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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hawker, Edward William (1850–1940)

by Rob Van Den Hoorn

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Edward William Hawker (1850-1940), barrister, grazier, politician and metallurgist, was born on 14 January 1850 at Bungaree near Clare, South Australia, eldest of fifteen children of George Charles Hawker, grazier, and his wife Bessie, née Seymour. Hawker was educated at the Collegiate School of St Peter, Adelaide; Harrow; and Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., 1874; LL.B., 1873; M.A., LL.M., 1890). In 1874 he was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple. Returning to South Australia in 1875, he had difficulty in settling down; next year he joined (Sir) Richard Chaffey Baker's law firm but soon left for New Zealand. In 1879 he was admitted to the South Australian Bar and began to practise, eventually in Nicholson & Hawker.

In 1884 Edward became member for Stanley in the House of Assembly as a representative of the conservative pastoral interest. In 1889 he resigned and sailed for England. After a year at Cambridge pursuing law, he studied mining and metallurgy at the Mountain Academy, Clausthal, Germany. He returned home in 1892 with his wife Mary Letitia, daughter of Sir William Stawell, whom he had married in London on 14 May 1890. Hawker began work as a metallurgist and in 1893 regained his seat in the assembly where he occasionally felt handicapped by his father's presence. Assisted by his wife in preparing speeches and analysing new legislation, he was considered to be never more than an earnest, persevering, rather prosy politician, who favoured rigid economy and retrenchment. He lost his seat in 1896 and became a lecturer in mining at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries. He enjoyed teaching and often took his students on trips to mines throughout the colony.

Hawker was the first president of the South Australian branch of the Australian Natives' Association in 1888; a member of the Public Library Board (1894-1910); a council-member of the School of Mines (1893-96); a member of the State Children's Council (1898-1909); and president of the Adelaide Club (1925-27). He belonged to the British Institution of Mining Engineers and the American Institute of Mining Engineers, and was also a fellow of the Geological Society of London. He presided over the Australasian National League (1905-07) and was active in the Liberal Union (later Liberal Federation) and the Liberal and Country League. He was a prodigious letter-writer and compiler and distributor of extracts from Hansard; his wife (d.1938) was also articulate and active in the anti-Labor cause.

In 1895 Hawker inherited a large estate at East Bungaree; in 1907 he began grazing there full time and energetically cultivated suitable African and Asian grass strains. His hobbies included bookbinding, shooting and billiards. He died at Bungaree on 20 September 1940, survived by three daughters and two sons. Charles Seymour Hawker was a nephew.

Select Bibliography

  • T. Sadler, Some Annals of Adelaide (Adel, 1933)
  • Quiz (Adelaide), 2 Dec 1892
  • Observer (Adelaide), 10 June 1893, 28 Apr 1894
  • South Australian, 18 Feb 1926, 10 Feb 1927
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 21 Sept 1940
  • E. W. Hawker, diaries and digest of diaries, and political correspondence (State Records of South Australia)
  • G. C. Hawker, letters to E. W. Hawker (State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

Rob Van Den Hoorn, 'Hawker, Edward William (1850–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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