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Blackmore, Edwin Gordon (1837–1909)

by Gordon Reid

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Edwin Gordon Blackmore (1837-1909), by unknown photographer, 1898

Edwin Gordon Blackmore (1837-1909), by unknown photographer, 1898

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an21399820-50

Edwin Gordon Blackmore (1837-1909), public servant and author, was born on 21 September 1837 at Bath, Somerset, England, fifth child of Edward Blackmore, M.D., and his wife Jane Elizabeth, née Gairdner. He was educated at a private school by Rev. J. Richards, M.A., fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and at King Edward VI Grammar School, Bath. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1854 with his parents and brothers and sisters on the advice of the eldest brother Edward who had become secretary to Governor Grey. In the Maori war Blackmore joined the Taranaki Rifle Volunteers, was in reserve at the action at Poutoko on 2 October 1863 and present at the storming and capture of the Maori strongholds of Ahuahu and Kaitake in March 1864; for these services he received the New Zealand medal.

Blackmore went to South Australia where his brother James Newnham was a founder and paid secretary of the Adelaide Club, and also assistant clerk and serjeant-at-arms of the House of Assembly in 1857-66, and under-treasurer for South Australia in 1870-75. On 1 October 1864 E. G. Blackmore was appointed sessional clerk of the House of Assembly; in 1865 he became library clerk, clerk assistant of the House of Assembly in 1869, clerk in 1886, and clerk of the Legislative Council and of parliaments in May 1887. In 1897-98 he was clerk to the Australian Federal Conventions which framed the Commonwealth Constitution at meetings in Adelaide and Sydney in 1897 and Melbourne in 1898. He received the formal thanks of the convention and acted as clerk of the Constitutional Committee and the Special Committee which drafted the Commonwealth bill. As chief executive officer at the ceremony on 1 January 1901 at Centennial Park, Sydney, in honour of the foundation of the Commonwealth, he read the Queen's proclamation and the Letters Patent of the new Commonwealth. On that day he was appointed C.M.G. and on 3 April became first clerk of the Commonwealth Senate and clerk of parliaments.

In Adelaide Blackmore had been active in the founding and the development of the Adelaide Hunt Club, established in 1869. He was its master in 1870 and 1885, and secretary in 1870, 1879-82 and 1884-85. He bought 2¾ acres (1.1 ha) for the club at New Thebarton for kennels and stables, designed the buildings and supervised their erection. His horses included Landsdowne, Bluefire, Colefire, Shiloh, Fitzjames, Whitefoot and Charlcombe. As a 'rowing theorist' and an original member of the Regatta Committee in 1884-87, he was elected chairman of the South Australian Rowing Club on 3 September 1889. He had great success as coach and donated the Blackmore challenge shield, first contested in 1893. When his decision as judge of the ladies challenge shield on 14 February 1898 was reversed on appeal in his absence, he summarily resigned and withdrew his bank guarantee. When elected vice-president on 27 September 1898, he declined. In the Boer war he was honorary organizing secretary of the movement in South Australia to raise a Bushmen's Corps, and served on the sub-committee which equipped and mounted the corps. He recorded these tasks in The Story of the South Australian Bushmen's Corps (Adelaide, 1900).

For several years Blackmore was an examiner and lecturer in history at the University of Adelaide, governor of the Collegiate School of St Peter, chairman of the committee of the Diocesan Synod and a trustee for the Poonindie mission. As clerk of parliaments in Adelaide he took a scholarly interest in parliamentary procedures and constitutional law. He was commended by many people, including Sir Thomas Erskine May, for his works published in Adelaide: The Decisions of the Right Hon. Evelyn Denison (1881); The Decisions of the Right Hon. Sir H. B. W. Brand (1882-87); The Decisions of the Right Hon. Arthur Wellesley Peel, 1884-1889 (1900); Manual of the Practice, Procedure and Usage of the House of Assembly of South Australia (1885); Manual of the Practice, Procedure and Usage of the Legislative Council of South Australia (1889); and The Law of the Constitution of South Australia (1894). He was largely instrumental in drafting the procedural Standing Orders of both Houses of the Western Australian Legislature, and he was clerk of the Federal Senate during the preparation and acceptance of its permanent Standing Orders.

At St Peter's College Chapel on 3 January 1872 Blackmore had married Eleanora Elizabeth (1848-1901), eldest daughter of Archdeacon George Henry Farr and his wife Julia, née Ord; they had six sons and two daughters. In 1907 he suffered a stroke and after eighteen months leave from the senate finally resigned from his official position. His health did not improve and he moved with three sons and a daughter to Landsdowne, his son's property at Wattamondara, near Cowra, New South Wales. He died there on 20 February 1909.

Select Bibliography

  • M. E. P. Sharp et al, Early Days at St Peter's College, Adelaide, 1854-1878 (Adel, 1936)
  • Public Service Review (Adelaide), Feb 1909
  • Adelaide Church Guardian, 3 (1909)
  • Register (Adelaide), 10, 12 Apr 1897, 22 Feb 1898, 23 Feb 1909.

Citation details

Gordon Reid, 'Blackmore, Edwin Gordon (1837–1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/blackmore-edwin-gordon-3008/text4401, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 27 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

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