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Benjamin Boothby (1803–1868)

from South Australian Advertiser

Mr. Benjamin Boothby, formerly Second Judge of the Supreme Court of this colony, is dead. He has been ailing for some months past, although he has not been actually confined to his house, except for the last few weeks. His disease, we are informed, was a heart affection, on which dropsy supervened. We are sure that the simple announcement of his death will cause surprise to all our readers, and awaken sorrow in the hearts of not a few. Mr. Boothby has occupied a conspicuous place in our colonial history for some years past, and although he has lived in comparative retirement since the unhappy circumstances occurred which caused his deposition from the high and honorable office which he held as Second Judge of the colony, two or three facts have come to light at intervals to remind us that he was still amongst us. It was only the other day we informed our readers that notice of his appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council against his "amoval" from office had been entered, and that the matter would shortly come on for discussion. Now he is gone, and whatever may be the result of that appeal (if it should be prosecuted) it cannot affect him. He has ceased from the labors, strifes, and contentions with which he has so unhappily been mixed up, and has gone to "the land of forgetfulness."

The deceased gentleman was, we believe, born in the pretty little town of Doncaster, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. During early life he was engaged in manufacturing pursuits in Nottingham, where he entered keenly into the political excitements and struggles of the time. He is said to have had great skill in electioneering tactics. He displayed so much acuteness and intelligence in conducting the election of a prominent politician—we believe, Sir Thomas Wilde, afterwards Lord Truro—that he was persuaded to abandon trade and devote himself to law as a profession. He was some years in the office of Sir Thomas Wilde, and was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn, in 1841. He selected the Northern Circuit, and travelled it until 1853. In 1845 he was appointed one of the Revising Barristers for West Riding. He was also appointed Recorder of Pontefract and Judge of the Court of Record there. In February, 1853, he received the appointment of Second Judge of the Supreme Court in South Australia, and arrived in the colony the same year. This office he continued to hold till 1867, when he was "amoved" from it by the late Governor, Sir Dominick Daly, on petition, and after a long and patient examination of the charges which were laid against him. The circumstances which led to this painful result are too recent and too notorious to render it necessary that we should do more than simply refer to them here. It could answer no good purpose at present to rake up old grievances or to open old wounds by going minutely into the whole of the unhappy facts which at length rendered the Judge's deposition a matter of State necessity. The facts elicited at the time were deemed sufficient not only to justify, but to necessitate His Honor's removal, and nothing has occurred since to throw doubt on the wisdom of that step, so far as the interests of the colony were concerned.

But now that Mr. Boothby has passed away we have no doubt that old asperities will die, and that our readers will endeavor only to remember what was favorable in his character and disposition. Death ought to heal all strifes and to settle all misunderstandings. As a private gentleman, in his own house and at his own table, Mr. Boothby was kind, courteous, and hospitable. He was a very pleasant companion, full of anecdote, and had the happy tact of setting his guests at their ease. To see him at his best was to see him surrounded by the members of his family, all of whom cherished towards him the true filial feeling, and will deeply deplore their loss. Three of his sons occupy honorable and responsible positions in the service of the colony, and others are engaged in business. His eldest daughter is married, and, we believe, does now or lately did reside in Queensland. His third daughter is married to Mr. Howitt, the explorer, and lives in Gipps Land. During his illness Mr. Boothby was attended by Drs. Wheeler and Campbell, who saw him in the course of Sunday, when he was evidently sinking. He died quietly about 1 o'clock that day. The "Colonial Office List" informs us that Mr. Boothby was "author of a work on Criminal Law, 1st edition, 1842; 2nd, 1854 ; and of a pamphlet, 1844, on the reform of the Local and Circuit Courts of England, and of the Superior Courts of Westminster. Some of the suggestions of which are in operation by Imperial legislation since 1853." We may add that the deceased gentleman had just completed his 65th year.

The Funeral
On Tuesday, June 23, the mortal remains of the late Benjamin Boothby, Esq., till recently one of Her Majesty's Judges of the Supreme Court, were interred in the North-road Cemetery. Shortly after 1 o'clock the procession left the deceased gentleman's late residence at Glen Osmond. It consisted of a handsome hearse drawn by four horses; four mourning coaches, containing seven sons of Mr. Boothby, the Rev. W. B. Andrews, Rev. C. Manthorpe, and the intimate friends of the deceased; and a number of vehicles, occupied by gentlemen who were desirous of showing their respect for him whom death had taken away. As the cortege moved towards Adelaide it received frequent accessions until on reaching the Cemetery—after travelling about six miles—there were, in addition to the hearse and mourning coaches, 53 other carriages and vehicles, and a number of equestrians. On arriving at the gates of the Cemetery the coffin was borne to the grave, being preceded by the Rev. W. B. Andrews, of Mitcham, who recited the solemn Church of England service, and being immediately followed by the sons of the deceased—Messrs. W. R. Boothby (Sheriff), B. Boothby (Superintending Surveyor under the Central Road Board), Josiah Boothby (Under Secretary), George Boothby, Joseph Boothby, James Boothby, and Fred. Boothby. Assembled round the grave we noticed a very large number of old colonists, including the Very Rev. the Dean, the Ven. Archdeacon Marryat, the Rev. F. Garrett, Sir J. H. Fisher, Hon. J. Morphett (President of the Legislative Council), Hons. T. Elder, Captain Bagot, J. T. Bagot, and W. Morgan, Messrs. W. Townsend, M.P., R.C. Baker, M.P., H. K. Hughes, M.P., Dr. Wheeler, Messrs. W. Mair, E. M. Young, P. D. Prankerd, R. Stuckey, E. W. Andrews, W. K. Thomas, H. C. Palmer, C. Smedley, E. T. Smith, W. H. Flood, W. J. Brind, W. Bakewell, L. M. Cullen, J. H. Parr, W. Hinde, J. E. Dempster, Arthur Hardy, T. Graves, W. Bartley, W. C. Belt, W. W. Blyth, C. Jacobs, M. Salom, J. W. Lewis, A. Treuer, J. Williams, — Baines, Capt. Bickers, Capt J. W. Smith, Capt. Simpson, A. Hallett, — Meier, Capt. O'Halloran, J. C. Dixon, J. Hance, T. Giles, E. K. Horn, W. Rounsevell, J. Primrose, A. Macgeorge, L. J. Pelham, and many others.

