William came from a prosperous Episcopalian family. Educated at Marischal College, he became an apprentice architect in 1836, in 1839 joining the Royal Institute of British Architects as an associate member.
In 1842, he was signed up to teach Astronomy and Physics to a College of Native Youth in Calcutta. En route he made paintings of an extremely bright comet, which were later presented to the Royal Astronomical Society. Indeed during his days in India he painted continuously until he left in 1845.
Coffee planting had taken off in Ceylon, and he was employed by James Pattle to run his Hope estate.
Read more about William Clerihew here.