Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Edward Archibald Douglas (1877–1947)

by B. H. McPherson

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Robert Johnstone Douglas

Edward Archibald Douglas (1877-1947) and Robert Johnstone Douglas (1883-1972), judges, were born on 2 November 1877 at Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, and on 13 April 1883 at Sandgate, first and fourth sons of London-born John Douglas, premier (1877-79) of Queensland, and his second wife Sarah, née Hickey, from Ireland. Educated at various Queensland schools, in 1892 Edward and Robert journeyed with their brothers to Scotland to attend St Benedict's College, Fort Augustus. On his return in 1895, Edward entered the pearling industry based on Thursday Island where his father was government resident. In December 1901 Edward was admitted to the Queensland Bar, having been an associate from 1897 to Sir Samuel Griffith and then to Justice Virgil Power whose daughter Annette Eileen he married on 9 January 1907 at St Joseph's Catholic Church, Rockhampton. In Brisbane his practice grew steadily. Specializing in taxation and company law, he appeared as counsel in leading commercial, revenue and constitutional cases.

After returning from Scotland, Robert completed his schooling at St Ignatius' College, Riverview, and graduated from the University of Sydney (B.A., 1905). Admitted to the Queensland Bar in September 1906, he served briefly as an associate of Justice Real, commenced practice in 1907 at Townsville, and soon acquired a reputation as a persuasive and successful advocate. On 15 January 1912 he married Annie Alice May Ball (d.1952) at St Joseph's Catholic Church, Townsville. He made a special study of arbitration and in 1915 T. J. Ryan's Labor government appointed him a judge of the Industrial Court of Queensland. His duties entailed extensive travel in the north where he sometimes worked in shanties. Prominent in civic and social activities, he was also an alderman (1907) of the City of Townsville. He was tall and upright, with a resonant voice, and precise, factual and direct in the courtroom. In 1923, when 'R.J.' became a judge of the Supreme Court, sitting at Townsville, northerners hailed his elevation as a triumph for the region. His reciprocated loyalty later led him to decline an invitation to join the court in Brisbane.

In 1929 Edward was appointed to the Supreme Court in Brisbane. A hard-working, scholarly and erudite judge, with an 'impressively austere' manner, he attracted little public attention until 1938. That year a campaign for the seat of Ithaca was marred on both sides by sectarian bitterness. Sitting as Elections Tribunal judge, Edward found irregularities sufficient to justify setting aside the return of Labor minister E. M. Hanlon to the Legislative Assembly. The decision against Hanlon (who did not give evidence at the hearing) was reversed on appeal by a majority of the Full Court—one of whom was Edward's brother Robert.

Following the resolution of the Ithaca case, 'E.A.' found himself being passed over for offices or honours which he might reasonably have expected. In 1944 another disagreement between Edward and the government over failure to restore judicial pensions, abolished in 1921, attracted further publicity in the press and parliament. Survived by his wife, two of his three daughters and five of his eight sons, Edward Douglas died of a coronary occlusion on 27 August 1947 at Ascot and was buried in Toowong cemetery after a requiem Mass presided over by Archbishop (Sir) James Duhig. Speaking on behalf of the profession, A. D. McGill—who had represented Hanlon in the Ithaca case—stressed the esteem and admiration which the judge's conduct in that matter had earned for him among all those who 'look for a fearless and independent Judiciary'. Two of Edward's sons, (Sir) Edward Sholto and Andrew Brice, became active members of the Queensland Law Society.

Robert Douglas retired in 1953. Survived by his three sons and two daughters, he died on 24 December 1972 at Townsville and was buried in Belgian Gardens cemetery. One son, James Archibald, was also a Supreme Court judge.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Johnston, History of the Queensland Bar (Brisb, 1979)
  • B. H. McPherson, The Supreme Court of Queensland 1859-1960 (Brisb, 1989)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1944, p 1058
  • Queensland State Reports, 1939, p 90, 1947, p ii
  • Commonwealth Law Reports, 1938-39, p 313
  • Australian Bar Review, 22 July 1940, p 183
  • Daily Mail (Brisbane), 24 Jan 1923
  • Brisbane Courier, 24 Jan 1923, 6, 22 Mar 1929
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 6 March 1929, 26-30 Sept, 3, 4, 12 Oct 1938
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 20 Oct 1944, 28 Aug 1947, 26 Dec 1972
  • Truth (Brisbane), 22 Oct 1944
  • Townsville Daily Bulletin, 10, 11 Apr 1953.

Citation details

B. H. McPherson, 'Douglas, Edward Archibald (1877–1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 22 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 November, 1877
Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


27 August, 1947 (aged 69)
Ascot, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.