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Rigby, Edward Charles (1873–1958)

by B. Marginson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Edward Charles Rigby (1873-1958), solicitor and local councillor, was born on 31 May 1873 in Melbourne, son of John Edward Rigby, London-born saddler, and his Scottish wife Alice, née Donaldson. He was educated at Kensington State School, Geelong College and Carlton College. Admitted to practise as solicitor in 1896, on admission to the Bar in 1897 he was sponsored by Alfred Deakin. He established in 1902 with G. A. Fielding the partnership Rigby & Fielding, a largely civil practice which with Deakin's assistance presented the first writ to the High Court of Australia. On 19 April 1901 he had married Jane Whiting (d.1954), at St John's Anglican Church, Alexandra; they had one son.

A council-member of the Law Institute of Victoria in 1907-51 and president in 1911-12, Rigby advocated in 1912 the foundation of its journal in the form eventually adopted in 1927. He was also active in the Society of Notaries and as an examiner of the Council of Legal Education. Many distinguished advocates had been articled to him. Long-standing association with the Anglican Church as a worshipper, choirmaster and organist led in 1903 to his becoming a member of synod. In 1915 he was elected lay canon of St Paul's Cathedral and in 1944 Archbishop Booth appointed him advocate of the diocese. He recommended the organization of religious services to mark the commencement of the legal year, and in 1946 became secretary of the chief justice's committee for religious observance. He drafted the bill approving a constitution which in 1962 made the Church of England in Australia self-governing. He had worked to achieve this constitution since 1910.

Rigby's association with local government began in 1911 with his election to Hawthorn City Council. He was a councillor until his death, except in 1920-21, and mayor four times. By the end of his life he was regarded as an elder statesmen of local government, having been president of the Municipal Association of Victoria in 1935-40 and treasurer in 1941-58. He was founding chairman of the Local Authorities Superannuation Board.

Believing in the importance of co-operation between councils, Rigby served on a committee which achieved a uniform traffic code in 1935. He was the first president of the Australian Council of Local Government Authorities in 1947-48. The State government recognized the extent of his knowledge of local government when it appointed him chairman of the commission of inquiry into the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (1941-43). While he agreed with his two fellow commissioners in advocating augmented power for the board, he submitted a dissenting report opposing an elected board and supporting the continuation of representatives chosen from serving councillors.

President of the Victorian Town Planning Association in 1920, Rigby was vice-chairman of the Metropolitan Planning Commission for its lifetime (1923-30). Its final report in December 1929, a plan of general development for Melbourne, was not carried out because of the onset of the Depression and the withdrawal of municipal interest, but when the Town and Country Planning Board was established in 1944 the 1929 report was used as the basis for planning the metropolitan area. In October 1928 Rigby contested the Legislative Council province of East Yarra in a by-election, advocating co-ordination of metropolitan planning, but was convincingly defeated by (Sir) Robert Menzies.

Rigby's period as vice-chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (1939-42) recognized both his friendship with Prime Minister Menzies and his association with the musical life of Melbourne. A keen amateur performer as pianist, organist, vocalist and violinist, he was at various times president of the Zelman Memorial Orchestra, vice-president of the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Society and member of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra advisory committee. A member of the Savage Club since 1900, he was president in 1941-45. In 1941 he was appointed C.B.E.

The vast number of meetings which Rigby attended may have been responsible for the description of his walking as rather being a trot. Contemporaries respected his great energy, his determination and shrewdness. At a dinner given by the mayor of Hawthorn in 1955 to mark his years of service, tributes brought out his friendliness and zest for life.

Rigby died on 15 September 1958 at his Hawthorn home and after a service at St Paul's Cathedral was cremated. His estate, valued for probate at £18,816, included a legacy to St Paul's. After his death the new local government secretariat building was named Rigby House and a bust of Ted Rigby, as he was universally known, was placed in the boardroom.

Select Bibliography

  • H. H. Peck, Memoirs of a Stockman (Melb, 1942)
  • D. M. Dow, Melbourne Savages (Melb, 1947)
  • Law Institute of Victoria, Centenary Year Council, The Law Institute of Victoria, 1859-1959 (Melb, 1959)
  • L. Sandercock, Cities for Sale (Melb, 1975)
  • K. S. Inglis, This is the ABC (Melb, 1983)
  • Law Institute Journal, 1 Aug 1958
  • Australian Municipal Journal, Sept 1958
  • Hawthorn, Kew, Camberwell Citizen, 8 Sept 1911, 11 Nov 1919
  • Argus (Melbourne) 26 Sept, 8, 10, 28 Oct 1928, 30 Aug, 18 Dec 1930, 2 Oct, 27 Nov 1935
  • Age (Melbourne), 3 Oct 1956, 16 Sept 1958
  • Anglican, 3 Oct 1958
  • W. M. Grubb, A History of Town Planning in Victoria 1910-47 (M.T.R.P. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1976)
  • Rigby & Field papers (Bank Place, Melbourne)
  • private information.

Citation details

B. Marginson, 'Rigby, Edward Charles (1873–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/rigby-edward-charles-8211/text14367, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 24 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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