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Sir Hamilton John Goold-Adams (1858–1920)

by D. J. Murphy

This article was published:

Sir Hamilton John Goold-Adams (1858-1920), soldier and governor, was born on 27 June 1858 at Jamesbrook, Cork, Ireland, fourth son of Richard Wallis Goold-Adams, later high sheriff of the county, and his wife Mary Sarah, née Becher. Apprenticed on a training ship, he changed his mind and was commissioned in the Royal Scots Regiment in 1878. Promoted captain in 1885 and major in 1895, he served principally in southern Africa in 1884-1901. He led several expeditions into the interior, one of which almost proved fatal. He was deputy commissioner of the Orange River Colony and was its lieutenant-governor in 1901-07. He was appointed C.M.G. in 1902 and G.C.M.G. in 1907. In the South African War he was mentioned in dispatches and helped to defend Mafeking. He returned to England and on 4 July 1911 married Elsie Riordan of Montreal, Canada; they had two children. Appointed high commissioner to Cyprus in 1911, he became governor of Queensland in 1914.

The reserved and somewhat dour Goold-Adams arrived in Brisbane on 15 March 1915 two months before the election of T. J. Ryan's Labor government. The first elected Labor government in Queensland, it began state enterprises and introduced radical labour and farming legislation which affronted Goold-Adams. In his first dispatch to the secretary of state, he objected to the 'mass of undigested legislation' being introduced, but reported favourably on the cabinet and referred to Ryan as 'a gentleman of high standing, courteous and always ready to oblige'.

In the turbulent years 1916-18 when Ryan was faced with an intransigent Legislative Council and an irascible William Morris Hughes, he found Goold-Adams a good friend and counsellor who defended his government to the Colonial Office and to the governor-general, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson. In 1917 Goold-Adams seemed to exercise his own judgment about the appointment of thirteen new legislative councillors, but actually followed the advice of Ryan. In 1918, however, when the Legislative Council continued to defeat government money bills and Ryan sought further Labor appointments to the Council, Goold-Adams refused.

When he was to retire in 1919, he advised the Colonial Office to accept the appointment of William Lennon, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, as lieutenant-governor while a new governor was found. The appointment partly satisfied local aspirations for an Australian governor, and gave Lennon the opportunity to appoint a majority of Labor nominees to the legislative council; in 1921 they voted for the abolition of the Council.

Goold-Adams left Brisbane in January 1920 to retire in England. He contracted pleurisy on the ship and died in Capetown on 12 April.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland—Our Seventh Political Decade 1920-1930 (Syd, 1931)
  • D. J. Murphy, T. J. Ryan (Brisb, 1975)
  • D. J. Murphy et al (eds), Labor in Power: The Labor Party and Governments in Queensland, 1915-57 (Brisb, 1980).

Citation details

D. J. Murphy, 'Goold-Adams, Sir Hamilton John (1858–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


27 June, 1858
Jamesbrook, Cork, Ireland


12 April, 1920 (aged 61)
Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

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