The service at the grave was most impressively read by the Rev. Mr. Andrews and this concluded.

The Rev. Chas. Manthorpe, Congregational Minister of Glenelg, said:—In compliance with the special request of him whose body we have committed to the tomb, I will detain you for a few minutes while I make some remarks on this solemn occasion. We are often—I may say continually—being reminded that here we have no continuing city—that man is born to die. And this truth seems to have been specially impressed upon us as a community of late. It has been frequently observed that Death, that unwelcome visitor at all times, has been specially busy during the past few months in the ranks of the older colonists. One after another, in quick succession, the men who have made for themselves a name and a place in our colonial history have been gathered unto their fathers. Though not one of the pioneers of this land, our departed friend has lived amongst us for the last 15 years—no inconsiderable period in the ordinary life of a man on the earth. My acquaintance with him has been but brief. It is little more than two years ago, when he was attending my ministry for a few weeks at Glenelg, that I was brought into intimate intercourse with him. I was impressed then with his courteous, gentlemanly manner, and with his genial spirit. Whatever he might seem to be abroad, at home he was the loving husband and father, and the kind and sympathising friend. This is neither the time nor place for me to enter on incidents connected with his official career in our midst. Suffice it to say that it is generally conceded that whatever opinions he had, he was conscientious and consistent in the course he pursued, and I very fervently trust that all unkind feelings which may have been generated in the heat of the controversy, will to-day, and for ever, be put away. Some time during the month of October last he was seized with that illness which proved to be fatal. At his request I saw him on several occasions, and except when, from the peculiar nature of the disease from which he was suffering his mind was beclouded, I always found him calm and peaceful, resting his soul upon the finished work and righteousness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He suffered much at times, and we often spoke together of the mystery of suffering, and why it was that God permitted His people to be so afflicted and tried; but he never murmured— never complained. He said he was willing to leave himself in the hands of a covenant-keeping God, who doeth all things well. I reminded him of Paul's language in his Epistle to the Romans, when he refers to the suffering of this present time and the glory to be revealed here after, and speaks of the one not being worthy to be compared with the other, and he remarked that such passages afforded him comfort and support. On one occasion I said—"It is much harder often to lie passive in God's hands and bear God's will than to do it," and he replied to the effect that he felt it so; but he left himself in God's hands, and he had been assured that all would be well. As soon as he knew what the issue of his disease would be, he proceeded, like Hezekiah, to set his house in order, and ever after he spoke calmly of his departure from the world with an almost entire freedom from the fear of death. Evidently his soul was at peace, because it was stayed on God. He told me again and again that he rested simply and only upon the righteousness and merits of Jesus Christ; that in himself he felt he was a sinner, lost and undone; but he committed the care of his soul to Him who does well and who is the Redeemer of those who put their trust in him. To the last he retained a kindly interest in all around him; but he delighted most of all to speak of heavenly and spiritual things, and those who were with him testified that in his lucid intervals his conversation was most delightful and refreshing. He lingered on longer than was expected; but at length, on Sabbath last, without a struggle, his spirit passed away. Far be it from me to eulogise the dead. I speak only of that which I know. I leave others who were better acquainted with him to form an estimate of his life and character. I testify of his death; and I believe, so far as man can judge, that he died the death of the righteous, and that he is now among the blessed dead who die in the Lord. He trusted in Christ—not in any works of his own —making mention of His righteousness and of His only. He has passed away from our midst; and thus to die is gain. We would not mourn for him, but we would feel sad for those who have been bereaved, and I am sure the heartiest sympathy will be accorded to the bereaved widow and the sorrowing family. May the God of the widow be the support of his widow, and may God ever bless the family which has thus been bereaved. And may we who gather around this grave to-day, go away remembering that it is appointed unto all men once to die, and after death the judgment. Happy will it be for us if, with our departing breath, we can say, "Oh, death, where is thy sting, oh, grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." The rev. gentleman then offered prayer and pronounced the benediction, and those present, who seemed much impressed with the solemnity of the service, slowly dispersed, many of them, however, taking a last look at the coffin containing all that was mortal of one whose name is inseparably connected with the judicial and political history of South Australia.

The inscription upon the coffin was as follows:—

Born 5th February, 1803.
Died 21st June, 1868.
Aged 65 years."

The funeral arrangements, which were exceedingly well ordered, were carried out by Messrs. Mayfield & Son.

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Citation details

'Boothby, Benjamin (1803–1868)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 26 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Benjamin Boothby, c1860

Benjamin Boothby, c1860

State Library of South Australia, B 5846

Life Summary [details]


5 February, 1803
Doncaster, Yorkshire, England


21 June, 1868 (aged 65)
Glen Osmond, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

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