Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Black, Reginald James (1845–1928)

by A. W. Martin

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Reginald James Black (1845-1928), banker, stockbroker and politician, was born on 19 March 1845 in Sydney, son of John Henry Black, general manager of the Bank of New South Wales, and his wife Louisa, née Skinner. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, he joined the bank in 1863, serving at Penrith, Bathurst, Goulburn and Glen Innes. He was assistant inspector at head office in 1875-80, then manager at Bathurst until 1882 when he resigned to join the Sydney firm of Jones & Black, stock-brokers and financial agents. He had become a justice of the peace in 1873.

On 26 February 1883 at Guntawang, Mudgee, Black married Eleanor, grand-daughter of Richard Rouse and sister of Richard Rouse junior. He represented Mudgee in the Legislative Assembly in 1887-91. A free trader, a supporter of Sir Henry Parkes and a man of few words, he was likely, when he did speak, to apologize for taking the House's time. During the bank crisis of 1893 Sir George Dibbs reputedly consulted Black and on his written advice introduced the bank issue bill, to make bank-notes legal tender with government guarantee. Other accounts credit Dr H. N. MacLaurin or Dibbs himself with authorship of the idea. On 25 April Black wrote to the Daily Telegraph advocating a measure such as was in fact framed, and in 1920 he made no demur when S. H. Smith, addressing the Royal Australian Historical Society in honour of Black's election as president, credited him with being the major influence on Dibbs. The implication is that he was consulted although it cannot be doubted that the measure itself was collectively designed. In 1894 Governor Duff refused Dibbs's recommendation to appoint Black (and six others) to the Legislative Council; however he served there as a taciturn member in 1900-28.

President of the Australian Economic Association in 1896 and 1897, Black contributed articles to its journal, the Australian Economist, including 'The banking crisis and its lessons' (1893) and 'The finances of Federation' (1895). He strongly believed that banking problems would best be solved by Federation and uniform laws. From the 1890s he also strongly criticized 'wretched' land legislation and published an address, Our Land Laws, in 1905.

Black was a director of both the Australian Mutual Provident Society and the Bank of New South Wales from 1898 to 1928; he took particular interest in the bank's staff matters and canteen. He was also a founder and from 1920 chairman of the Perpetual Trustee Co., and a director of the Commercial Union Assurance Co. Ltd, the Indemnity Mutual Marine Assurance Co., Goldsbrough Mort & Co. Ltd, the New South Wales Mortgage Land & Agency Co., Harrison, Jones & Devlin Ltd, the North Shore Gas Co. Ltd, the Sydney Exchange Co. and of the Daily Telegraph Newspaper Co. Ltd.

Black was a director of Sydney Hospital in 1899-1928, and joined the boards of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children and the Royal North Shore Hospital. He was a trustee of Sydney Grammar School and president of its Old Boys' Union in 1920, and a councillor of Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore). In 1921-26 he was president of the Million Farms Campaign Association. A keen cricketer in his younger days, he kept wickets for the Albert Cricket Club and was later president of the I Zingari, Australia, and Gordon District clubs. He was a member of the Union Club and president of the Australasian Pioneers' Club in 1915-28.

On 30 June 1928 Black died at his home at Wollstonecraft and was buried in the Anglican section of Waverley cemetery. He left an estate valued for probate at £50,524 and was survived by his wife, a son and three daughters; his second son Reginald, M.C., was killed in action in Palestine in 1917.

Select Bibliography

  • R. F. Holder, Bank of New South Wales: A History (Syd, 1970)
  • Parliamentary Debates (New South Wales), 1893
  • ‘The romance of a pioneer family’, JRAHS, 6 (1920)
  • C. B. Mackerras, ‘Sir Norman MacLaurin 1835-1914’, JRAHS, 54 (1968)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 24 Apr 1893, 25 Feb, 6 Mar 1920, 2 July, 3 Aug 1928
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 25 Apr 1893
  • Bulletin, 9 May 1903
  • Board minutes, 1863-65, and staff records, 1868-82 (Bank of New South Wales Archives, Sydney).

Additional Resources

  • probate, Sydney Morning Herald, 3 August 1928, p 17

Citation details

A. W. Martin, 'Black, Reginald James (1845–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/black-reginald-james-5253/text8851, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 22 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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