Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jamieson, Stewart Wolfe (1903–1975)

by Kathleen Dermody

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Stewart Wolfe Jamieson (1903-1975), diplomat, was born on 4 January 1903 in Sydney, only son and elder child of London-born Sydney Jamieson, medical practitioner, and his wife Roslyn Athol, née Stewart, who was born in New South Wales. Educated at Hayfield preparatory school, Carlingford, and The King's School, Parramatta, Stewart gained recognition as a rower and budding writer. He entered the University of Sydney (B.A., 1924) and in 1924-26 studied law at Balliol College, Oxford (B.A., 1938).

Back in Sydney, he became an associate to (Sir) Alexander Gordon before assisting (Sir) Colin Davidson with the 1929-30 royal commission on the coal industry. Jamieson was admitted to the Bar on 29 August 1930 but also worked as a freelance journalist. He wrote articles for the Evening News, contributed book reviews to the Sydney Morning Herald, and reviewed films and produced a series of plays on famous trials for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. On 23 December 1937 at St Mark's Anglican Church, Darling Point, he married Katherine Mary Garvan, grand-daughter of J. P. Garvan. The Jamiesons sailed for Europe where he reported for the Sydney Morning Herald; he continued part time with that newspaper after returning to Australia in 1938. Next year he was appointed to the New South Wales Theatres and Films Commission. In the 1930s he had edited the Australian and New Zealand Ski Year Book.

On 1 July 1940 Jamieson was commissioned in the Royal Australian Air Force. He served as an intelligence officer in Papua in 1942-43; after recovering from malaria, he was mostly based in the Northern Territory until his demobilization on 21 December 1945 with the rank of acting wing commander.

In July 1946 Jamieson joined the Department of External Affairs as head of the legal and consular division. He was official secretary at the Australian High Commission, Ottawa, in 1947-50, officer-in-charge of the information and defence liaison branches, Canberra, in 1950-52, and consul-general in San Francisco, United States of America, from 1952. Moving to New York as acting consul-general in 1955, he accepted the post of chargé d'affaires in Dublin in 1956. Appointed Australia's first high commissioner to Ghana in 1958, Jamieson travelled widely and alerted the Federal government to the political and economic significance of Africa's emerging nations. In 1960 he was posted as ambassador to Brazil: on his tours of South America, he explained Australia's stand on such issues as trade, Antarctica, and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. He arrived in the Soviet Union as ambassador in 1962 and also served (from 1964) as ambassador to Sweden. Appointed C.B.E. in June, he left Moscow for Canberra in October. He retired in 1965.

During his career Jamieson had visited thirty-six countries, often travelling from the cities to the backblocks. His unflagging interest in people and his enthusiasm for his work reflected his view of diplomatic life as 'a privilege'. In 1966 he became a director of Canberra Television Ltd and president of the local branch of the Australian-American Association. He was an official Australian observer at the elections in the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) in September 1967. Survived by his wife and two daughters, he died on 4 May 1975 in Canberra and was cremated with Presbyterian forms.

Select Bibliography

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 Jan 1925, 28 Jan 1939
  • M. Pratt, interview with Stewart Jamieson (National Library of Australia)
  • Jamieson file (John Fairfax Group Pty Ltd Archives, Sydney)
  • A1068/1 T47/145, A1838/1 1515/2/2/1, A1838/272 168/10/6 pt 1, A1838/1 852/9/17/1, A1838/274 69/1/3/5 part 5 and A1838/281 3014/2/4/5 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Kathleen Dermody, 'Jamieson, Stewart Wolfe (1903–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jamieson-stewart-wolfe-10613/text18861, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 31 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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