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William Speer was born in 1818 in County Tyrone, Ireland, and arrived at Port Phillip on 30 November 1841 on the Marquis of Bute, as a labourer.
In 1846 he signed a petition to the mayor about early closing of drapery shops. Four years later, he dissolved a partnership with John Meiklejohn and formed another with James Hempill.
On 29 June 1848 in Sydney he married Irish-born Margaret Anne (Annie) Hamilton (1831–84), the daughter of Michael Bennett and his wife Margaret, née Hamilton. They had eight sons and three daughters.
Politics and business
Speer was elected Alderman for Brisbane Ward, a position he held from 7 September 1858 to 1 December 1867. He was mayor in 1864.
In 1862 he was a proprietor of Osborne Wallsend Coal Co and proprietor and director of the Bulli Coal Mining Company. However by 1863 he was also established as a commission agent at the Bethel Wharf in Erskine Street with a private residence at 23 Clarence Street. His son William M Speer took over the contracting business at Erskine Street.
In 1864 William Speer senior was appointed a Justice of the Peace. By the 1870s he had freehold houses in Crown Street and land at Darling Point. He had a residence, Berryfield, at 8 Wylde Street, Potts Point, and was elected Member of the Legislative Assembly for West Sydney; he was their representative from 9 December 1869 to 3 February 1872.
In 1870, he bought 1280 acres (518 hectares) at Lake Macquarie, later renamed Speers Point, and built a residence for himself near the corner of Main Road and Park Street. In 1883, he contracted with the Sydney Council to supply coal for the Botany Water Works.
He died at Glebe Point on 20 September 1900 and was buried with Church of England rites.
CN Connolly, Biographical Register of the New South Wales Parliament 1856–1901 Australian National University, Canberra, 1983
'Mr William Speer (1818–1900)', Parliament of New South Wales website, http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/members.nsf/0/EB7E7DE02934E4C3CA256E5B00100052, viewed 20 June 2011
State Records NSW, Bounty Index Reel 2144
Sydney Morning Herald, 20 August 1864, p 6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13111464, viewed 21 March 2012