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Garran, Andrew (1825–1901)

by E. K. Bramsted

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Andrew Garran (1825-1901), by unknown photographer

Andrew Garran (1825-1901), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 08563

Andrew Garran (1825-1901), journalist and politician, was born on 15 November 1825 in London, the third child of Robert Gamman, merchant, and his wife Mary Ann, née Mathews. Intended for the Congregational ministry, he went to Hackney Grammar School and a theological coaching college in Norfolk. In 1842 at Spring Hill College, Birmingham, he was influenced by Henry Rogers, Congregational minister and professor of philosophy. Next year he matriculated at London University (B.A., 1845; M.A., 1848).

In 1848 Garran fell seriously ill with suspected phthisis and was sent to Madeira. On his return to London next year he was advised to migrate to Australia. In 1850 in the Ascendant he met George Fife Angas and was appointed 'Christian instructor'. He arrived in Adelaide in January 1851, did some preaching, worked as a journalist and later editor on the Austral Examiner and at the elections for the reformed Legislative Council campaigned against state aid to religion. With Adelaide depopulated by the Victorian gold rush Garran spent most of 1852 as a tutor on a Victorian station and later in Melbourne shared in an attempt to start a newspaper. In 1853 he returned to Adelaide as co-editor of the South Australian Register with a salary of £200. Next year Garran married Mary Isham Sabine, daughter of a well-to-do chemist and devout Congregationalist.

Invited by John Fairfax, Garran joined the Sydney Morning Herald as assistant editor in May 1856. He attended the University of Sydney (LL.B., 1868; LL.D., 1870) and in 1873 succeeded John West as editor of the Herald. Like many Englishmen of his class and education, Garran had found difficulty in fully adapting to the fluid Australian society. Steeped in the political, social and economic principles of leading liberal British writers he was disturbed by 'the disharmony “produced by conflict” between employer and employee, free selector and squatter, Protestant and Roman Catholic'. The British liberal had become a colonial conservative incongruously upholding laissez faire against a slowly rising tide of state control. As a result his editorials often had an unwelcome didactic and righteous tone but they were distinguished by a lucid style, a clear vision of the advantages of an educated democracy and an innate and informed generosity. Failing health forced him to resign at the end of 1885. Under Garran the Herald had consolidated its position as a leading Australian newspaper and the most intelligent and knowledgeable journal in New South Wales.

In 1876 Garran had been a commissioner for New South Wales for the Philadelphia International Exhibition, and in 1879 for the Sydney International Exhibition. A director of the Newcastle Wallsend Coal Co. from 1869, he was its chairman in one of its most prosperous periods in 1874-79. He contributed to other Australian newspapers, often under the pseudonym 'Nova Cambria', and was a regular correspondent of the London Times. He edited The Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, 3 vols (1886). President twice of the Australian Economic Association he was on the Board of Technical Education and a trustee of Sydney Grammar School. He served on the noxious trades commission in 1888, was president of the royal commission on strikes in 1890 and was a member of an inquiry into the Bay View lunatic asylum in 1894. In 1887 Henry Parkes had him appointed to the Legislative Council and he introduced Sir Alfred Stephen's divorce bill when it was finally enacted in 1892. In October he resigned from the council and the chairmanship of the Parliamentary Committee on Public Works to become president of the Council of Arbitration with a salary of £1500. In June 1889 he had been president of the inaugural conference of the Free Trade and Liberal Association, but his views on freedom and individualism had helped to inhibit the attempts of the free traders to form a political party. In 1895 George Reid had him reappointed to the Legislative Council where he represented the government; he was also vice-president of the Executive Council until November 1898.

Described by James Froude in 1886 as 'right-minded even to the extent of rigidity', Garran was plagued by ill health for most of his life. He owed much to the tender care of his wife, who with one son and five of their seven daughters survived his death at Darlinghurst on 6 June 1901. He was buried in the Congregational section of the Rookwood cemetery. His son, Robert Randolph (1867-1957), won distinction as a constitutional lawyer and Commonwealth public servant.

Select Bibliography

  • R. R. Garran, Prosper the Commonwealth (Syd, 1958)
  • P. Loveday and A. W. Martin, Parliament Factions and Parties (Melb, 1966)
  • Mrs C. Bright, ‘The Hon. Dr. Garran, M.L.C.: Vice-President of the Executive Council’, Cosmos Magazine, vol 1, no 9, May 1895, pp 443-46
  • Bulletin, 29 Sept 1883, 15 June 1901
  • Argus (Melbourne), 7 June 1901
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 June 1901
  • G. Woolnough, ‘Andrew Garran’, Daily Mail (Brisbane), 23 Apr 1927
  • M. Rutledge, Sir Alfred Stephen and Divorce Extension in New South Wales 1886-1892 (M.A. thesis, Australian National University, 1966)
  • P. J. Read, Conservatism and the Sydney Morning Herald: The Editorship of Andrew Garran, 1873-1885 (B.A. Hons. thesis, Australian National University, 1967).

Citation details

E. K. Bramsted, 'Garran, Andrew (1825–1901)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/garran-andrew-3594/text5571, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 21 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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