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Sir Claude Ernest Weymouth James (1878–1961)

by R. A. Ferrall

This article was published:

Sir Claude Ernest Weymouth James (1878-1961), politician and agent-general, was born on 24 February 1878 at Launceston, Tasmania, son of John Abraham James, clerk, and his wife Helen, née Weymouth. Educated at Launceston High School, he worked as a clerk for the local firm, Walch Bros & Birchall. In 1894 he became a junior clerk at the town hall and advanced to accountant in the electric light department. From 1913 he was city treasurer and accountant, resigning in 1918 to take up a directorship of W. & G. Genders Pty Ltd, merchants. An alderman of the city council in 1921-28, he was mayor in 1924 and a justice of the peace from 1928. He was member for Bass in the House of Assembly in 1925-37 and served as chief secretary and minister for railways and mines in the McPhee government from June 1928 until June 1934. He had also been president of the Launceston chambers of Commerce and Manufactures. He was a member of the Commonwealth Board of Trade in 1927 and chairman of the committee to prepare The Case for Tasmania, which argued for greater financial allocations by the Commonwealth, in 1930, 1934 and 1935.

In 1937 James, although a leading figure in the Nationalist Opposition, was appointed Tasmanian agent-general in London by the Labor premier Albert Ogilvie. On the outbreak of World War II he chose to remain in London; he was unceasing in his care for his fellow Australians on service and was prominent in setting up the Boomerang Club. Knighted in 1941 for his outstanding efforts, James chose the motto 'I try to serve'. He was given the freedom of the City of London and that of the borough of Launceston, Cornwall.

James's wife Alice Mary, née Wilkins, whom he married on 15 December 1900 at Launceston died there on 4 August 1949. Subsequently, in London, he married Barbara Ellen Taylor. After completing the longest term to that time as Tasmanian representative in London, James returned in 1950 to Launceston where he was unsuccessful in the Legislative Council by-election of September 1951.

James was a fellow of the Australian Institute of Secretaries and of the Federal Institute of Accountants. A Rotarian, he was president of the Launceston Club in 1927 and of the London Club in 1942. A Freemason from 1901, initiated in the Tasmanian St Andrew Lodge, he was grand master of the Grand Lodge of Tasmania in 1926-28 and founder and first master of the Australian Masonic Lodge, London, 1947. He was co-founder and treasurer of the Northern Tasmanian Home for Boys, secretary of the Launceston section of the Belgian Relief Fund and president of the Tasmanian Rights League; he was a member of the Tasmanian and Launceston clubs. An Anglican, he died on 27 August 1961 at Launceston and was cremated, survived by his second wife and their son and two daughters, and by four sons of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • History of Freemasonry in Tasmania 1828-1935 (Launc, 1935)
  • Weekly Courier (Launceston), 29 Aug 1928
  • Examiner (Launceston), 28 Aug 1961
  • private information.

Citation details

R. A. Ferrall, 'James, Sir Claude Ernest Weymouth (1878–1961)', 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]


24 February, 1878
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia


27 August, 1961 (aged 83)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.