One of the richest families in Australia
The Wilson family was the largest source of funds for the Parker expedition. By the end of the expedition they had invested over 40% of the capital invested in the venture. This money came from a fortune made in sheep farming in Australia.
Samuel Wilson, was born in County Antrim in Ireland. He was the sixth son of a farmer. In 1838, when criminals were still being transported, two of Samuel’s elder brothers emigrated to Australia. The brothers had read about the healthy climate and opportunities in the new colony for settlers with capital. Despite stiff opposition from their parents, the brothers sailed to Australia. A third brother joined them a few years later and together they bought a farm north of Melbourne. Samuel Wilson was still a child at this point but when he was 22 he sailed to Australia at the height of the Australian gold rush. He initially worked on the goldfields around Ballarat but soon joined his brothers in farming. They prospered and by 1874 Samuel Wilson farmed almost 3 million acres of land, owned about 600,000 sheep and had built a fortune. In 1875 he bought Ercildoune farmstead near Ballarat and made it into one of the most important and (now) historic farmsteads in Victoria. He also owned the Yanko farms in New South Wales.
He had four sons who were all born in Victoria Australia: Gordon, Wilfred, Herbert and Clarence. He also had several daughters, two of whom survived to adulthood.
Samuel was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1875 and a few years later brought his family back to the northern hemisphere to England. He rented Hughenden Manor, once the home of Benjamin Disraeli, Queen Victoria’s favourite prime minister and sent all four sons to Eton.
Gordon made his name at Eton where he helped stop an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria. He later joined the army and married Lady Sarah Spencer-Churchill the youngest daughter of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. One of her brothers was Lord Randolph Churchill, the father of Winston Churchill. It was not just the sons who married well. Clarence’s sister Maud married the 15th Earl of Huntingdon who claimed descent from Robin Hood.
All four sons volunteered for service in South Africa during the Second Boer War. Gordon served with Colonel Baden-Powell at the siege of Mafeking. Lady Sarah remained with him for much of the siege.
Clarence was wounded twice in early 1900. The second time so severely that he was invalided back from South Africa. In February 1901 his brother Wilfred was mortally wounded in an attack on Boer positions at Hartebeestfontein in the Transvaal. There is a stained glass window in memory of him in All Saints Church in Learmonth in Victoria paid for by his brothers. Herbert Wilson was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for gallantry.
All brothers were accomplished horsemen. Herbert, or Bertie as he was commonly known, was considered to be one of the finest polo players of his age. He was a member of the team which won a gold medal in polo at the 1908 Olympics in London.
Clarence Wilson was a part of the expedition throughout and the singest biggest investor in the expedition. He also provided the transport for the expedition to get to and from Palestine. He was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron and the expedition used two of his steam yachts, the Water Lily and the Dorothy. He persuaded his brother Gordon to join him in Jerusalem from late 1910 to April 1911.