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Von Doussa, Heinrich Albert Alfred (1848–1926)

by Wray Vamplew

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Heinrich Albert Alfred Von Doussa (1848-1926), horse-racing promoter and politician, and CHARLES LOUIS (1850-1932), politician and lawyer, were born on 27 April 1848 in Adelaide and 17 May 1850 at Hahndorf, South Australia, sons of Emil Louis Alfred von Doussa, farmer, and his wife Anna Dorothea, née Schach; Emil later entered the Hahndorf firm of Gunther & von Doussa, chemists. Both his sons were educated at T. W. Boehm's Hahndorf Academy; Alfred proceeded to the Collegiate School of St Peter in Adelaide, whereas Louis was privately tutored. After leaving school, Alfred accompanied his father to the New Zealand goldfields. He was later involved in several Western Australian gold-mines and became chairman of directors of Mount Benson Goldmining Co. When Emil retired to Germany, Alfred maintained the pharmacy while continuing as clerk to the Echunga Council (1871-1926). On 15 October 1885 at Gawler he married Helena Theresa Doudy.

A handsome, genial and impulsive man, Alfred numbered his friends in hundreds. He was a political force among local Germans and in 1901-21 represented Southern District in the Legislative Council where he became known for his liberal views. A member of seven royal commissions, five of which concerned railways, he sat on the railways standing committee and urged the construction of the Pinnaroo line to develop the Mallee region. As a vigorous sportsman into his fifties, he especially enjoyed rifle-shooting. But this 'prince of organisers' is best remembered as secretary of the Onkaparinga Racing Club from its foundation in 1875 to 1924; he instituted its Oakbank Easter races which grew to be one of Australia's premier picnic meetings. Survived by his wife, two daughters and a son, Alfred died at Hahndorf on 1 August 1926 and was buried in the local cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £193. The von Doussa Steeplechase at his old club commemorates him.

Louis was articled in 1866 to J. J. Bonnar and admitted to the Bar in 1871. On 16 April 1874 at Strathalbyn he married Agnes Bowman; they were to have seven children. He was a man of 'cultured and resilient brain' whose social gifts made his company sought. He practised in every jurisdiction of the State's Supreme and lower courts, and in the High Court of Australia. An ardent Federationist, from 1899 he represented Mount Barker in the House of Assembly, but lost his seat in 1902 when the electorate was restructured; adverse publicity surrounding his introduction of the judges' retiring allowances bill (1901) possibly contributed to his defeat.

In 1903 he, too, entered the Legislative Council as a representative for Southern; he was attorney-general and minister for education in J. G. Jenkins's government. A nervous breakdown forced him to leave the ministry next year and the council in 1905. Four of his children had died young, and Agnes died after the birth of a daughter in 1886. At Elsternwick, Melbourne, on 17 March 1900 Louis married with Presbyterian forms an Irish widow, Robena Frances Farrar, née Smyth; they were to have no children. In retirement Louis represented the State in lawn bowls; an Anglican and a Freemason, as was his brother, he fostered the arts and agriculture at Mount Barker, 'the town I love'. He died there on 27 May 1932 and was buried in the local cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £19,883, much of which was bequeathed to Mount Barker where an obelisk was erected in his memory.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1907)
  • S. Bessant, Oakbank (Adel, 1984)
  • Critic (Adelaide), 4 Mar 1899
  • Quiz (Adelaide), 2 June 1932, 13 July 1933
  • Observer (Adelaide), 4 Apr 1896, 6 Mar 1899, 3 Dec 1921, 7 Aug 1926
  • Register (Adelaide), 25 Nov 1921, 2 Aug 1926, 25 Nov 1931
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 2 Aug 1926, 28 May 1932
  • Mount Barker Courier, 3 June 1932
  • private information.

Citation details

Wray Vamplew, 'Von Doussa, Heinrich Albert Alfred (1848–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/von-doussa-heinrich-albert-alfred-8931/text15691, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 18 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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