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James Hardress Waller (1855–1937)

The oldest solicitor practising in West Maitland, and one of the best known public men in New South Wales, Mr. J. H. F. Waller, of East Maitland, died in the Maitland Hospital early this morning after an illness of several months. The late Mr. Waller would have celebrated his 72nd birthday early next month.

The whole district will mourn his passing, for he was a fine citizen and one the town and district could ill afford to lose, Throughout his life he devoted himself to the welfare of the district.

The late Mr Waller practised as a member of the legal profession for 44 years, Born at Mowbray, he came to Maitland while quite a lad, and commenced his long career when he entered as a clerk the offices of Mr. Thomas Chambers, a solicitor in West Maitland at the time, Mr. Waller was ambitious, and studied earnestly until he qualified.

Admitted to the profession on June 4, 1892, he opened offices in West Maitland soon afterwards and continued in the town until his recent illness, Early in life he showed a public spirit which has rarely been equalled, and as long ago as 1897 he was an alderman of the municipality of East Maitland, gaining a seat on the council on September 28 of that year. East Maitland was not the only municipality to engage his support, for he was later actively concerned with West Maitland and for some years was a member of that council.

During his career, the late Mr Waller held a position that is probably unique in the history of Local Government, for at the one time he was Mayor of West Maitland and an alderman of East Maitland.

Both municipalities were quick to realise the value of having one so learned, yet so unassuming and public spirited, playing an integral part in their affairs, and it was not long before he was Mayor of East Maitland, which position he held for no less than 15 terms, although they were not successive. At the time of his death he was an alderman of East Maitland. In West Maitland, too, the highest civic honour was bestowed on him several times.

Although he was actively concerned with both municipalities, it is perhaps East Maitland which owes him the greatest debt of gratitude, for he did work of incalculable value for that town. Referring to Mr Waller's passing, one well-known resident of East Maitland described him as 'the first member of the council to introduce progress.' 

'He was responsible, for placing East Maitland on the map, with his knowledge, which he gave freely,' added the speaker.

All recognised the fine spirit which motivated Mr. Waller's civic work and there was none who was not pleased when, in 1902, he became a member of the executive of the Local Government Association. His work in this wider sphere of public life was no less successful and he rose to the highest, office when he was elected president for the years 1917-18, 1918-19 and 1919-20, Following these terms in the chair he was vice-president, and continued for several years to work strenuously and effectively for the success of the association.

It was in response to several requests that the late Mr. Waller sought parliamentary honours, and in the early days of the Federal House of Representatives he opposed Dr Liddell for the Hunter seat. There are those to-day who still remember the campaign of that time and Mr Waller's defeat came as a surprise to many, for early he appeared to have great chances of success.

Mr Waller's services were of distinct benefit to the Maitland Hospital. For many years he was a trustee of the institution, and as a member of the Board of Directors his work did much to further its interests.

The Literary Institute in East Maitland, formerly the Mechanics' Institute, also claimed his close attention, and at various times he had filled the offices of president, treasurer and honorary secretary, while at the time of his death he was still a member of the committee.

Not only on these matters did the late Mr. Waller centre his attention, for he was also a great churchman. His work in connection with the diocese of Newcastle will long be remembered by those most intimately acquainted with the annual Synods and the various committees with which he was associated. His sound knowledge of procedure and of pastoral pursuits enabled him to render a service that was invaluable. He was elected to Synod in 1903, and was created a trustee of church property and Chairman of Committees in 1905, offices which he had filled ever since with distinction.

Mr. Waller was a most valuable servant of the church. His work in connection with Brenda Station, left to the diocese by the late. Ven. Archdeacon Tyrrell, was one of the features of his Synod work. He was closely acquainted with the management of the station, having frequently made visits of inspection, and his reports and recommendations were invariably acted upon, In many other ways his services and sound judgment were always generously placed at the disposal of Synod.

He was also closely allied with other spheres of life too numerous to enumerate. There was nothing calculated to further the interests of the district that did not enlist his support.

Mr Waller was of a generous nature, and there are many who bless his charity. Just how many will never be known, for he went about this side of his work in a quiet fashion, and shunned publicity.

Mr Waller married a Miss Cobcroft, but she died several years ago, He leaves no family and fresh in memory is the recent tragic passing of his only brother, Mr. G. B. Waller, another man with a fine sense of public duty.

Court Reference
'It is with considerable regret that I learned this morning of the passing of Mr. Waller said the PM, (Mr. C. G. Carr-Boyd), in the West Maitland Court to-day.

'He was senior member of the firm of Waller and Fry, and for 44 years practised as a solicitor, He was the oldest member of the profession practising here, and the court wishes to publicly convey its sympathy to the family and Mr Waller's partner.'

Mr. C. A. Hill (Messrs, T. A. Hill and Son) expressed the sympathy of the legal profession. He described the late Mr. Waller as being most courteous and one who always upheld the profession.

He would be missed, not only by the profession, but by citizens of the town, for he always played a great part in the welfare of the town and district.

Sergeant P. S. Jeffrey conveyed the sympathy of Inspector F. J. Noble and the police with the relatives.

Original publication

Additional Resources

  • probate, Cessnock Eagle (NSW), 12 November 1937, p 7
  • funeral, Maitland Daily Mercury (NSW), 14 July 1937, p 7

Citation details

'Waller, James Hardress (1855–1937)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 April 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]




13 July, 1937 (aged ~ 82)
Maitland, New South Wales, Australia

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