IRVINE, Sir William Hill (1858-1943)

Modified on Mon, 03 Oct 2016 20:17 by Con — Categorized as: Biography - All, Biography - Staff, Geelong College

IRVINE, Sir William Hill GCMG KC(1858-1943),

William Irvine, staff member, premier and chief justice, was born at Dromalane, Newry, County Down, Ireland. He led an independent political career participating in both State and Federal politics at a critical formative time in the development of Australia.

He was one of seven children born to a linen manufacturer, Hill Irvine and Margaret nee Mitchell. He was educated at Royal School, Armagh and graduated BA from Trinity College, Dublin in 1879. The collapse of his father’s business followed by his death prompted emigration to Australia and William arrived in Melbourne in about 1879. He pursued further education and graduated MA from the University of Melbourne in 1882, studied law and earned his LLM in 1886.

He is believed to have tutored and taught at Geelong College while studying although there is no record in the Annual Reports of the 1880s of his presence at the School. He is reported to have disliked teaching. He was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1884. His law practice was to provide him with a living but as with many in the early 1890s it was not remarkably prosperous.

In 1894, he stood for the rural Victorian Legislative Assembly electorate of Lowan, representing the Free-trade Democratic Association and was surprisingly elected. Five years later he became attorney-general, in 1901, became leader of the Opposition and in 1902, was elected to government in a commanding result. Yet, only three years later he was to resign as Premier citing ill-health. Following an extended trip overseas he became a barrister in 1906 as well as entering Federal politics as the Member for Flinders. His trial career flourished and in 1913 he became attorney-general as well as being knighted. The following year he was raised to KCMG but lost his ministerial role. With a declining political career he accepted appointment as Chief Justice of Victoria in 1918, a position he held until his retirement in 1935. He was acting Governor of the State for several years from 1931 and elevated to GCMG in 1934. He had married Agnes Somerville in 1891 and she and their three children survived him.

Sources: J. M. Bennett, Ann G. Smith, 'Irvine, Sir William Hill (1858 - 1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, Melbourne University Press, 1983, pp 439-441.