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Andrew Inglis Clark (1882–1953)

by F. M. Neasey

This article was published:

Andrew Inglis Clark (1882-1953), barrister and judge, was born on 6 June 1882 in Hobart, third of seven children of Andrew Inglis Clark, barrister, and his wife Grace, née Ross, both Tasmanian born. Young Andrew was educated at The Hutchins School and the University of Tasmania (LL.B., 1903). As an undergraduate he led his fellow students in elaborate practical jokes, and, as a commemoration prank, laid siege to the gates of Hobart Gaol with a small, muzzle-loading cannon. He was articled in turn to M. W. Simmons and A. D. Watchorn, called to the Bar on 7 December 1904 and became a partner in the firm of Finlay & Watchorn in 1910. A specialist in constitutional law, he was appointed adviser to the State government and personal adviser to the premier John Earle during the constitutional crisis in 1914.

On 2 August 1915 Clark enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and in February 1916 joined No.4 Company, Army Service Corps, in Egypt. Moving to France in April, he transferred to the 4th Divisional Ammunition Sub-Park in August. He was attached to 1 Anzac Corps headquarters in January 1917 and to Australian Corps headquarters from November. Employed as an assistant to the court-martial officer, he was promoted temporary sergeant in January 1919 and mentioned in dispatches. Despite his educational qualifications and age, he made no apparent effort to obtain a commission and developed an extremely critical attitude towards officers, particularly English officers. He was discharged from the A.I.F. in London on 23 April 1919.

Returning via the United States of America, while in Chicago he investigated the medical qualifications of Victor Richard Ratten for Finlay, Watchorn & Clark and their client, the Tasmanian branch of the British Medical Association. Clark made a report, but the dispute between the B.M.A. and Ratten simmered for years. Embittered by his war experiences and socially withdrawn, Clark dedicated himself to his legal career in Tasmania, practising mainly as a barrister. On 12 November 1926 at St Stephen's Anglican Church, Hobart, he married Vera Chancellor; they were to remain childless.

While in private practice, he was engaged in 1927 by the State attorney-general to prepare the Supreme Court civil procedure bill which was passed, with few alterations, in 1931. Appointed a judge of the Supreme Court on 31 August 1928, Clark acquired an extraordinary reputation within Tasmania for his legal knowledge and acuity. On the bench he was often testy and demanding, and somewhat pedantic. Nonetheless, the legal profession in general admired his ability, his personal and professional integrity, and his passion for justice. Some of his early judgements, including those in Burnett v. Brown (1929) and Davies v. Andrews (1930), were regarded locally as classics.

A keen gardener with a practical knowledge of fruit-growing, in 1930 Clark was chosen as a royal commissioner to inquire into the marketing of Tasmanian apples and pears. He was devoted to his profession and had little time for other pursuits, but he enjoyed social history, biography and literature. According to Frank Clifton Green, Clark's name was submitted to Federal cabinet in the late 1930s to fill a vacancy on the High Court bench. The nomination was allegedly rejected on the grounds that Clark had not been commissioned throughout his army service. He resigned from the Supreme Court on 25 February 1952. Survived by his wife, he died on 4 July 1953 in Hobart and was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery. In a memorial address Acting Chief Justice Sir Kenneth Green described him as the greatest lawyer the State had produced. Later observers would probably agree that the statement was right when made, subject to one exception—his father.

Select Bibliography

  • Tasmanian Law Reports, 1953
  • Papers and Proceedings (Tasmanian Historical Research Association), 4, no 1, Jan 1955, p 5
  • Mercury (Hobart), 1 Sept 1928, 6 July 1953
  • Clark papers (University of Tasmania Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

F. M. Neasey, 'Clark, Andrew Inglis (1882–1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 18 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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