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Snowden, Sir Robert Eccles (1880–1934)

from Mercury (Hobart)

The late Sir Robert Eccles Snowden, who was created Knight Bachelor on January 1, 1930, was a native of Hobart and a son of the late Mr Robert Snowden, a former Mayor of Hobart and Warden of the Hobart Marine Board. He was born at Stanwell Hall, corner of Melville and Ballack Streets. He was educated at the Hutchins School, and on leaving school gained business experience with the firm of H. K. Fysh and Co.

On the outbreak of the Great War he joined the Australian Imperial Force as major of the 15th Battalion, having previously held that rank with the Derwent Regiment, of which, for a number of years, he was adjutant. In December, 1914, he embarked with other members of the expeditionary forces, and participated in the landing at Gallipoli, where in the following May he was wounded. Following the evacuation of the Peninsula he organised and commanded the 47th Battalion, an offshoot of the original 15th Battalion. At the conclusion of his service his abilities were utilised in an important position in a large munitions works in London. On returning to Australia, Sir Eccles Snowden (then Colonel Snowden) occupied the position of complaints officer for Tasmania, and on the inauguration of the Repatriation Department became a member of the State Board.

Turning his attention to civic and political affairs, in May, 1919, he was elected as member for Denison in the State Parliament, for which constituency he was again returned in 1922. On the retirement of Sir Elliott Lewis from the Lee Ministry he was appointed to the vacant Chief Secretaryship. He was for a time deputy chairman of Committees, and a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts. His Parliamentary work was in addition to service on behalf of his Hobart fellow citizens. In December, 1919, he was elected an alderman of the Hobart City Council, and in the following year became Mayor. So admirably did he fulfil the responsibilities and duties of the Mayoral position that successively he was twice re-elected to the position. During his Mayoral terms of office, as first citizen, he entertained H.R.H. the Prince of Wales and General Sir William Birdwood, under whom he had served in the war years.

His public-spirited activities included active participation in the affairs of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia, of which, for a time, he was Australian vice-president, and the chairmanship of the Tasmanian Institution for the Blind, Deaf, and Dumb. The Boy Scout movement always had his enthusiastic support. A keen sportsman, golf and royal tennis claimed his energies, and in numerous important events his colours were carried to victory on the race track.

Succeeding the late Sir Alfred Ashbolt (then Mr. A. H. Ashbolt), as Agent-General in London for Tasmania, in May, 1924, the late Sir Eccles Snowden rendered service that both advantaged the State and enhanced his previous record of public service. He enjoyed the confidence of the two administrations under which he served, and on the expiration of his original commission, the Lyons Government in 1927 renewed the appointment. Subsequently it was further extended for an additional term of two years.

As Agent-General in London, Sir R. E. Snowden was persona grata in official circles, and, as Tasmania's representative, won a wide circle of friendship and regard. The requirements of the Tasmanian export fruit trade received his continuous oversight, and, following on visits to German and Scandinavian ports, he furnished the Government from time to time with valuable reports regarding possibilities in the direction of extending the trade in European countries. Advocacy of the suitability of Tasmanian hardwoods in building construction, especially for flooring purposes, was included in his many-sided overseas activities on the State's behalf.

Lady Snowden, who before her marriage was Miss Ivy Isaacs, of Sydney, survives her husband, together with a son and two daughters. Lady Snowden was one of Hobart's most popular mayoresses. She identified herself closely with works of benefaction in Hobart, particularly so far as such organisations as the Red Cross Society, the Bush Nursing Association, and the organisation which devotes itself to securing the well-being of children were concerned. Lady Snowden was a member of the executive of the Red Cross Society, and a vice-president of the Child Welfare Association. She was also on the committee of the Bush Nursing Association, and, in addition, served as delegate for that association to the National Council of Women. For the distribution of canteen funds at the conclusion of the war, Lady Snowden was appointed by the Commonwealth Government as the woman representative for Tasmania upon the State Board. During the War she made herself responsible for canteen work in Egypt, and at the request of Sir John McCall subsequently undertook work at the Agent General's office in London, her duties associating her in an honorary capacity with the interests of Tasmanian soldiers. As president of the Empire Trade Defence Association, Lady Snowden was instrumental, with others, in organising the exhibition of Tasmanian trade at the City Hall, Hobart, some years ago.

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'Snowden, Sir Robert Eccles (1880–1934)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/snowden-sir-robert-eccles-13787/text24625, accessed 11 December 2019.

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