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Henry James Armstrong (1846–1916)

Henry James Goldsmith Armstrong, n.d.

Henry James Goldsmith Armstrong, n.d.

H. J. Armstrong’s

Surprise and sincere regret were expressed throughout the town and district on Tuesday when it became known that Mr Henry James Goldsmith Armstrong the veteran Kyneton solicitor, was dead. It was known by many that he had been ill for several weeks past, but few were aware that his illness was likely to terminate fatally. He had been suffering from an affection of the liver, and in June last took a sea trip to Sydney. Deriving no benefit from this, however, he remained away only a week, and on his return consulted Dr. Duncan, who saw at once that his condition was serious. On August 29 he found it necessary to take to his bed but continued to transact his business as a solicitor by means of instructions issued to his son, Mr Keith Armstrong. The patient was visited constantly by his medical advisers, but despite all their efforts he gradually sank and died at 12.30 p.m. on Tuesday after being unconscious since the previous Monday morning. Mr Armstrong was of a kind, unassuming and benevolent disposition, and was widely known, esteemed and respected.

His Career.

Mr Armstrong was born 0n January 25, 1846 at Port Cygnet on the Huon River, Tasmania. He was the son of the late Mr Oliver Goldsmith Armstrong, P.M., who came with his family to Victoria from Tasmania in 1854. The son later returned to Tasmania for the purpose of completing his education at Hutchin's School, Hobart which he had been attending for two years previously. During his school career he visited Victoria regularly every vacation to see his relatives. He left school in 1861 and for a time filled a position as clerk in the office of his father, who was at that time manager of the late Mr Hugh Glass's mill at Riverview, now owned by Mr A. Ward. Mr Oliver Goldsmith Armstrong died in 1890. After leaving his father's office, where he did not remain long, he accepted a position as flagman under Mr Angus Mc Laughlan, who was then surveying a telegraph line between Melbourne and Sale. In 1862 he became articled to the late Mr Frederick Horatio Boulton who was then practising as a solicitor in Kyneton, and on September 14, 1869 Armstrong was admitted to the Bar. In 1877 he commenced to practice in Kyneton on his own account in quarters in Mollison street between High and Market streets. Three years later this office was destroyed by fire. Following this misfortune he erected an office in Jennings street, and this is still part of the premises in which his business is carried on by his son. Mr Armtrong's talent as a solicitor caused him to prosper in the profession, and clients came to him from far and near. For some years he had rooms at Taradale where he used to visit weekly. For a lengthy period and up to the time of his death the Kyneton and Metcalfe Shire Councils retained him as their solicitor, as did also the Malmsbury Borough Council until the time of its amalgamation with the Kyneton Shire. Mr Armstrong was possessed of considerable literary ability, and was the author of many works which were eagerly sought after. His best known books were two novels. "Our Alma" and "Euancondit," both of which are stories of Taradale and Fryerstown diggings. The latter takes its name from the euancondit or native wax flower, with which the Fryerstown Ranges are covered during the spring months. In his earlier years he had contributed many articles, principally of a humorous nature, to the local papers. He had great ability as a draughtsman, and was an adept in illustrating the scenes and local incidents of his early life.

Mr Armstrong, outside his profession was best known on account of his devotion to the cult of Freemasonry. He being regarded by his brother Masons all over the Commonwealth as an authority on all matters relating to the craft. He founded the Kyneton Lodge of Freemasons, and occupied all the honors at its disposal and in addition, was the first W.M. of the Kyneton Lodge, a P.J.G.W. of the Grand Lodge, and first principal in Royal Arch Kyneton Chapter, in G. Chapter, P.G.H. He was also P.M. in the Mark Dalhousie Lodge. He built and was up to the time of his death the owner of the Masonic Hall in Yaldwin Street. He also owned other valuable properties in the town.

