GUILFOYLE, William Robert (1840-1912)


GUILFOYLE, William Robert (1840-1912)
landscape gardener
son of Michael Guilfoyle, was born at Chelsea, England, on 8 December 1840, and came to Australia with his father who conducted a well-known nursery at Sydney for many years from 1851 onwards. Guilfoyle was educated at Lyndhurst College, Glebe, and was also helped in his studies by W. S. MacLeay (q.v.) and John McGillivray, the naturalist. In 1868 Guilfoyle was on the Challenger on a botanical voyage to the South Sea islands, and subsequently he was engaged in growing sugar-cane and tobacco in Queensland. In 1873 he succeeded Baron von Mueller (q.v.) as director of the botanic gardens, Melbourne, and spent the next 36 years of his life in developing them. The area was comparatively small when he began, but it grew to slightly over 100 acres, and while not neglecting the purely scientific side of the work Guilfoyle created it as a landscape garden. What had been little better than swamps became lakes, a delightful fern gully was made out of a small depression, noble lawns bounded by carefully disposed groups of trees were laid out, and the result was the finest gardens in Australia and probably one of the finest in the world. Guilfoyle was forced by poor health to resign his position in September 1909, and he died at Melbourne on 25 June 1912. He married late in life and left a widow and one child. He was the author of Australian Botany specially designed for the Use of Schools (1878), the A.B.C. of Botany (1880), and Australian Plants (1911).
Men of the Time in Australia, 1878; The Argus and The Age, Melbourne, 26 June 1912; J. W Maiden, Journal and Proceedings Royal Society of New South Wales, 1921; Sir Frank Clarke, In the Botanic Gardens.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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