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Sir Clifden Henry Andrews Eager (1882–1969)

by Barry O. Jones

This article was published:

Sir Clifden Henry Andrews Eager (1882-1969), politician and barrister, was born on 14 June 1882 at Sorrento, Victoria, third child of Irish-born Clifden Henry Eager, Church of England reader (and subsequently Congregational minister), and his wife Kate Amelia, née Andrews, from New South Wales. Educated at state schools and the Melbourne Educational Institute, in 1905 young Clifden began work as an accountant before studying at the University of Melbourne (LL.B., 1910; LL.M., 1912). He was admitted to the Bar in Victoria on 8 March 1911 and in New South Wales on 19 June 1939.

At the Congregational Church, South Melbourne, on 24 December 1909 Eager had married Ernestine Isabella May Campton (d.1964); they were to have four sons and a daughter. After building a practice in commercial law, taxation and local government, and holding several directorships, in 1930 he succeeded (Sir) Robert Menzies as a Nationalist—later United Australia Party and then Liberal—member of the Legislative Council for the Province of East Yarra. In March-April 1935 he was a minister without portfolio for a fortnight in the government of Sir Stanley Argyle and in November was appointed K.C. He succeeded H. I. Cohen as unofficial leader (1937-43) of the Legislative Council and was a member (1940-45) of the State War Advisory Council.

On the retirement of Sir Frank Clarke, Eager was elected president of the Legislative Council on 29 June 1943 and was to retain office until June 1958. Elected to the joint library committee in 1940, he served as chairman in 1947-58. He was knighted in 1945 and elevated to K.B.E. in 1952.

During the Country Party government of (Sir) John McDonald, which had Labor backing, Eager lost party endorsement in 1952 after he resisted Liberal pressure to leave the chair and vote on the floor against the Greater Melbourne Council bill. In the June elections, which resulted in sweeping victories for the Australian Labor Party, Eager contested East Yarra as an Independent Liberal, received Labor Party support, and won. He was nominated for re-election as president by Labor. In 1958 he contested East Yarra again as an Independent Liberal with Labor support, but was defeated by (Sir) Rupert Hamer. Eager remained active in public life as chairman of Equity Trustees Executors & Agency Co. Ltd, Mutual Store Ltd, Pearl Assurance Co. Ltd, Australian Cement Ltd and the Sir William Angliss Charitable Fund.

Of somewhat 'forbidding exterior', Sir Clifden possessed great dignity and became a firm, deeply respected council president. He was widely read in many subjects, including the classics and the fine arts. Earlier in his career he had been president of the Royal Society of St George (1940-42 and 1959-61) and of the Trinity Grammar School council (1946-52). Survived by his sons, he died on 11 August 1969 at Corowa, New South Wales, and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • P. Aimer, Politics, Power and Persuasion (Syd, 1974)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Legislative Council, Victoria), 9 Sept 1969, p 5
  • Argus (Melbourne), 5 Nov 1935, 18 Nov 1937, 14 June 1945, 3 July 1946
  • Age (Melbourne), 24, 26 Apr 1952, 14 Aug 1969
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 14 Aug 1969.

Citation details

Barry O. Jones, 'Eager, Sir Clifden Henry Andrews (1882–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 21 February 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]


14 June, 1882
Sorrento, Victoria, Australia


11 August, 1969 (aged 87)
Corowa, New South Wales, Australia

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