HISTORY OF KEW RSL
The Kew RSL received its fist Charter 1st January 1920; it later joined with the Hawthorn RSL. In November 1931 CR C.R. Parry organised the reformation of the Kew Sub Branch and its first president was Brig-Gen Pat Mc Glin, a veteran of the Boer & first World War.
The first club rooms were opened 17th July 1932 on Army land on the corner of High Street and Highbury Grove. In late November 1948 the Kew RSL bought “Wilton” from the Kew City Council for 10,067 pounds, but it wasn’t until July 1955 that the present site was occupied.
The Social Club was registered in 1953 and a liquor licence obtained in 1958. Substantial alterations were carried out in 1962, resulting in more or less the current arrangement.
Dr. William Buttler Walsh M.D., F.R.C.S was born 8th October in 1854, in Pay, France. His father was Rev. Edward Walsh, C of E minister in that town. He was orphaned at the age of eight and adopted by relatives in Ireland.
He was educated at Tipperary Grammar School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he obtained his B.A. degree in 1876. He then gained his M.D. and F.R.C.S.
For two years he was medical officer for the Peninsular and Orient Line and made many voyages to India and China; before settling in Melbourne in 1881. He was admitted M.D. at Melbourne University.
He bought land at the corner of Cotham and Charles streets from James Venn Morgan, an early Kew settler, who had built the first house in Charles street in 1852. On this land Dr. Walsh built “Wilton”, completed November 1886, a handsome building with a well planned garden, croquet lawn, stables and coach house.
The builder was Mr James Anderson and the architect, Mr Guyon Purchas, a well known Kew resident.
The bricks were made at the brick works on Wade’s farm at the end of Belford road towards the Yarra River. This area is now part of the Kew Golf Club. The interior of “Wilton” is described in Dorothy Roger’s book ‘A history of Kew’, the main features include the magnificent staircase and stained glass windows. Dr Walsh was the only doctor between Melbourne and Lilydale and was often seen driven around in coach by his top hated driver, Maurice O’Neil.
In 1886 he married Harriet Maud Gidley King, a descendant of Governor King of New South Wales, at Holy Trinity Church. William and Harriet had five daughters all of whom were educated at Ruyton Girls School. Their daughter Kathleen was a nurse in World War One. Dr Walsh died suddenly on the 15th of November 1902 aged 48. He is buried in Booroondara Cemetery.
The Kew City Council bought ‘Wilton’ in 1934 as the site for a new Civic Centre. Ratepayers were against the proposal to build a new town-hall and Civic Centre, so the proposal lapsed. The Civic Centre and Town Hall was built on the opposite corner, formerly ‘Southesk’ in 1961. ‘Wilton’ was sold to the Kew RSL Sub-Branch in 1948 for £10,047.
After Dr Walsh’s death, the property was occupied by various people, including Dr H.O. Cowen (1904 - 1908) and Dr G.E. Cussen (1911 – 1914). In 1930 the properties name was changed to “Landene” and divided into flats. By 1934 the council had acquired the property and it was still tenanted when in 1948 the RSL acquired the property. It contained 24 rooms before renovations began in 1953.