Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
William Clarson, son of William Clarson and Anne Barnes, was born at Tamworth, Warwickshire, England, circa 1832. Died by his own hand in Mildura, Australia, 30 December 1890.
No known date of birth, but Christened on 24 April 1832 at Cole Hill Presbyterian Church, Tamworth, Warwickshire, UK.
He emigrated to Victoria in 1853 after the death of his first wife, Sarah Barratt, together with his infant son William Alfred. Sarah died in 1854 and William re-married in 1855, to Caroline Stubback. There were no children of this marriage.
William was an early member of the Victorian Institute for the Advancement of Science (1854), and was involved in the foundation of the Melbourne Trades Hall. He was a founding partner of A H Massina and Co (1859), which was originally known as Clarson, Shallard and Co. He probably devoted himself to the editorial and business side of the company's affairs, which included the publication of a literary magazine, "The Australian Journal" (1865). He published several popular horticultural manuals and contributed scores of articles and papers to various publications. An early publication by the Victorian Institution was entitled "Phonetics", in 1854-55.
He was a fellow of the Linnean Society (London), and was a trustee of the Horticultural Society of Victoria from 1870-1884 (joined 1856). He was the honorary director of the Burnley Horticultural Gardens from 1868-1872. He maintained professional contact with the famous botanist, Ferdinand von Mueller.
There was a scandal involving his wife Caroline and Dr John Blair which resulted in a libel case in Melbourne in 1872. He separated from Caroline, who died at Kogarah, NSW in 1899. William and Annie Gertrude Clampett subsequently left Australia and lived in Kent, where the first two of their six children were born. A daughter's birth at sea was registered in Victoria, Australia in 1877. In 1888, about the time that William was declared bankrupt, he and Annie separated.
William published a book about Lord Howe Island in 1882, so it could be assumed he spent some time there. Other horticultural publications included "The Flower garden and shrubbery: with directions as to the management of the bush house, fernery, conservatory, lawn and other ornamental and useful home surroundings of the cottage and the villa" (1885); "The Kitchen garden and cottager's manual" (1893); "The Fruit garden: a practical guide to the planting and management in Victoria of the chief fruit-yielding plants of the temperate zones" (1889?). William went bankrupt in Sydney in 1888, following which he worked as the gardener at the Longerenong Agricultural College at Dooen, Victoria from early 1889. In August, he operated as an independent seedsman and ran an experimental garden in Mildura, where he also published articles in the "Mildura Cultivator", eventually acting as editor of the paper.
He went into a decline in late 1890 and died (shot himself) Tuesday morning 30 December 1890 & was buried Wednesday afternoon 31 December 1890 at Mildura. William was publisher, author,
botanist, journalist and editor. He was recognised by his contemporaries as
having done more than any other to advance the state of domestic horticulture
Source: Jean Ffrench, pers com. email, 2000; Ruth Marchant
James, pers com. 2002; Puline Rice pers com email 2012
Death notice: Mildura Cultivator Wednesday 31 December 1890 & his funeral = Mildura Cultivator Saturday 3 January 1891.