Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Leake, Sir Luke Samuel (1828–1886)

by M. Medcalf

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

This is a shared entry with George Walpole Leake

Luke Samuel Leake (1828-1886), by Alfred Choppin, c1880

Luke Samuel Leake (1828-1886), by Alfred Choppin, c1880

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H29541

Sir George Walpole Leake (1825-1895), barrister and magistrate, and Sir Luke Samuel Leake (1828-1886), merchant and Speaker, were born in Stoke Newington, Middlesex, England, the first and third sons of Luke Leake and his wife Mary Ann, née Walpole. Their father arrived in Western Australia in 1829 and in 1833 their mother followed in the Cygnet with the two sons.

George was sent to King's College, London, and returned briefly to the colony on his way to study law in Adelaide. After a visit to Perth in 1843 he spent some years in Melbourne before settling in Perth as a practising barrister. In 1852 he was admitted to practise as a notary public. Despite an earlier refusal he acted as crown solicitor in 1857 and again in 1858; his appointment was confirmed in 1860. He became acting police magistrate at Perth in 1863 and magistrate of the local court in 1864. Among other temporary posts he acted as chief justice in 1879, 1880 and 1887, as puisne judge in 1887 and 1889-90, and in 1872, 1874-75, 1879-80 and 1883 as attorney-general, an office which gave him a seat on the Legislative Council. In 1890-94 he was a nominee member of the first council under responsible government. He had been police magistrate for Perth in 1881-90 when he retired to practise as a Q.C. He had an interest in the Inquirer which he edited in 1865. In 1890 he compiled an index to the Western Australian statutes and advocated the establishment of a law library. He had been a foundation member of the Perth Town Trust in 1842 and vice-president of the Swan River Mechanics' Institute in 1864-65. Large, genial and charitable, he spoke well despite a slight hesitancy. He featured in many controversies. His eccentric wit and the justice he dispensed was not always conventional and his antipathy to the chief justice, A. P. Burt, did not help his ambition for permanent elevation to the bench. In 1880 during an arbitration case he threw an inkstand at the defending counsel, Septimus Burt; he apologized next day but claimed that he had been annoyed by Burt for ten years. Leake's unreliability embarrassed the authorities and the Colonial Office soon resisted his promotion to higher office even for short terms. In July 1887 his appointment as acting judge led to a question in the House of Commons.

Meanwhile Luke was successful in commerce. By 1853 he was supplying tea, sugar and flour to the government and in 1854-64 his Guyon (146 tons) was plying between Singapore, Calcutta and Mauritius, and bringing Indian and Chinese produce to Fremantle. He failed to win the Perth electorate in the Legislative Council in 1868 but succeeded in 1870. In his policy speech he favoured promotion of immigration, liberal land regulations, raising of loans and such public works as a sea jetty at Fremantle. At the opening session in December he was elected Speaker, a post he held with distinction until 1886. Though unable to be prominent in debate, he supported moves for free trade and opposed any increase of duties on necessities. Ultra conservative, he was against pensions for public services and any extravagance with the colony's funds. His strong opposition to the introduction of responsible government drew him into the group against the administration of Weld and Barlee. He was a director of the Western Australian Bank in 1854-86 and served as its chairman. In the Perth Town Trust he was briefly chairman in 1856 and then auditor. He was a vice-president of the Swan River Mechanics' Institute in 1863-64 and president in 1866-78. Appointed a magistrate in 1858 and visiting justice for Rottnest and Perth prisons in 1879, he served on the Central Board of Education in 1878-86. He was a commissioner for Australian and International Exhibitions in 1862, 1873, 1878, 1880 and 1886. He was the first captain of the Perth Volunteer Rifles from inception in August 1862 until he resigned in February 1872. In the Weld Club he was vice-president in 1878-82 and then president until 1886. On a visit to England in 1875 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and zealously advocated what he believed was the colony's best interest.

Luke was knighted in 1876 and next year granted arms. Conscientious and courteous, he gave much of his wealth to charity and £2000 in 1878 towards building St George's Cathedral. At Bromley, Kent, on 11 September 1855 he had married his cousin Louisa, daughter of Rev. Thomas Henry Walpole; they had no children. He died on 1 May 1886 near Malta on his way home from England, and was buried with a state funeral at East Perth cemetery, where a monument was erected in his honour. His widow married Dr Alfred Robert Waylen on 2 June 1887.

In 1886 G. W. Leake contested his brother's seat for Perth in the Legislative Council. During the election an opponent, John Horgan, published a daily manifesto in which an unnamed magistrate was accused of corruption. Leake sued him for libel and was awarded £100 damages. He died on 3 October 1895, predeceased in 1888 by his first wife Rose Ellen Gliddon whom he had married at Adelaide on 6 September 1850; he was survived by seven of their eight children, by his second wife Amy Mabel May, whom he had married in Perth on 7 January 1893, and by their infant daughter. His only son to reach manhood was George (1856-1902), who became a Q.C. and was premier of Western Australia in 1901-02.

Select Bibliography

  • W. E. Bold, Souvenir of the Centenary of the Foundation of the City (Perth, 1929)
  • G. F. Wieck, The Volunteer Movement in Western Australia, 1861-1903 (Perth, 1962)
  • T. S. Louch, The First Fifty Years: The History of the Weld Club (1871-1921) (Perth, 1964)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Western Australia)
  • Government Gazette (Western Australia)
  • West Australian, 5 May 1886, 28 June 1890, 4 Oct 1895
  • S. Burt letters to F. Barlee (Royal Western Australian Historical Society)
  • Leake letters and papers (State Library of Western Australia)
  • Swan River Mechanics' Institute minutes (State Library of Western Australia)
  • CSO records and Governors' dispatches (State Library of Western Australia).

Citation details

M. Medcalf, 'Leake, Sir Luke Samuel (1828–1886)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/leake-sir-luke-samuel-4430/text6331, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 18 December 2014.

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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Luke Samuel Leake (1828-1886), by Alfred Choppin, c1880

Luke Samuel Leake (1828-1886), by Alfred Choppin, c1880

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H29541

Life Summary [details]

Birth

1828
London, England

Death

1 May 1886
at sea

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation