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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Pike, George Herbert (1866–1947)

by Matthew Dicker

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

George Herbert Pike (1866-1947), barrister and judge, was born on 25 May 1866 in Hobart Town, son of Henry Morris Pike, schoolmaster, and his wife Marie Louise, née Dinham. He was educated at City School and Officer College. Moving to Sydney in 1883, he was employed in the survey branch of the Department of Lands and from 1885 attended evening classes at the University of Sydney (B.A., 1889; M.A., 1891) and read law in his spare time. On 5 March 1892 he was admitted to the New South Wales Bar. At the Gresford Anglican church, on 29 March next year, he married Alice Maud Bush, daughter of a schoolmaster.

Influenced by his surveying background, Pike soon began to specialize in land matters. He attracted favourable notice after appearing as junior counsel (under R. E. O'Connor and B. R. Wise) in the celebrated Mercadool case in the mid-1890s. By the end of the 1890s he had developed a busy and extensive practice with particular emphasis on cases involving the resumption of land and all aspects of land valuation and rating, and a decade later was a recognized leader of the Bar. In 1890-1920 he edited, partly with H. B. Bignold, Digest of all Cases Determined in the Land Appeal Court of New South Wales and some volumes of Land and Valuation Court Reports … Prior to 1922.

On 23 December 1921 Pike was appointed the first judge of the Land and Valuation Court which took over the work of the Land Appeal Court and had additional functions including hearing appeals under the Valuation of Land and the Local Government Acts as well as dealing with valuations for resumption purposes. From 1929 he was also judge of the Valuation Court of the Federal Capital Territory and in 1930-36 a judge in the divorce jurisdiction of the State Supreme Court, an experience which he claimed left him 'wiser but no better informed'.

As sole royal commissioner for the Commonwealth government in 1927-29 inquiring into loss due to soldier settlement, Pike visited every State and in his report stressed that the soldier settlers carried an impossible burden of debt which should be borne jointly by the Commonwealth and States.

After retiring from the Bench in 1936, Pike was the land commissioner for the Australian Capital Territory (1936-39), a government nominee on the board of Royal North Shore Hospital of Sydney, and chairman of No.2 Aliens Tribunal of New South Wales during World War II. He lived for many years at Killara and enjoyed fishing, shooting and golf. Survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters, he died on 9 June 1947 in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and was cremated. Possessing 'sound common sense', Pike brought to judicial office considerable experience, extensive technical knowledge and the ability to decide contentious questions of fact involving inconsistent expert evidence.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • J. M. Bennett, A History of the Bar of New South Wales (Syd, 1969)
  • Australian Law Journal, 21 (1947-48), p 45
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 21, 22 Dec 1921, 17 Feb 1922, 18 Apr 1925, 31 May 1932, 26 May 1937, 10 June 1947.

Related Thematic Essay

Citation details

Matthew Dicker, 'Pike, George Herbert (1866–1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

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