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Sir James Willson Agnew (1815–1901)

At an early hour on Friday morning, there passed away one who will he mourned throughout Tasmania — the Hon Sir James Wilson Agnew. The deceased gentlemen had been for 61 years connected with Tasmania.

Sir James was born at Ballyclare, North of Ireland, on the 2nd of October, 1815, and was educated professionally at London, Paris, and Glasgow. Leaving London in the ship Willmot (Captain India Miller) he arrived at Sydney in the year 1839. Spending a few months in that city, the young doctor thought that instead of following his profession he would take up station life. He then proceeded to the western districts of Victoria, with a view of settling there permanently. On his way to the Grampian Hills, he met for the first time the Hon. Adye Douglas, now President of the Legislative Council, and since then, some 61 years, the closest friendship has existed between the two. The rough station life did not seem to be congenial, and on returning to Port Phillip he found a letter waiting for him from the celebrated Arctic explorer, Sir John Franklin, who was then Governor of Tasmania, at that time known as Van Diemen's Land. Sir John wrote offering him the position of Private Secretary. Sir James took the first sailing vessel leaving for Hobart, and on arrival he learned that the position had been filled. Sir John at once appointed him medical officer at the Cascades Peninsula. From this he was transferred to the General Hospital, Hobart, where he did duty, until he entered upon private practice. Sir James first became connected with the Royal Society when it was known as the Tasmanian Society, under the presidency of Sir John Franklin in the year 1841. His first contribution appears in the Journal in 1841, dealing with the "Poison of the Tasmanian snakes." On the 26th March, 1851, Sir James was elected a member of the Council of the Society, a position he filled up to the day of his death. In the year 1861, he was elected hon. secretary to the society, filling that position until the year 1893. Sir James has been a most liberal donor to the Royal Society and the Museum, presenting works of art to the latter institution, and many valuable books to the Royal Society's library. In the year 1888, he bore the entire cost of a shipment of English salmon ova, amounting to nearly £900, brought out under the personal supervision of the late Chief Inspector of Fisheries of Ireland (Sir Thomas Brady). Sir James was the first chairman of the Tasmanian Museum and Botanical Gardens also chairman of the trustees of the Public Library of Hobart. Both positions he filled up to the time of his decease.

The late respected gentleman leaves one daughter, Mrs. Henickey, residing in London and one daughter-in-law, Mrs. Charles Stuart Agnew, of Waverley, widow of his late son Charles Stuart Agnew. Colonel W. V. Legge, R. A., Commandant of the Tasmanian Forces, is also related by marriage. Two of his last acts the day before his death, were to forward a cheque to the Convalescent Home and at 6 a.m. on Thursday morning to sign his name to the Royal Society's address which was presented to His Excellency Sir Arthur Elibank Havelock at the swearing-in ceremony, which took place yesterday. For many years, Sir James represented the districts of Hobart, Jordan, and Macquarie in the Legislative Council, and was Premier and Chief Secretary when he retired finally from political life in 1887. In the year 1894 Her late Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria was pleased to confer the honour of K.C.M.G. upon him. For years the late gentleman was known, when practising as a medical man, as "the good Dr. Agnew, " and now having "crossed the bar" we can only say, "At Rest."

The funeral, which will be a public one, will take place on Sunday, leaving his late residence at 2.30 p.m. sharp, proceeding to the Cathedral, at which the Very Rev. Dean of Hobart will conduct the ceremony. The Council of the Royal Society and Trustees of the Museum will be the pall-bearers. After the Cathedral ceremony, the cortege will proceed to the Cornelian Bay Cemetery. Messrs Clark and Sons, of Collins-street, undertakers, have charge of the funeral arrangements.

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'Agnew, Sir James Willson (1815–1901)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 June 2024.

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