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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Adamson, Travers (1827–1897)

by Susan Roylance

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Travers Adamson (1827-1897), lawyer, politician and public servant, was born on 6 August 1827 in Dublin, son of Travers Adamson and Fanny Jane, née Curtis. After education by a private tutor he went at 17 in November 1844 to Trinity College, Dublin (B.A., 1849). He was admitted to the Irish Bar at King's Inn in April 1850, but finding the profession overcrowded migrated to Melbourne. There he was admitted to the Bar on 24 November 1852. He practised at the Supreme Court, was secretary of the Squatting Commission of 1855, sat on the Crown Land Tenure Commission and published in two volumes in 1855-56 'Adamson's Acts'—Acts and Ordinances in Force in Victoria.

Adamson was elected to the first Legislative Assembly in 1856 as second member for the Murray region of north-east Victoria. A staunch Conservative, he sat at first on the cross-benches but later supported the second Haines ministry. In 1854 he had been appointed crown prosecutor for the north-east district, a position he retained after entering parliament. In March 1858 he was dismissed from his appointment in the 'interests of the public service' as one of the few who held simultaneously an elective seat and a position of profit under the Crown. His legal training led to his appointment as solicitor-general in William Nicholson's ministry on 27 October 1859. He resigned office on 5 March 1860. He became crown prosecutor again on 14 January 1867, first in Melbourne and after 1872 in the Western District. During this term he prosecuted at several sensational murder trials such as that of Pat Geary who was charged in 1871 with murdering a man in Colac in 1854, and of James Beaney who was acquitted of the murder of a patient in 1866. In February 1883 ill health forced him to resign from the Crown Law Department. At St John's Church of England, Heidelberg, Victoria, on 9 February 1860 Adamson had married Janet Muirhead, second daughter of Patrick Stevenson. She died in 1864 and on 26 August 1873 at Geelong he married Catherine Synnot. They went to Britain after his retirement. He died at Eastbourne on 4 April 1897 in his seventieth year.

Adamson was a very competent criminal lawyer and during his parliamentary term his legal training was particularly valuable. As an Anglican he favoured state aid to churches. He was described in 1856 as 'a man of fair ability', an assessment which had not altered when at his retirement the Argus summed up his career.

Select Bibliography

  • J. L. Forde, The Story of the Bar of Victoria (Melb, 1913)
  • G. Serle, The Golden Age (Melb, 1963)
  • G. Quaife, The Nature of Political Conflict in Victoria 1856-57 (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1964).

Citation details

Susan Roylance, 'Adamson, Travers (1827–1897)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 10 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

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