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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Marshall, James Waddell (1845–1925)

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

James Waddell Marshall (1845-1925), by Hammer & Co., c1905

James Waddell Marshall (1845-1925), by Hammer & Co., c1905

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 11243

James Waddell Marshall (1845-1925), merchant, was born on 2 June 1845 at Falkirk, Stirling, Scotland, son of William Marshall and his wife Agnes Aitken, née Waddell. His father died in 1847 and the family estate was swallowed up in legal costs. At 12 Marshall had to go to work. At 14 he joined the Falkirk drapery of P. & J. Gentleman & Co. His apprenticeship ended, he moved to a drapery in Dundee and then to London, where he was employed by James Spence & Co., retail drapers in St Paul's Churchyard; he was there for a year and worked seventy-five hours a week. Through the London agency of David Murray Marshall was offered a job with J. A. Northmore, an Adelaide draper. As James Waddell he arrived at Port Adelaide on 21 November 1867 in the Saint Vincent and as James Waddell Marshall married Annie Walters on 24 September 1872; thereafter he dropped the name Waddell.

With a fellow assistant, William Taylor, Marshall began saving and in 1874 set up a store in Hindley Street. When John Hodgkiss, warehouseman, retired in 1881, they bought his business in Rundle Street and set up as James Marshall & Co., drapers and importers, with a furniture warehouse in Stephens Place. Soon afterwards they were burnt out but insurance covered the stock and they rebuilt. They bought adjoining premises and the business grew to the largest of its kind in South Australia with some 800 employees. From the start Marshall followed a policy of vigorous advertising. His influence on Adelaide business was great and from successful experience his advice was 'Stick to your business and put your heart and soul into it; Mind your own business … See that you do enough to satisfy yourself … Do everything you are asked to do, and do it promptly; study your employer before studying self … Make yourself indispensable … Do everything with a good heart'.

Marshall avoided politics and shrank from personal publicity. Always liberal towards deserving philanthropic causes, he served on the boards of the North Adelaide Children's Hospital, the Memorial Hospital, the Home for Incurables, the Royal Institution for the Blind, the Queen's Home at Rose Park, the Adelaide Benevolent and Strangers' Friend Society and the State Children's Council. He was a founder and member of the board of the Young Men's Christian Association for which he bought W. R. Fletcher's library. He was a member of the Flinders Street Presbyterian Church and superintendent of its Sunday school but later attended the Kent Town Methodist Church. He was an energetic member of the Adelaide City Mission. He was fond of cricket and football and regularly attended the Adelaide Oval. In his youth he had been active in such sports as tennis, cycling, boxing, fencing, skating and swimming even though they often meant rising at 4 a.m. He made about ten visits to Britain.

After his wife died Marshall married Florence Emma Stacy on 7 October 1913. For many years he lived at Payneham, and in the early 1900s bought a home with a lovely garden at Mount Lofty. After World War I he lived in Victoria Avenue, Unley Park, where he died on 10 March 1925 survived by his wife, three sons and four daughters. He was buried in Payneham cemetery after a service at Kent Town Methodist Church, and Marshall's store was closed for the day as a mark of respect. He left an estate valued at £26,000.

Select Bibliography

  • Register (Adelaide), 11 Mar 1925.

Citation details

'Marshall, James Waddell (1845–1925)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 26 October 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

James Waddell Marshall (1845-1925), by Hammer & Co., c1905

James Waddell Marshall (1845-1925), by Hammer & Co., c1905

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 11243