On June 1, 1887, he became married to Miss Isobel Musgrove, daughter of the late Mr A. W. Musgrove, of the Melbourne Customs, who survives him, and he leaves two sons and one daughter. The elder son. Mr Keith Armstrong, is associated with the profession here. The younger son, Private Donald Armstrong, is serving with his regiment in France, and the daughter, Miss Nance Armstrong, resides with her parents. He leaves three brothers also to survive him. They are Mr J. Armstrong of Major and Armstrong, solicitors Melbourne; Mr F. G. Armstrong, of Melbourne, and Mr T. Armstrong. of the Customs Department.

Mr Armstrong, in his young days, like his brothers and his nephew, the world-famed Warwick Armstrong, was a fine cricketer. He was also possessed of considerable musical ability. He was a man of great generosity and there are many who benefitted by his benevolence. His charity, however, was always dispensed cheerfully and without ostentation. The greatest sympathy is felt for the bereaved relatives.

A Friend's Appreciation.

The following appreciation is from a life-long friend of the late Mr. Armstrong:—

By the death of Mr. H. J. Armstrong a distinct gap has been left in the life of our community. Knowing him for a period of over 40 years, I deeply feel the loss of one whom I was privileged to call my friend. His friendship was not of the opportunist kind, nor was it of that variable character, often seen in daily life, where a person's moods may be the predominating influence. He was not easily approachable, but to know him intimately not only a pleasure, but as I have already said, a privilege. That which was a chief and distinguishing feature of his life was his devotion to his profession. His unswerving integrity, his high regard for the interests of his clients were conspicuous conditions of a well-ordered professional life. In court he was a zealous advocate, but fair to the point of being generous. His presentation of a case showed at once that he had mastered all the facts with meticulous care. At all times a courteous and amiable advocate, his success lay in his thorough grasp of the subject and his wide knowledge of law. He was not only a specialist in mining law, but wrote a book on it which is the leading authority on this subject in the State.

In regard to writing, few even amongst his intimates were aware that he possessed very high literary attainments. This was largely due to the fact that he wrote under a nom de plume, like many authors, and was reticent to a degree regarding his success as a writer. Many years since—to be exact, in 1894—he wrote a charming idyllic love story entitled "Our Alma." The work received high commentary in the columns of the "Scotsman"and "Athenaeum" in the old country and in many Australian journals. This was followed a year later by "Euancondit," a story of Australia in the sixties. This was a more ambitious effort than its predecessor, and would do credit to any author. Both books were written under the pseudonym of Henry Goldsmith, which effectually concealed the writer's identity.

During his long career he never showed any desire to enter public life, either locally or in some higher sphere. All the same, he took a keen interest in everything that was going on. He was one of the founders of the Kyneton Lodge of Freemasons, and his enthusiasm in this direction was one of the leading features of his life. It is not permissible to say more than that he embodied in his own person the highest ideals of this ancient institution, chiefly as they concerned the amenities of everyday life. His sympathies were wide and his generosity scarcely less so. In a quiet and unostentatious way he did a great deal of practical good, in a manner that his most intimate friend would never suspect. He leaves behind him a memory of a well-lived life, consistent attention to duty, and a daily example that those of his friends whom he leaves behind will bear in grateful remembrance.

Another Testimony.

In referring to him one of the members of the legal fraternity, in deploring their loss, spoke thus of him:—

"Mr Armstrong was a most capable practitioner. He had a thorough knowledge, born of long experience and studious habits, of all legal matters appertaining to the profession of a country practitioner, and in his office work was most methodical and systematic. During his long and successful professional career he had established a sound reputation for personal honor and integrity. The business as well as the closer or friendly relationships were always of the most friendly nature, and his death has created a blank in the legal fraternity of Kyneton which will be very much felt for years to come."

That expression of tenderness will find a keen response in the hearts of all who had the pleasure of even a slight acquaintance with him, who was the embodiment of all kindly thought.

Original publication

Citation details

'Armstrong, Henry James (1846–1916)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Henry James Goldsmith Armstrong, n.d.

Henry James Goldsmith Armstrong, n.d.

H. J. Armstrong’s

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Goldsmith, Henry

25 January, 1846
Port Cygnet, Tasmania, Australia


26 September, 1916 (aged 70)
Kyneton, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (liver)