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Francis John (Frank) Stephen (1823–1895)

We regret to announce the death, after a long and painful illness, of Mr. Frank Stephen, sen., solicitor to the Melbourne City Council from its foundation, and one of the oldest of Australian pioneers, Two years ago the deceased gentleman first developed the symptoms of the disease to which he succumbed yesterday, and so serious was his condition that he was compelled to undergo a critical operation by Mr. O'Hara, assisted by Mr. Rudall and Dr. Travers. For a time the operation seemed successful, but a year later malignant symptoms again showed themselves, and a second operation became imperative. This was followed by another period of comparative good health, but three months ago Mr. Stephen was compelled to take to his bed, and it was felt that his case was hopeless. After many sufferings, endured with the utmost fortitude, he died yesterday evening at his residence, Fitzgerald-street, South Yarra.

Francis John Sidney Stephen came of a family which for several generations has held an eminent position in the law. Among the more familiar names are those of Sir James Stephen, author of the Commentaries, and Sir Fitzjames Stephen. The late Sir Alfred Stephen, of the Sydney Council, was his uncle, and Mr. Justice Stephen his first cousin. His father, following the family bent, was called to the bar, and for a time practised his profession at St. Kitts, in the island of St Christopher, in the West Indies, where in 1822 the late Mr. Frank Stephen was born. Three years later the family removed to Sydney, so that the deceased gentleman ranks amongst the very oldest colonials. He was educated at King's College, Sydney, and after a brief stay in Tasmania, during the Attorney-Generalship of Sir Alfred Stephen, came at about 22 years of age to Melbourne, where he was admitted as a solicitor, and rapidly acquired a lucrative practice. During the gold-digging days he was attracted, like other young men, by the prevailing fever, and saw some rough experiences on Ballarat and other fields. Returning to Melbourne, he was appointed the first solicitor to the Melbourne City Council, a position which he held without a break to the time of his death. At the time of the constitutional agitation, while the McCulloch Ministry were in office, Mr. Stephen was the author of the well-known epithet "Old Hats," which was applied to the rank and file of Sir James McCulloch's supporters. The phrase had its origin through Mr. Stephen’s declaration at an election meeting that the electorate ought to vote even for an old hat if it were put forward in support of the McCulloch policy. He married Miss Morgan, daughter of a solicitor in Sydney, and leaves a family of four daughters and two sons. The eldest daughter is married to Mr. Andrew Kowan, the second to Sir John Madden, the Chief Justice and present Acting-Governor of Victoria, the third to Mr. Roderick Travers, late of Aramac Station, Queensland, and the fourth to Colonel Bingham, commandant at Devonport, England. The two sons, Mr. Frank Stephen, jun., and Mr. Sidney Stephen, are both well known solicitors in Melbourne. The late Mr. Stephen took a great interest in athletic pursuits, was an active follower of the first pack of hounds in Melbourne, and like his contemporaries, Mr. George Watson and Mr. Tom Miller, gained a reputation as an amateur steeplechase rider in the old Colonial days. Up to the time of his death he was an ardent sportsman, and his skill with rod or gun was unrivalled.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • funeral, Argus (Melbourne), 13 May 1895, p 5

Citation details

'Stephen, Francis John (Frank) (1823–1895)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Frank Stephen, n.d.

Frank Stephen, n.d.

State Library of Victoria, mp008254

Life Summary [details]


21 October, 1823
St Kitts, Federation of St Kitts and Nevis


10 May, 1895 (aged 71)
South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (not specified)

Cultural Heritage

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