Heritage Guide to The Geelong College

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SIMSON, James (c1821-1895)

SIMSON, James (c1821-1895)

James Simson.

James Simson.

James Simson was among the founders of Geelong College as a member of the committee convened to enquire into the feasibility of establishing a Presbyterian Grammar School in Geelong in April 1861 and, as a member of the first management committee of the College.

He built the Heritage listed house, 'Eumeralla' at 35 Skene St, Geelong. 'Eumeralla', a single story villa was built in about 1854 with additions in 1856 and 1858. It was named after a pastoral station 'Eumeralla East' operated by H E Hurst who owned and lived at 'Eumeralla' some time later, after Simson sold the property and moved to Melbourne.

Alexander Henderson in 'Henderson's Australian Families' describes his life:
'James Simson was born in Edinburgh about l82l, and came out to Australia in 1842. He had secured an appointment in H.M. Customs, and was transferred to Hobart, Tasmania, where he remained until about 1848, when, hearing glowing accounts of the Port Phillip settle­ment, he decided to resign his position in the Customs and look out for a pastoral property in the young Colony.

In parrnership with his cousin, the Rev. Charles Simson, Presbyterian Minister, of Glenorchy, Tasmania, ..., and a Mr. John Ralston ( later succeeded by Robert Ralston), he took up the Roseneath run, 48,000 acres, seventeen miles out of Casterton. The partnership also acquired another run, Dergholm, not far from Roseneath, and Mr. James Simson resided on the latter station for some time.

In the late fifties, James Simson sold his interest in the runs to his cousin, the Rev. Charles Simson, and accepted a Government appointment as Official Assignee of Insolvent Estates, at Geelong.

He had the right of private practice, and was trustee for several large estates in the Western District, including that of his cousin, the Rev. Charles Simson, of Roseneath. In his administration of estates, he was identified with such well-known men as Sir William Clarke and John Lang Currie, of Larra (see Currie family records in this volume).

At the commencement of the Ballarat gold mining boom he realized a small fortune, which was lost in subsequent mining ventures. He retired from active business in 1888, and took up his residence in Melbourne.

James Simson was prominently identified with the foun­dation of Geelong College in 1861, and was a member of the committee set up to advise on the proposed establish­ment of a Grammar School at Geelong. Other members of this committee included John Calvert, James Balfour, James Cowie, A. S. Robertson, and William Blair. The committee's report urged the establishment of the school to be known as Geelong College, and Mr. Simson was one of the sub-committee who arranged with George Morrison, M.A. (then headmaster of Flinders National School) to take over the headmastership of the School. On the estab­lishment of the College at Knowle House, Skene Street, two months after the first meeting, Mr. Simson was ap­pointed a member of the first Committee of Management.

He married at Geelong, on 26th April, 1851, Agnes Hunter Murray, daughter of Hugh Murray, of Hobart Town. ... She died at South Yarra, Melbourne, 23rd July 1895, having had issue, nine sons and two daughters ... .'
Agnes was born in Hobart in about 1826 and died in 1896.

The Geelong Advertiser newspaper frequently refers to James Simson in his capacity as 'Official Assignee' and in November 1881 reported his resignation from that position: 'The resignation of Mr James Simson, of his post of assignee of insolvent estates for the southern insolvency district, has been accepted.'

James Simson of 'Eversley', Kensington Rd, South Yarra died on 23 June 1895 and was interred on 24 June 1895 at St Kilda Cemetery.

Of his sons, James Murray Simson, Dundas Simson, Huntly Stuart Simson, Percy Claude Simson (1860-1946), Harry Bernard Simson, Andrew Murray Simson, and Charles Elliott Simson were educated at Geelong College.

Sources: Geelong Advertiser 6 November 1882 p2; The Australasian (Melb) 29 June 1895 p45 (death); Henderson's Australian Families pp361-362.
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