Bro. William John Austin

1850 - 1900

William John Austin - Victorian Orangeman

William John Austin was born on 5 November 1850 at The Park, Gilford, County Down, the son of John Austin.  He was educated at Gilford National School and the Belfast Academical Institution.  He worked as a linen and cotton manufacturer, who was apprenticed to Messrs Dunbar, McMaster and Company, Gilford, County Down, and afterwards with the firms of William Malcolmson and Company, and Malcolmson Bros. Belfast, before commencing business in Manchester in 1869.

A JP for the city and county of Manchester from 1889 onwards, he was the Chairman of Stretford Conservative Association, Vice-President of the South-East Lancashire Conservative Association, and Vice-President of the Stretford Conservative Club.  He was also a member of the Primrose League and a Freemason.  In political life he ‘vigorously opposed the disestablishment and disendowment of the Irish Church, and was equally vehement in his denunciation of the Home Rule movement’.

An account of his life stated that ‘from a comparatively early age he manifested a keen interest in matters relating to Orange and Protestant principles … he joined the Orange Institution before he had reached the age of seventeen years’.  He was the WM of Excelsior LOL 1893 in Belfast in 1870.  He became a District Master in Manchester in 1887 and the Manchester Provincial Grand Master in 1888.

A Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England from 1889-90, at the meeting of the Grand Orange Lodge of England held at Preston in July 1891 he occupied the chair, and with Lord Arthur Hill having tendered his resignation of the office of Grand Master, he was unanimously elected as his successor.  He resigned as Grand Master after a year due to ill health.  William Austin was a member of John Bradford Memorial LOL 627, a Manchester based lodge.

He was the author of ‘Roman Catholicism: Its bearing on the Irish Question’ (1889), ‘The Proposal for a Roman Catholic University for Ireland Condemned’ (1889),  ‘Signs of the Times and our duty in regard to them’ (1890), ‘The Jesuits: Rome’s Emissaries’ (1891), ‘An Ulsterman on the Radical Snare of Home Rule for Ireland’ (1892), ‘The Political Outlook: a Review and a Warning’ (1893), ‘The Papacy in England’ (1895), ‘Real Unionism’ (1895), and was a contributor to the ‘Purple Banner and Constitution’ and other journals.

In August 1895 he wrote of the Orange Order: ‘To me the noble aims and objects of our brotherhood are the essence of true, loving, Christian peace, with the natural sequence of happiness and prosperity’.

He lived at Poplar House, Rushford Park, Levenshulme in Manchester.  He died aged fifty and is buried in Manchester Southern Cemetery. His coffin bore the inscription: ‘William John Austin JP, late Grand Master of the Loyal Orange Institution of England; born 5th November 1850 – died 28th April 1900’.

The following account of the late Bro. William John Austin's funeral was taken from The Manchester Courier newspaper:

‘The funeral took place yesterday at the Manchester Southern Cemetery of Mr William John Austin, who died on Saturday last at his residence, Poplar House, Rushford Park, Levenshulme.  The deceased gentleman, who was in his 50th year, was a justice of the peace for the city, and was also late grand master of the Loyal Orange Institution of England.  The cortege left the residence of the deceased at 11 o’clock, and proceeded by way of Dickenson-road, Rusholme, Palatine-road, and thence to the cemetery.  The coffin bore the following inscription: ‘William John Austin JP late grand master of the Loyal Orange Institution of England; born 5th November 1850 – died 28th April 1900’.  Almost hidden from view by floral tributes of esteem and regret, the coffin was placed upon a Victoria funeral car drawn by four bay horses.  The chief mourners were Mr William Gilleland (one of the executors of the deceased), Mr R A Armitage ... The following telegram was received by the widow from Sir John William Maclure, Bart., MP, who was unable to be present: - ‘Please accept the assurance of Lady Maclure and myself of our sincere sympathy in your terrible bereavement and sorrow for sad loss of so valued and trusted a friend – John William Maclure’  The Rev S B Ainley, rector of St James’s Moss Side, was the officiating clergyman.’  

 

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