Sir Walter Watson Hughes

Sir Walter Watson Hughes (d. 1887) was a mining magnate and a benefactor to the University and to the Presbyterian Church.

He was probably instrumental in bringing the first Presbyterian minister to this State in 1839. A pioneer member of the Gouger Street Church, he financially supported the Presbyterian Church throughout the State.

Hughes was a farmer and miner from Fife, Scotland and recognised that terrain in the north of the state indicated the likelihood of deposits of copper ore[i], Hughes was one of the founders of the University of Adelaide.

Hughes, like Thomas Elder, Sir William Milne and Robert Barr Smith, was one of the
 many Scotsmen whose public spirit and rise in influence were outstanding in the colony. Shrewd, gentle and kind, he had little formal education but shared the Scottish respect for learning. W W Hughes was a pastoralist but after copper was found on both his Wallaroo and Moonta properties, he became a very wealthy man. In 1872 he offered £20,000 to the three main dissenting churches in South Australia to run their newly established non-conformist seminary called Union College in Currie Street. They, however, considered this far in excess of their needs, so the Union College advised Hughes to donate his money to establish a university[ii]. His gift together with a similar gift from Sir Thomas Elder was instrumental in starting the University of Adelaide two years later, the first university in the colony and only the third in Australia. Hughes founded the chairs of classics, English language and literature, and mental and moral philosophy. Hughes’s gift was conditional on the then minister of Chalmers Church, the Rev John Davidson, being appointed Professor of English Language and Literature, and Mental and Moral Philosophy. 

In front of the university which his generosity brought into being is his statue, carved by F. J. Williamson and presented by the Duncan family in 1906.

Hughes returned to England permanently in 1873. He was knighted in 1880 for his services to South Australia. He died in Chertsey, Surrey on 1 January 1887. Hughes was an uncle of Sir John James Duncan, and an ancestor of Adam Goodes.

The window on the western side, “Jacob", was dedicated in memory of Sir Walter Watson Hughes. This window was originally in the Flinders Street Presbyterian Church. 

[i] Chessell, D, 2014,  Adelaide’s Dissenting Headmaster, Wakefield Press, 2014, p199

[ii] Chessell, D, 2014,  Adelaide’s Dissenting Headmaster, Wakefield Press, 2014, p199

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