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Collins, George Thomas (1839–1926)

by John O'Hara

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

George Thomas Collins (1839-1926), lawyer and politician, was born on 10 May 1839 at Launceston, Van Diemen's Land, son of William Collins, publican, and his wife Martha Matilda, née Rolls. In 1843 five months before his father's death he, his mother and his brothers, William Anthony and Charles Percival, joined the household of (Sir) Adye Douglas who subsequently married Martha in England in 1858. Educated at Launceston Church Grammar School and the Church of England Grammar School, Campbell Town, Collins was articled to Douglas, admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of Tasmania in 1861, and soon entered the partnership of Douglas and Collins in Launceston. On 29 April 1863 at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church Collins married Ursula Flora McEachern.

In May 1895, after thirty years as a leading equity and criminal lawyer, he won the Legislative Council seat of Tamar; the Launceston Examiner had attempted to discredit him as a vacillating anti-Federationist, but Collins dispelled these doubts in the council. In October 1899 the Examiner encouraged speculation that he might be called upon to form a government and then welcomed his appointment as chief secretary in the Lewis ministry. Collins retained this office until 1903, whilst also holding the portfolios of agriculture and, until 1901, defence; meanwhile his eyesight failed and it was not rectified by surgery in Germany in 1906. In 1919 he retired from both the parliament and his practice.

More significant than Collins's parliamentary contribution, was the range of Launceston organizations for which he worked. A director of several companies and president of the Launceston Chamber of Commerce in 1910-12, he chaired numerous sporting bodies including the Tamar Rowing Club (1878-1925), Northern Tasmanian Rowing (1912-19), Cricket (1879-1919) and Golf (1903-22) associations, Launceston Bowling Club (1893-1920), Tasmania Bowling Association (1902-19) and Turf Club (1906-22), continuing as patron of many of these groups until his death. Vice-chairman of the Launceston Technical School Committee, he was warden of the Marine Board (1909-18), president of the Northern Tasmanian Fisheries' Association (1898-1921) and of the Central Board of Health (1900-03) and chairman of the Northern Tasmanian division of the Red Cross Society (1914-23).

Perhaps Collins's main concerns were the Launceston General Hospital, of which he was board chairman in 1879-99 and 1909-22, and the Launceston Artillery which claimed his attention from 1862, when he joined as a gunner, till 1902 when he retired from the command, having received the Volunteer Officers' Decoration in 1898 for twenty years continuous service as an officer. An enthusiastic amateur violinist, he was also a prominent patron of the arts. Appointed C.M.G. in 1919, he died on 25 August 1926, survived by his wife, three sons and four daughters. He was buried in Carr Villa cemetery, leaving an estate valued for probate at £83,421.

Select Bibliography

  • Examiner (Launceston), 7, 8 May 1895, 7-11 Oct 1899, 26, 28 Aug 1926
  • Mercury (Hobart), 26 Aug 1926
  • Douglas family papers (Archives Office of Tasmania): MSS 75/909, and 71/909, and 71/41 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

John O'Hara, 'Collins, George Thomas (1839–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/collins-george-thomas-5736/text9709, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 23 April 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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