Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Edward Barrow Forrest (1838–1914)

by Betty Crouchley and H. J. Gibbney

This article was published:

Edward Barrow Forrest (1838-1914), company director and politician, was born in February 1838 at Windermere, Westmoreland, England, son of John Forrest and his wife, née Barrow. In 1842 the family migrated to Sydney where his education was completed at The King's School, Parramatta. Leaving school at 14, he became a clerk in the office of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. and was sent to Brisbane in 1860 as the company's agent. He became managing partner in 1872 for Parbury Lamb & Co., merchants. One of the first directors of Perkins & Co. and later of Castlemaine brewery, he was a director of the Queensland Investment & Land Mortgage Co., the Brisbane Gas Co., the North British and Mercantile Insurance Co., a local director of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. in Queensland, and was on the Queensland board of the Australian Mutual Providence Society.

Regarded as a careful and efficient businessman, Forrest was appointed in 1873 to a commission of inquiry into the system of keeping the public accounts. An active supporter of the (Sir Thomas) McIlwraith party in elections of the early 1880s, he was appointed to the Legislative Council in August 1882; in 1896, although a shareholder in the bank, he was chairman of the committee selected by the government to investigate the Queensland National Bank. He was also a member of the Marine Board of Queensland.

In March 1899 Forrest stood for North Brisbane in the Legislative Assembly. As a ministerialist he was unopposed, but when his election was challenged on the ground that he was on the Marine Board, he resigned and was re-elected. For most of his parliamentary career he was junior in the two-member electorate to John Cameron. Primarily motivated by commercial concerns, as in his enthusiasm for Federation, he does not seem to have had any particular aspirations in his political life, but he played a significant role on two occasions. In November 1899 he led a group of malcontents who crossed the floor and brought down (Sir James) Dickson's government. Both Andrew Dawson and James G. Drake suggested that Forrest should form a ministry, but he would not agree to their conditions, and Dawson then formed the first Labor government. In September 1903 Forrest helped to defeat the Philp government by opposing his proposed extension of the Stamp Duties Act to tax all bank deposits. In 1905 Forrest's Railway (Employees' Appeal) Act became law. He lost his seat in 1912, probably as a result of the new forces released by the Brisbane general strike of that year. He was appointed again to the Legislative Council on 14 June 1913 but became ill shortly afterwards.

Sturdily-built and vigorous, with a powerful booming voice which earned him the nickname 'Pom Pom', Forrest was kindly, bluff and genial. He was a liberal supporter of philanthropic and social institutions, particularly the Brisbane General Hospital. President of the Brisbane Musical Union, a collector of paintings, including many Queensland works, he was a member for forty years of the Queensland Club, president of Brisbane Tattersall's Club, and patron of the Commercial Rowing Club. He was fond of sailing and was for many years commodore of the Royal Queensland Yacht Club. He also served as vice-consul for France.

Forrest died in a Brisbane hospital on 30 March 1914 and was buried in Toowong cemetery with Anglican rites. His estate, valued for probate at £13,232, was left to his family. On 29 April 1861 in Sydney he had married Elizabeth Leary, who predeceased him. He was survived by six of their eight children.

Select Bibliography

  • R. S. Browne, A Journalist's Memories (Brisb, 1927)
  • D. J. Murphy and R. B. Joyce (eds), Queensland Political Portraits 1859-1952 (Brisb, 1978)
  • Queensland Heritage, Nov 1978
  • Brisbane Courier, 30 Nov 1899, 15 Apr 1907, 31 Mar 1914
  • J. McCormack, The Politics of Expediency. Queensland Government in the Eighteen Nineties (M.A. thesis, University of Queensland, 1974)
  • A. Jenkins, Attitudes Towards Federation in Queensland (M.A. thesis, University of Queensland, 1979)
  • Broadbent cutting book (State Library of Queensland).

Citation details

Betty Crouchley and H. J. Gibbney, 'Forrest, Edward Barrow (1838–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 17 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


February, 1838
Windermere, Westmorland, England


30 March, 1914 (aged 76)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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