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Frederick Halcomb (1836–1919)

by J. M. Davis

This article was published:

Frederick Halcomb (1836-1919), parliamentary officer, was born on 25 July 1836 at High Trees farm near Marlborough, Wiltshire, England, fourth son of Thomas Halcomb, landlord, and his wife Emma Susan, née Worthington. He was educated at Macclesfield and at King Edward VI Grammar School, Bath, before matriculating on an open scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford in 1855 (B.A., 1859; M.A., 1878). In 1860 Halcomb left for South Australia in the Morning Light and arrived early next year. He joined the Gilbert family at Pewsey Vale and later spent two years at Booborowie. With Thomas McTurk Gibson he opened up country north-west of Port Augusta for sheep-raising, at Yudnapinna, but the disastrous droughts of 1864-66 thwarted them. Halcomb moved to Henry Holroyd's Duck Ponds near Port Lincoln, and in 1866 married Henry's sister Margaret.

He entered the parliamentary service as librarian in 1870, but transferred in 1874 to clerk-assistant and sergeant-at-arms in the Legislative Council and became clerk of the House of Assembly in 1887. His career culminated in the appointment in 1901 as clerk of the parliaments and of the Legislative Council, where he succeeded E. G. Blackmore. In 1918 Halcomb retired, having been associated with twenty-four ministries. He was somewhat reserved, but his genial courtesy made him many friends. He prepared a new code of standing orders for the Upper House, as well as revising the Statistical Record of the Legislature and Blackmore's Parliamentary Procedure. It was said in the council that 'to know him was to respect, to honour, and to love the old gentleman … there was never any semblance of party feeling shown by him … a safe and reliable counsellor … a real English gentleman … he had all the points of Parliamentary procedure at his fingers' ends'.

Halcomb was a member of the Senate of the University of Adelaide from 1877. In earlier days he had been an enthusiastic oarsman and later became captain of the university boat club. At public examinations he was an examiner in Latin and Greek and he was also a governor of the Collegiate School of St Peter. From 1872 he lived in the Walkerville district and his Short history of St Andrew's Church, Walkerville by a Warden was published in 1914. An amateur painter, he executed in the church, by the light of a candle, a hand-painted reredos. He also kept a sketch-book diary and a delightful record exists of his family's holiday at Victor Harbor in 1878.

Halcomb's first wife died in 1882 and on 27 July 1895 he married Angela Hilda Cornish, who had migrated from England to marry him. He died on 20 October 1919 at his home, The Gables, Gilberton, and was buried in the Anglican North Road cemetery. He was survived by his second wife and two sons from the first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1907)
  • Parliamentary Debates (South Australia), 1919, p 1276
  • Statistical Record of the Legislature, 1836-1977, Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1978-79 (116)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 21 Oct 1919
  • Register (Adelaide), 21 Oct 1919.

Citation details

J. M. Davis, 'Halcomb, Frederick (1836–1919)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 21 May 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]


25 July, 1836
Marlborough, Wiltshire, England


20 October, 1919 (aged 83)
Gilberton, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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