Laurie, Bill

William (Bill) Rae Laurie, B Arch (USyd), FRIBA, FRAIA, DSC (Hon) (UNSW)

was raised in Tynron, Hannah Street, Beecroft. He was the son of John Laurie [1]. John had emigrated to Australia for health reasons from Dumferline in Scotland where he had been a whiskey merchant. The family arrived when William was 6 years of age [2].William attended Beecroft Public School where he won an academic prize in 1910 and the Gould League Prize in 1913 [3]. For the 1913 end of school year displays:

“Willie Laurie making a capable showman, his exhibits comprising ‘waxworks’ figures representing military men, Wade, Holman and various celebrated personages in nursery rhymes” [4].

In 1914, together with Marie Byles and Hugh McCredie he won a scholarship that (in his case) took him to Cleveland Street High School for two years [5] and then for two years to Sydney High School. From there he enrolled in the first year of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Sydney in 1918. He graduated in 1922 at the age of 19 ½ years with the University Medal [6].

He travelled to England and Europe, having also won a travelling scholarship. While there we worked with James Miller in Glasgow, William llison and Herbert Baker in London and had the honour of working with the celebrated Imperial architect Edwin Lutyens who, amongst other things, worked on the new city of Delhi [7].

He was admitted to the roll of the Institute of Architects in 1925. The foundation Professor of Architecture, Leslie Wilkinson, proposed him for membership of the Institute of Architects in 1928 [8].

In 1932 he formed an architectural firm with Eric Fergus Heath (1894-1952) in Sydney where they designed houses (including in Beecroft [9]) and in 1937 the Grazco building in York Street Sydney and in 1939 a classroom block for Abbotsleigh. The partnership ended when Heath enlisted for World War 2 [10].

For the man who designed the Beecroft War Memorial in 1928, as President of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects he wrote an article on what war memorials for World War II should be like. In this article he suggested that a building for utility purposes (like a hospital, community centre or the like)

“merely provides the community with an opportunity to avoid responsibilities which it should normally shoulder. Whether monument or building a memorial should indicate its purpose, be dignified, and be located in well-planned surroundings” [11].

Amongst his professional honours he became the Vice President, Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 1945 and then President by 1947; was appointed as member of the Board of Architects of NSW in 1952, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science by the University of New South Wales in 1966; was awarded the Gold Medal of the Australian Institute of Architects in 1967 and was appointed to the National Council of the Australian Institute of Architects for 1991-1992.

In 1934 he married Kathleen Annie Vicars daughter of Mr & Mrs Robert Vicars of Yallambee, Cheltenham. His best man was Hugh McCredie who had been his fellow scholarship winner in Beecroft Public School. The ceremony was at the bride’s home and was performed by the local Presbyterian Minister, Rev A M Ogilvie [12]. In the same year his wife’s sister, Margaret Moor Vicars, married on 10 July 1934 in the Presbyterian Church in Beecroft, William John Victor Windeyer (1900-1987) who went on to be knighted and a Judge of the High Court of Australia. Sir Victor and Lady Windeyer lived for most of their married life in Peroomba, Harrington Avenue Warrawee – which was designed in 1938 by Laurie. The house was demolished in controversial circumstances by the next owners Mr & Mrs McCullagh in 2010 [13].

He died in 1970.

[1]      John Laurie was significant in the Progress Association and in the life of bowls in Beecroft – see elsewhere on this web site under Activities – Sport – Bowls. 

[2]      R Ringer An Australian Story: Twilight House 1915-2015 (Twilight House, Sydney, 2017) pp 168-169. 

[3]      Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 24 October 1910 p10; 25 October 1913 p 8.

[4]      Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 13 December 1913, p8

[5]      Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 7 February 1914, p 8

[6] (accessed 21 February 2019); Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 1924 p12

[7]      R Ringer An Australian Story: Twilight House 1915-2015 (Twilight House, Sydney, 2017) pp 168-169. 

[8]      Construction and Local Government Journal 3 October 1928 p3

[9]      Sydney Morning Herald, 15 February 1938 p 7

[10] Accessed 21 February 2019.

[11]    Sydney Morning Herald, 8 March 1947 p 2

[12]    Sydney Morning Herald, 3 December 1934 p4

[13]    K McClymont “The developer, the $100k gift and the ‘highly effective’ MP” Sydney Morning Herald, 9 May 2013