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Martin, Lewis Ormsby (1870–1944)

by Peter Spearritt

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Lewis Ormsby Martin (1870-1944), by unknown photographer

Lewis Ormsby Martin (1870-1944), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 22992

Lewis Ormsby Martin (1870-1944), solicitor, farmer and politician, was born on 16 May 1870 at Lower Jordan, Victoria, second son of Irish parents Robert Martin, miner and later clergyman, and his wife Antoinette Louisa, née Ormsby. He came to New South Wales at an early age and was educated privately by a tutor, W. Compton. In 1889 he was articled to C. Way, and matriculated at the University of Sydney (B.A., 1893; LL.B., 1895). Transferred to C. R. A. Smith in 1893 he was admitted as a solicitor on 1 June 1895.

Martin established a legal practice at Taree and soon became prominent in legal circles on the north coast where he specialized in the problems of primary producers. At St James Anglican Church, O'Connell Plains, on 5 April 1899 he married Lucy Danvers Maund, daughter of a grazier. An alderman on Taree Municipal Council in 1906-28, he served as mayor in 1911-13 and in 1920-21. With dairying and grazing interests, he was a member of the Farmers and Settlers' Association and became a councillor of the Liberal Party in 1913. He was defeated for the State seats of Gloucester twice in 1917 (as a Nationalist) and of Oxley in 1922 (as a Progressive).

In October 1927 Martin was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Oxley as a Nationalist. He became a spokesman for dairy interests and rural producers generally and in 1928 promoted the Marketing of Primary Products (Amendment) Act. He quickly became known as an able debater, easily survived J. T. Lang's sweeping victory in the 1930 election and in June 1932 was returned as a United Australia Party supporter, becoming minister of justice in (Sir) Bertram Stevens's 'Ministry of Reconstruction'. He oversaw the passage of the revised Moratorium Act of 1932 (after party colleagues had toned down its provisions), and in 1935 introduced the Legal Practitioners (Amendment) Act, designed to safeguard funds held in trust by solicitors. The Companies Act of 1936, which greatly improved the code of operation for companies, was the crown of his legislative achievement.

Martin's aspirations for leadership of the U.A.P. were thwarted in 1935 when E. S. Spooner defeated him for the deputy leadership. During the ministerial crisis of August 1939 Martin supported Stevens and then Alexander Mair. He relinquished the justice portfolio in favour of the younger (Sir) Vernon Treatt and accepted the posts of secretary for public works and minister for local government. He lost Oxley to an Independent at the May 1941 election which saw the government thrown from office by a reunited Labor party under (Sir) William McKell.

The Martins lived in style at Ormsby House, near Taree, often entertaining distinguished guests. Lucy Martin was 'famed as a hostess'. Of small build, Martin was quick witted and well suited to public affairs. From 1936 he practised in partnership with two of his sons. Survived by his wife, seven sons and only daughter, he died at Taree on 17 April 1944 and was cremated after a service at St James' Church, Sydney. His estate was valued for probate at £18,473.

Select Bibliography

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Oct 1927, 18 June 1932, 1 Feb 1933, 3 Aug 1939, 18 Apr 1944
  • Australian National Review, 28 June 1932
  • United Australian Review, 22 Mar 1934
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Peter Spearritt, 'Martin, Lewis Ormsby (1870–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/martin-lewis-ormsby-7505/text13087, published in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 2 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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