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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Blair, James (1813–1880)

by Kathleen Thomson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

James Blair (1813?-1880), police magistrate, arrived at Sydney from Ireland in the Undaunted in February 1835. On 1 September 1836 he was appointed clerk to the bench at Bong Bong (Berrima) at a salary of £100, registrar of the Court of Requests with another £30 and deputy-postmaster at £9 more. On 1 March 1837 he was appointed police magistrate at the Vale of Clwydd (Hartley) at a salary of £250.

In 1840 he was transferred to Port Phillip where he arrived in the Prince George in October to take office as the first police magistrate at Portland Bay, six years after Edward Henty had settled there: the first local licensing court comprised Blair and Edward and Stephen Henty. In 1843 Blair and Charles Tyers, who had surveyed the first town blocks in 1840, chose two acres (.8 ha) for a Presbyterian church, and Blair, although a Roman Catholic, subscribed to its funds and to the Church of England. He was also guardian of minors, commissioner of affidavits, clerk of the Court of Requests, commissioner of crown lands, deputy sheriff, and immigration agent. His work was generally praised, but in December 1842 Rev. J. Y. Wilson charged him with corruption. Blair felt that this charge was actuated by personal hostility and sought an inquiry into his conduct. In 1845 Wilson made various accusations against Blair and was forced to retract by William Rutledge. About this time Blair resigned as guardian of minors rather than commit Wilson for trial on a charge of failing to observe the law regarding the marrying of persons under age. On 3 January 1854 Blair was gazetted police magistrate for Bourke as well as Portland. In 1844 he had bought Clunie, near Harrow, and he also owned property at Trewalla, Narrawang, and Portland itself. He was a local director of the Union Bank in 1846 and of the Bank of Victoria in 1863-66, and a patron of many charities.

In 1859 he visited England. When in 1866 the government decided to reduce the number of magistrates Blair indicated that he was willing to retire. He was retired in October and informed that he was entitled to a pension or compensation. He sought compensation for the time worked in New South Wales as well as at Portland but this was not agreed to: the compensation was fixed at £1408 6s. 8d. Blair moved in 1867 to Melbourne where he built Greenmount in Toorak Road. In 1868-78 he was a director of the Bank of Victoria and its deputy-chairman from 1875. On 11 June 1880 he died at his home, Greenmount, Toorak.

He had married Margaret Le Maistre (Le Massony) of Dublin and had six children. His wife survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • N. F. Learmonth, The Portland Bay Settlement: Being the History of Portland, Victoria from 1800-1851 (Melb, 1934)
  • E. M. Robb, Early Toorak and District (Melb, 1934)
  • E. W. Harvey, Victoria's Oldest Settlement: Portland, 1800 to 1949 (Melb, 1949)
  • J. Blair letters, 1842-45 (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Kathleen Thomson, 'Blair, James (1813–1880)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]




11 June 1880
Toorak, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence