Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Barlow (1834–1915)

by V. A. Edgeloe

This article was published:

William Barlow (1834-1915), barrister and university administrator, was born on 19 February 1834 in Dublin, second son of Peter Barlow, barrister. In 1851 he entered Trinity College, Dublin (B.A., 1855; LL.D., 1884), where he won a gold medal for oratory in the College Historical Society. In 1858 he was called to the Irish Bar and in 1870 he married Emma Sarah Ardill.

The Barlows arrived in South Australia on 25 June in the Carnaquheen. He was immediately admitted to the South Australian Bar and practised alone until 1873 when he formed a partnership with (Sir) Richard Chaffey Baker, which lasted until his retirement in 1909. On 18 December 1874 Barlow had been appointed part-time registrar of the new University of Adelaide. He was involved with its decision to fight for the controversial right to award science degrees and to confer degrees on women; they were admitted to lectures in 1876 and in 1881 the university enrolled them for degrees.

In 1882 Barlow relinquished the duties of registrar, librarian and clerk of the senate and was elected to the university council. Dean of the faculty of law in 1883, its inaugural year, and in 1890-91, he was chairman of the finance committee in 1897-1905. He was chairman of the board of musical studies in 1901-04 and again in 1906, and vice-chancellor of the university from 1896 until his death. Barlow was popular with graduates and students, some of whom he assisted unostentatiously when they needed money.

He was a warden, trustee and synodsman for Christ Church, North Adelaide, for over thirty years, and church advocate, a member of the standing committee and chancellor of the diocese of Adelaide for thirteen years. He was a Mason, having joined in Dublin the Venerable Lodge of St John and the Military Lodge, of which he became worshipful master. In Adelaide he helped found the Mostyn and St Alban's lodges, and in 1907 became past deputy grand master of the Grand Lodge of South Australia. In 1914 he was appointed C.M.G.

Although a retiring man, Barlow was widely respected and was said to have a genial disposition. Tall and spare, he presented on ceremonial occasions at the university a sharp physical contrast to the chancellor, Sir Samuel Way. His major publication was the authoritative 483-page Local Courts Act, Rules and Forms, and Special Magistrates Confirmation Act … (Adelaide, 1890), which cited more than 1200 cases.

Barlow regularly attended evening concerts at the Elder Conservatorium of Music. He had been a member of the Adelaide Club since 1875. The Barlows were childless and, after his wife's death in 1912, he looked forward to his own demise as a release. Aged 81, he died at his home in North Adelaide on 19 April 1915, and was buried in North Road cemetery, Collinswood. His estate, sworn for probate at £22,818, went to cousins and professional associates.

Select Bibliography

  • William Barlow: In Memoriam (Adelaide, priv print, 1915)
  • E. J. R. Morgan, The Adelaide Club 1863-1963 (Adelaide, 1963)
  • W. G. K. Duncan and R. A. Leonard, The University of Adelaide, 1874-1974 (Adel, 1973)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 20 Apr 1915
  • Register (Adelaide), 20 Apr 1915
  • records (Supreme Court, South Australia, and University of Adelaide).

Citation details

V. A. Edgeloe, 'Barlow, William (1834–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 20 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


19 February, 1834
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


19 April, 1915 (aged 81)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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