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Charles James Graham (1839–1886)

by A. A. Morrison

This article was published:

Charles James Graham (1839-1886), grazier, newspaper proprietor, parliamentarian, public servant and businessman, was born on 7 October 1839, son of John Graham (1790-1862), vicar of Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, England, and his wife Frances Maria. He was educated at Uppingham, Bury and Peterhouse, Cambridge (B.A., 1862). He then went to Sydney in the Montmorencey and in 1865 moved to Queensland because of delicate health and hope of greater opportunities. He gained experience on the Darling Downs with the Gore brothers and joined St George on the Peak Downs. After difficult years in 1866-68 Gore turned to other vocations while Graham struggled to establish himself in the central district. He became editor of the Peak Downs Telegram with a share in the profits; in partnership with Mackay, a printer from Rockhampton, he took over the newspaper and soon became sole owner.

In 1872 as an independent Graham won the Clermont seat in the Legislative Assembly; not a single vote was registered against him in the town and his electors paid him a salary of £300. He was secretary for public lands from 15 July 1873 to 8 January 1874 when the Palmer ministry was defeated. When the 1875 session ended he resigned because of financial difficulties. (Sir) Samuel Griffith, leader of the new government and a political opponent of Graham, offered to appoint him under-secretary for public instruction to supervise the establishment of Queensland's new educational system under the 1875 Act which set up a system of state education but also provided for 'non-vested' schools. After consultation with Palmer, Graham accepted the office and held it from 17 January 1876 to 31 October 1878. His administration was so successful that on his resignation he received not only a testimonial from all the government teachers in the colony but also high praise from the nuns of All Hallows, the leading Catholic girls' school.

Graham moved to New South Wales in search of a cooler climate and greater financial stability. In partnership with George Walker Waddell, formerly manager of the Australian Joint Stock Bank in Clermont, he took over a brewery at Orange and ran it profitably. Active in public causes in the town, he became captain in the local Volunteer Force. In 1884 he applied without success for appointment as under-secretary for public instruction in New South Wales. He sold the brewery and in January 1885 sailed for England partly to renew old links, partly for a difficult operation on the foot of his young son. In January 1886 he left for Australia in the Parramatta, aware that he had heart trouble. It afflicted him severely near Colombo but the stay there revived him. Rough seas again aggravated his complaint and he had to go ashore at Albany where he died on 18 March 1886 of valvular disease of the aorta. He was survived by his wife Mary Joseph, née Enright, and three children.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1884, 1, 436
  • Centenary Report of the Queensland Public Service, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1959-60, 1, 58
  • Brisbane Courier, 22 Mar, 6 Apr 1886
  • Western Advocate (Orange), 24 Mar 1886.

Citation details

A. A. Morrison, 'Graham, Charles James (1839–1886)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 23 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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