Bill Burton was captain of the junior team Kensington when he was called up to replace his older brother Alfred, a regular and capable defender, in the Norwood team for its last match of the 1885 season, against Port Adelaide at Kensington Oval.
South Adelaide already had the premiership in the bag, but runner-up Norwood ended a lacklustre year with a convincing 4.14 to 2.8 victory. At the start of the 1886 season, Bill was secretary of the Kensington Football Club when it went into dissolution after having played a valuable pioneering role since perhaps as early as 1870. He played with Adelaide in 1886, its premiership year. After football, the Burton brothers found their future in Western Australia, where Bill became Mayor of Kalgoorlie and Alfred a canon in the Anglican Church.
Bill was born at Norwood on 6 July 1866 to Martin ‘Charles’ Burton and his wife Sarah, née Earl, parents of five sons and three daughters. Bill as a young man distinguished himself in Adelaide literary and debating circles. He married Annie Vincent in Norwood in 1889 and moved to Esperance, WA, in 1895 to open an office for Harold Brothers of Adelaide.
Bill, at the age of 30, was elected the first Mayor of Esperance on 11 December 1896 and by coincidence his brother Alfred was the town’s first Anglican rector. Bill was a member of the Esperance Cricket Association, formed in 1896, and served on the committee of the Esperance Bay Turf Club during the years 1897-98. He advocated for a railway line to Esperance. When that failed to materialise, he moved to Kalgoorlie, where he took over the agency of George Wills and Co.
A football enthusiast, Bill was president of the Goldfields Football League in 1901-1904 and 1912-13. He also was known as the best Shakespearean scholar on the Goldfields. He was a pioneer of the Separation for Federation movement and chief marshal of the grand parade held in Kalgoorlie on 1 January 1901 to celebrate Federation. Although never a member of the Kalgoorlie Council, he served as mayor in 1922.
Bill Burton was 71 when he died at Coolgardie on 8 August 1937, predeceased by his wife the year before but survived by children Lilla, Alfred, Gwen and Marian.
Bill went out with a bang. He left money for his close friends at the Railway Hotel to see him off with French champagne. On the day of the funeral the owner of the hotel stood outside with a tray of glasses and bottles of Moët for members of the cortège. Cars peeled off for the occupants to drink a toast to Bill before rejoining the line to the cemetery.
P Robins, D Cox, C Lane June 2020