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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lamb, Edward William (1828–1910)

by H. J. Gibbney

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Edward William Lamb (1828-1910), pastoralist, public servant and politician, was born on 6 February 1828 in London, second son of John Lamb and his wife Emma Trant, née Robinson. With his parents he arrived in the Resource at Sydney in May 1829. He was sent to England for education at the Royal Naval School and returned about 1846 to join the family firm, Lamb, Parbury & Co. In the next ten years he and his brother Walter managed stations for the firm near Boorowa and Harden. On 9 February 1854 he married Julia Clemence Fattorini, by whom he had two sons and three surviving daughters.

In 1858 Lamb and Thomas Skinner bought Dalgangal station in the Burnett District of Queensland. Four years later he took up five stations on Peak Downs with John Richard Black. Appointed chief commissioner of crown lands in November 1862, he held office until elected to the Legislative Assembly for Mitchell in July 1867. A month later he was appointed secretary for public lands in the Mackenzie ministry. Lamb confessed disillusion with the theories of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, whom he had once known, and his main objective was a new land law. His bill was heavily amended by a select committee but in 1868 was passed as the Crown Land Alienation Act. His alleged maladministration of it led to his replacement in September and was one of the charges used to defeat the Mackenzie ministry in November.

Lamb resigned in December 1869 and next year failed to win the Clermont seat. He dissolved his partnership with Black in May 1874 and retired to Sydney. In 1880, on behalf of his son Edward Charles, he took up Alroy Downs in the Northern Territory. Lamb lost heavily when the lease had to be abandoned in 1893. He wrote occasionally on development for the press until he died in a private hospital at Woolloomooloo on 18 October 1910.

Though well educated and intelligent, Lamb was unlucky in politics. Perhaps unfairly, a political lampoonist described him as

The fussy feckless silly bleating lamb
Condemned to drudge, to labor and take pains
Without an equal competence of brains.

Select Bibliography

  • M. J. Fox (ed), The History of Queensland, vol 2 (Brisb, 1921)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1867, 316, 1868
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Oct 1910
  • H. M. Chester, Autobiography (State Library of New South Wales)
  • letter, MS 275 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Lamb, Edward William (1828–1910)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 24 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

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