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Sir Josiah Henry Symon (1846–1934)

from Argus

Sir Josiah Symon, who was one of the foremost members of the national convention of 1897, which framed the Federal Constitution, and a senator in the first Commonwealth Parliament, died at his home in North Adelaide yesterday morning. He was in his 88th year.

Sir Josiah Symon was the State's oldest K.C.M.G. and King's Counsel, and one of its leading advocates for 50 years. He was born at Wick, Scotland, in 1846, and was educated in Scotland. He arrived in South Australia in 1866, when he was aged 20 years. He was articled at Mount Gambier, in the South-East of the State, and it was there that a brief he had prepared came into the hands of Sir Samuel Way, then leader of the South Australian Bar, who was so impressed by it that he arranged for the young man to come to Adelaide. Sir Josiah Symon became a Queen's Counsel when aged 35 years, and three years later he declined a judgeship in succession to the late Mr. Justice Andrews.

In 1881 Sir Josiah Symon began a brilliant political career. He represented the district of Sturt in the State Parliament. An ardent Federalist, he was returned to the first Commonwealth Parliament as a South Australian senator, heading the polls at the first two Senate elections. He was a senator for nearly 13 years, and was leader of the Opposition in the Senate from 1901 to 1904, and Attorney-General in the Reid-McLean Ministry in 1904 and 1905. Having been knighted in 1901 for his services in assisting to bring about Federation, he was the senior K.C.M.G. in the Commonwealth. He was chairman of the Judiciary committee responsible for drawing up the Constitution's judicial system. He visited England in 1889 on Federation matters, and again in 1911, when he represented the Commonwealth at the Coronation naval review at Spit head. He attained eminence not only in the law but as a legislator, lecturer, orator, and author. He retired in 1923.

In 1928 Sir Josiah Symon announced his intention to bequeath to the public library at Adelaide his home library of 8,000 books and to provide an annual contribution toward its upkeep.

The Commonwealth Government has decided to arrange a State funeral. Sir Josiah Symon will be buried in the family burial plot at North Road Cemetery at 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday. His remains have been privately cremated.

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Citation details

'Symon, Sir Josiah Henry (1846–1934)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Josiah Symon, n.d.

Josiah Symon, n.d.

State Library of South Australia, PRG 249/13/93

Life Summary [details]


27 September, 1846
Wick, Caithness, Scotland


29 March, 1934 (aged 87)
North Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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