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Browne, Fielding (1789–1871)

by John V. Barry

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

Fielding Browne (1789-1871), lawyer, was born in Dublin, the son of Fielding Browne, colonial secretary of the Island of Tobago, whose family came from Shrule, County Mayo. His mother was a sister of Sir Arthur Leary Piggott (1752-1819), attorney-general of Grenada, West Indies, and in 1806 attorney-general of England in the 'All the Talents' ministry. He studied law under Piggott, and as a member of the Middle Temple was called to the Bar of England on 9 February 1810. In 1815 he was appointed solicitor-general of Grenada, and in 1817 attorney-general of that island. He resigned in 1829, precedence in the courts of Grenada being conferred on him in 1830.

Arriving at Hobart Town on 14 February 1839, he was married to Anne Grigg (b.1812) on 12 April. On 17 May he was admitted as a legal practitioner by the Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land. In 1844 Norfolk Island was removed from the control of New South Wales and placed under the government of Van Diemen's Land; when a criminal court for the island was established in March 1845, Browne was appointed judge of that court, his commission coming into operation when he visited the island as occasion required. He held this post until 1855, when Norfolk Island officially ceased to be a penal settlement. Sitting with a jury of military officers, he tried the convicts charged with murders committed in the outbreak of 1 July 1846. Thirteen of the convicts sentenced to death at the trials were executed, twelve on 13 October 1846 and one on the 19th. In 1854 Browne was appointed commissioner of insolvent estates, and in 1860 commissioner of the court of requests for the Hobart district, receiving no remuneration for the latter office. In 1863 these offices were consolidated in a retrenchment plan, and in 1864 Browne was retired from the public service. His pertinacious efforts to obtain a pension for his services as judge of the criminal court of Norfolk Island were unsuccessful, but in 1864 he was granted a retiring allowance of £125 a year. He died at Hobart on 30 July 1871, in his eighty-third year.

A man of courage and integrity, Browne supported Rev. Thomas Rogers in his unsuccessful efforts to obtain redress when John Price suspended Rogers from his chaplaincy on Norfolk Island. Rogers thought him 'humane and honourable-minded'. In an obituary, the Hobart Mercury stated that Browne 'was a man of good education, general information, and gentlemanly manners … His highly sensitive nature interfered with his practice at the Bar, and prevented his attaining the success that his attention and care of his duties would have commanded with a little less sensitive disposition. His upright carriage and active habits have made him little less than one of the institutions of the town'.

Select Bibliography

  • T. Rogers, Correspondence Relating to the Dismissal of Rev. T. Rogers from his Chaplaincy at Norfolk Island (Launceston, 1849)
  • J. V. Barry, Alexander Maconochie of Norfolk Island (Melb, 1958)
  • J. V. Barry, The Life and Death of John Price (Melb, 1964)
  • Hobart Town Courier, 15 Feb, 12 Apr, 10 May, 6 Sept 1839
  • correspondence on convict discipline, Parliamentary Papers (House of Commons, Great Britain), 1847 (811), p 35-40
  • Calder papers (State Library of Victoria)
  • correspondence file under Browne (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

John V. Barry, 'Browne, Fielding (1789–1871)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/browne-fielding-1836/text2117, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 17 January 2018.

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

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