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Hamilton, Hugh Montgomerie (1854–1930)

by H. T. E. Holt

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

Hugh Montgomerie Hamilton (1854-1930), judge, was born on 26 June 1854 at Parramatta, New South Wales, son of Hugh Hamilton, a pastoralist from Ayrshire, Scotland, and his native-born wife Margaret Clunes, née Innes, of Tomabil and Boyd stations, Forbes; she was a niece of A. C. Innes. Educated at Geneva, Edinburgh, and Marlborough College, England, in 1868-72, he became head of that college's modern side, captained its Rugby football team, and later played for the London club, Marlborough Nomads. Selected by England and Scotland to play in the same match, he elected to play for Scotland, which he represented in 1874 and 1875; with (Sir) William Milton, he introduced the 'passing game' into Rugby Union. He was also a good athlete and boating enthusiast.

After failing in one subject for the Indian Civil Service, Hamilton took up law at the University of London, passing the intermediate examination in 1878, and completed his studies at the University of Heidelberg. He was called to the Bar from the Inner Temple on 15 May 1878, practised on the northern circuit and was counsel to the Treasury in 1884-89. On 18 March 1880 at Chorley, Cheshire, he married Adelaide Eliza Margaret Northcott. He returned to Sydney in 1889 and was admitted to the New South Wales Bar on 18 November.

On visits to New Zealand, Hamilton took part in the first exploration of the Murchison Glacier in January 1890, and in December next year tried unsuccessfully to climb Mt Darwin and Mt De la Beche in the southern alps—Mt Hamilton, 9915 ft (3022 m), in the Malte Brun Range was named after him. He was a good golfer and in 1893 one of the founders of the Sydney Golf Club at Dame Eadith Walker's Yaralla estate at Concord; it became the Royal Sydney Golf Club, Rose Bay. Hamilton served on its committee for thirty years.

Draftsman for the Statute Law Consolidation Commission in 1893, Hamilton later acted as parliamentary draftsman during the absence of J. L. Watkins. With G. C. Addison he published The Crimes Act, 1900 … and Piracy Punishment Act, 1902. It became a standard textbook as Criminal Law and Procedure, New South Wales and was revised from time to time. Hamilton had drafted both Acts. On many occasions from 1901 he acted as a judge of the District Court and chairman of Quarter Sessions, and sat in every court of the State except Broken Hill, Bourke and Cobar. On 15 May 1914 he was appointed a permanent District Court judge and chairman of Quarter Sessions, serving in the Northern District, then from 1918 in the Southern and Hunter District. A capable, fearless and kindly judge, he was prone to sit for long hours and in civil cases tried to eliminate technicalities and abstruse legal questions. Well-versed in criminal law, 'he had almost a Dickensian character, looking older than his years, having a pronounced limp'. On four occasions between 1902 and 1917 he acted as a royal commissioner and in 1920 was appointed chairman of the Compensation Assessment Board under the Liquor (Amendment) Act, 1919.

Hamilton was grand master of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales in 1909. He held high offices in other branches of Masonry including sovereign grand inspector-general of the Rose Croix, grand master of the Master Mark Masons in 1912-13 and 1926-27 and first grand principal of Royal Arch Masons in 1910-11, 1912 and 1924, and was involved with the Knight Templars and Ark Mariners. As well he was an honorary life-governor of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, chairman of the United Charities Fund and of the Australian Metropolitan Life Assurance Co. Ltd; he was also president of the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts, the Horticultural Society, the Poultry Club and the Kennel Association (all of New South Wales) and a vice-president of the Royal Agricultural Society, Furlough House, the New South Wales Rugby Union, and the local Philatelic Society and a member of the Australian Club from 1890. He built up a fine collection of antique china and was a keen judge of dogs. His postage stamp collection was celebrated particularly for its New South Wales and New Zealand sections.

In 1924 Hamilton retired and continued to live at his home Tomabil, Strathfield, where he died on 11 August 1930. He was survived by two sons and a daughter by his second wife Minnie (d.1924), née Redfearn.

Select Bibliography

  • G. E. Mannering, With Axe and Rope in the New Zealand Alps (Lond, 1891)
  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • W. F. L. Owen, A Short History of the Royal Sydney Golf Club (Syd, 1949)
  • H. T. E. Holt, A Court Rises (Syd, 1976), Geographical Journal, 1 (Jan 1893)
  • Magistrate (Sydney), 1 June 1914, p 164, 172
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Aug 1930.

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Citation details

H. T. E. Holt, 'Hamilton, Hugh Montgomerie (1854–1930)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 25 March 2018.

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

View the front pages for Volume 9

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