for any division in Australia. That honour flag is a treasured possession of the city. Newcastle district also raised its quota of each war and peace loan.
During Ald. Kilgour’s occupancy of the chair, Newcastle suffered an outbreak of the dreaded bubonic plague, and those who lived in the district at the time will not soon forget the arduous nature of the work that fell upon the Mayor and aldermen, in common with other citizens. Appreciation of the outstanding services of Ald. and Mrs. Kilgour took practical shape later, when they were guests of the citizens at a function in the old council chambers, in Watt-street. There a testimonial on behalf of the people was presented to Ald. Kilgour, the gift being handed over by the late Mr. William Scott, Managing Director Scott’s Ltd. Mrs. Kilgour also received some tangible token of esteem, and of the goodwill of the people of Newcastle, which they served so well during those trying years.
Forming the Ambulance
Ald. Kilgour was connected with most public efforts in the district during his municipal career, and of none was he prouder than of the District Ambulance.
“We started that fine institution,” he recalled in an interview long afterwards, “with six members, who were present at the meeting held at the old council chambers in Watt-street. The feeling was that there were so few present that we ought to drop the project. Nevertheless, a better feeling eventuated, and we decided to proceed, the original members being Ald. Gibson, Ald. J. F. Grahame, Mr. H. R. L. Zillman (bank manager), Mr. Edward Bearby, Mr. John Glassop, who acted as the secretary, and myself. Mr. J. Dolan, Superintendent, was invited to attend, and did so. We were in a peculiar position, and without funds. But a ‘building effort’ was then started with the result that in 12 weeks’ time we had £700 in hand. The contract price for the building was £10,000, and in five years from the date of commencement this, with the plant, cars and ambulance equipment, was absolutely free of debt. It speaks eloquently of the generosity of the people of Newcastle district.”
In his youth Ald. Kilgour was a noted Rugby footballer and footrunner, and received a gift of the late Mr. William Grahame, father of Mr. W. C. Grahame, ex-Minister for Lands, a cup for the best all round player in the club of which he was a member. He played football against several English and New Zealand teams, and recalled with interest the many pedestrian events in which he either took part or witnessed in the old days. many of these were run in Beaumont-street, Hamilton, in which at that time there were not half a dozen houses. The matches were attended by people from all over the district and from other parts of the colony. Footrunning at the time was the chief sport of the district, and there were many good runners.
It is just 50 years since Ald. Kilgour married Miss B. Parsons, who lived at Cook’s Hill. She survives him, as do two sons and two daughters — Messrs. Robert James Kilgour and Raymond Hamilton Kilgour, both of Sydney; Mrs. D. L. Lloyd, of Adamstown (wife of Ald. D. L. Lloyd, of the Greater Newcastle Council), and Mrs G. Field, of Merewether. There are also 11 grandchildren.
There will be a service at the Central Methodist Mission tomorrow at 2.15, and a motor funeral will follow.
Tribute from Bowlers
The Acting Secretary of the Newcastle District Bowling Association (Mr. G. Winsor) said last night:
“Bowlers throughout the district will be shocked when they learn of the death of Ald. Kilgour, who has been President of the association for years. He has been an energetic official, and has taken an active part in the game. He began to play bowls with Lowlands Club, of which he has been President and Secretary, and has been a member of New Lambton and City Clubs. He had made tours with Newcastle bowlers, including one to Queensland, and was the Newcastle representative on the New South Wales Association for a number of years.”
All association bowls matches which were to have been played in the district this week have been postponed.
Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (Newcastle, NSW), 21 March 1938, p. 6
Ald. = an abbreviation of “Alderman” (an elected representative on a city council or shire council; a member of the governing body of a local government)