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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Loxton, Merlin Forster (1895–1972)

by Alan H. Loxton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Merlin Forster Loxton (1895-1972), barrister and army officer, was born on 7 June 1895 in North Sydney, second of five children of native-born parents Edward James Loxton, barrister and member (1920-25) of the Legislative Assembly, and his wife Jane (Jeanie) Rosa Hamilton, née Marshall. Educated (1905-13) at Barker College, Hornsby, Merlin played Rugby and cricket in the school's first XV and XI. He was the State's champion rifle-shooter among the Commonwealth senior cadets and, on leaving school, was appointed cadet lieutenant in the 26th Battalion, Militia. In 1914 he enrolled in arts at the University of Sydney (LL B, 1923).

Sailing for England in April 1915, Loxton was commissioned in the Royal Field Artillery Special Reserve on 5 June. Three months later he was sent to the Western Front with the 114th Battery. He saw action at Loos and on the Somme, France, and at Ypres, Belgium. In 1917 he was wounded at Wystchaete and evacuated to England. Next year he was promoted acting captain, and commanded his battery in France and with the Army of Occupation in Germany. Awarded the Military Cross (1919) and thrice mentioned in dispatches, he returned to Sydney in July 1919.

Although Loxton greatly loved horses and hankered for life on the land, he returned to the university to study law and was admitted to the Bar on 10 May 1923. He developed a solid practice in most jurisdictions and in 1935 inherited his father's rooms in University Chambers. A strong cross-examiner, he respected people who were honest and straightforward and despised those who were not. He aggressively questioned any witness whom he perceived to be prevaricating or disregarding the truth, and he was quick to react if he believed that his opponent, a presiding judge or a magistrate had been unfair to his clients. While respectful and disciplined in his dealings with others, he was never overawed by status or reputation. He took silk on 24 June 1953.

Loxton was president (1928-31) of Barker College Old Boys' Union. As a member (1932-70) of the college council, he established a high level of co-operation between the Old Boys' Union and the council to solve financial, leadership and management problems that threatened the school's existence. Loxton represented Barker in the college's unsuccessful attempt to be included in the Athletic Association of the Great Public Schools of New South Wales. When the A.A.G.P.S. remained adamant, those schools refused admission formed their own group which became the Associated Schools of New South Wales.

In the 1920s Loxton had become interested in skiing. Surfing before the days of surfboards was another of his passions. That Wamberal, his home beach, was open and unpatrolled did not worry him unduly: he learned to take sensible precautions and taught others to do likewise. A member of the Australian Club for many years and of the Warrawee Bowling Club, he had warmth, a capacity for steadfast friendship and a restrained—if occasionally pointed—sense of humour. At his successive houses at Wahroonga and Turramurra he established gardens that were much admired. He also built up a significant art collection, principally of Australian Impressionists. Loxton died on 24 November 1972 at Hornsby and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. He never married.

Select Bibliography

  • G. E. Hall and A. Cousins (eds), Book of Remembrance of the University of Sydney in the Great War 1914-1918 (Syd, 1939)
  • S. Braga, Barker College (Syd, 1978)
  • London Gazette, supplement, 1 Jan 1919, p 27
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 June 1953, 13 Jan 1973
  • Barker College Archives, 1911-70
  • Loxton family papers (privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

Alan H. Loxton, 'Loxton, Merlin Forster (1895–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 15 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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