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Gould, Sir Albert John (1847–1936)

by W. G. McMinn

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Albert John Gould (1847-1936), by Swiss Studios

Albert John Gould (1847-1936), by Swiss Studios

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23432040

Sir Albert John Gould (1847-1936), lawyer and politician, was born on 12 February 1847 in Sydney, son of John Morton Gould, solicitor, and his wife Anne, née Livingstone. After attending Rev. Dr William Woolls's school at Parramatta he studied law at the University of Sydney without taking a degree, served his articles with his father and was admitted as a solicitor in December 1870. Next year he began work at Singleton for a Sydney legal firm and by 1887 had established his own practice both there and in Sydney. He entered partnership with A. G. Y. Shaw about 1889 and moved to Sydney in 1897.

While at Singleton Gould was active in local affairs: he was president of the mechanics' institute, vice-president of the Northern Agricultural Association, served on the hospital committee and pressed for the construction of a railway from Sydney. In 1882 he was elected to the Patrick's Plains (Singleton from 1894) seat in the Legislative Assembly, retaining it until 1898. He entered parliament as an opponent of the Parkes-Robertson coalition but supported the Robertson government in 1885-86 and became a great admirer of Parkes. As a Free Trader he served as minister for justice under Sir Henry Parkes (1889-91) and (Sir) George Reid (1894-98). During his first period in office he embarrassed Parkes by quarrelling with the chief justice, Sir Frederick Darley, over what he considered harsh punishment for contempt of two witnesses and over Darley's requests for improved court accommodation. But his friendship with Parkes survived this and also Parkes's later bitter denunciations of the Reid government. For more than thirty years after Parkes's death Gould venerated his memory, speaking frequently at the annual commemoration of his birth by the National Club.

As minister for justice Gould showed himself to be an energetic administrator, with a strong interest in the consolidation of the law and in the reform of legislation relating to police-court matters. He also worked to tighten the licensing laws. He built up in parliament a reputation as a skilful, but always judicious, debater. Melbourne Punch described him as a balding, tall, slender man with a pale face and tired eyes, his demeanour forever serious and his speeches delivered in a high, thin voice. He opposed the 1898 Federation bill in the belief that New South Wales was not receiving adequate recognition.

He lost his assembly seat in 1898 but the following year Reid nominated him to the Legislative Council. In 1901 Gould was elected as one of the first six-year-term senators for New South Wales. Re-elected in 1906, he was president in 1907-10 in succession to Sir Richard Chaffey Baker and was knighted in 1908. He remained a member until 1917 when the National Party failed to endorse his candidature, although he was a strong supporter of conscription. He was seriously offended at being the only sitting government supporter not to receive endorsement, but he refused to split the Nationalist vote by standing as an independent.

Although he was occasionally treated by the press as an elder statesman, Gould devoted the rest of his life to his extensive business, charitable and church interests. An original member of the Great Cobar Copper Mining syndicate formed in 1894, he made his fortune from copper. He was chairman of the Sydney Electric Light and Power Supply Corporation and a director of the City Bank of Sydney from 1899. He was also a director of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children. A devout Anglican, he served as a member of the Sydney and Newcastle synods, in the latter case for nearly sixty years, and was chancellor of both dioceses. In his earlier years he had been a supporter of the Volunteer movement, enlisting as a private in the West Maitland company in 1865 and retiring with the Volunteer Officers' Decoration and the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the 4th Regiment Volunteer Infantry in 1902. A Freemason from 1879, he was master of the Lodge St Andrew in 1883; he was also a Mark Mason and a Royal Arch Mason. He was a member of the Australian Club, Sydney, and of the Melbourne Club.

Gould died in Sydney on 27 July 1936; after a state funeral he was buried in South Head cemetery. His estate, valued at £12,459, was divided among his two sons and three daughters. His wife Jeannette Jessie, née Maitland, whom he had married on 12 September 1872 in St Paul's Church of England, Maitland, had died in 1928. Competent if undistinguished as both minister and presiding officer, Gould was one of the many late nineteenth century liberals who could find no secure place in the polarized politics of the next generation.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • A. P. Elkin, The Diocese of Newcastle (Syd, 1955)
  • Town and Country Journal, 4 June 1887
  • Punch (Melbourne), 3 Jan 1907, 5 Sept 1912
  • Fighting Line, 19 Apr 1913
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 31 Dec 1928, 28, 29 July 1936
  • McMillan papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Henry Parkes correspondence (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

W. G. McMinn, 'Gould, Sir Albert John (1847–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gould-sir-albert-john-6436/text11011, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 10 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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