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Thomas Slaney Poole (1873–1927)

by P. A. Howell

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Frederic Slaney Poole

Thomas Slaney Poole (1873-1927), by Hammer & Co., 1925

Thomas Slaney Poole (1873-1927), by Hammer & Co., 1925

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 4067

Frederic Slaney Poole (1845-1936), Anglican clergyman, and Thomas Slaney Poole (1873-1927), judge, were father and son. Frederic was born on 9 July 1845 at Maidstone, Kent, England, second son of Thomas Slaney Poole, engraver, and his second wife Elizabeth Martha, née Noyes. Educated at Manchester Free Grammar School, in 1863 he won an exhibition and a sizarship to St John's College, Cambridge (B.A., 1867; M.A., 1876). Arriving in South Australia in 1867, he worked at the Poonindie Native Institution, was priested in 1869, and became incumbent of Robe, a vast parish. In 1871 he was appointed headmaster of Christ Church Grammar School, Mount Gambier, but first took leave in London where, on 26 August, he married Rebecca Scott; they had five daughters and two sons who survived infancy.

From 1874 Poole was incumbent of St John's, Halifax Street, Adelaide. He erected a new parish church and used the bricks from the old one to build a mission church (now St Mary Magdalene's) in Moore Street. Tall, thin, bearded and a keen sportsman, Poole was a popular preacher with 'wonderfully distinct' enunciation. Though fearless in denouncing commercial and sexual immorality, he also won 'the reputation of being a man without cant … who is not above taking an occasional glass of whisky, and who would not express unbounded indignation if asked to participate in a game of billiards or cards'. He lectured in classics at the University of Adelaide in 1878-95 and was a canon of Adelaide in 1887-95 and 1907-11.

In 1895-99 Poole was vicar of St Peter's Church, Ballarat, Victoria, but experiencing increasing deafness, he returned to Adelaide. He conducted a school for choirboys at St John's; acted as chaplain to the Adelaide hospital, gaol and destitute asylum; was examining chaplain to Bishops John Harmer and Arthur Thomas; and, in 1908-09, was priest at St Clement's, Enfield.

In 1872 he was one of South Australia's first clerical Freemasons. In Adelaide he helped to establish the Grand Lodge of South Australia in 1884, lectured to urban and country lodges emphasizing members' duty of benevolence, recruited many clergy to the craft and in 1918, having held many senior posts, was appointed past deputy grand master.

Poole had been a Broad Churchman, but in old age espoused the Anglo-Catholic movement and publicly supported Canon Percy Wise in his dispute with Bishop Thomas. In his family life he was a martinet. He kept fit by walking long distances. Predeceased by his wife (d.1931), he died at Prospect on 28 June 1936 and was buried in North Road cemetery.

Their eldest child Thomas Slaney was born at Strathalbyn on 3 July 1873. He was educated at the Collegiate School of St Peter where he won numerous prizes; scholarships financed his education at Trinity College, University of Melbourne, where he also excelled. He played tennis and football, was prelector of the Dialectic Society, won medals for oratory, and graduated B.A. in 1894 with first-class honours in Greek, Latin and comparative philology. When Edward Boulger resigned the chair of classics at the University of Adelaide, Poole replaced him in 1895 as lecturer and, at 21, taught twelve courses until a new professor arrived, meanwhile pursuing his own studies privately. Then he returned to Melbourne (M.A., 1896; LL.B., 1897).

Following admission to the Victorian Bar, Poole became associate to Justice (Sir) William Bundey of the Supreme Court of South Australia. In 1900 he joined Symon, Rounsevell & Cleland, soon becoming a junior partner. He sat on the committee of the Port Adelaide Missions to Seamen, and became chancellor of the Anglican diocese of Adelaide, president of the local branch of the Royal Society of St George, vice-president of the Law Society of South Australia, and a member of the board of examiners for articled clerks. On 4 July 1903, in the chapel of his old school and with his father presiding, he married Dora Francis Williams.

Poole's success in many branches of the law, especially in industrial, taxation and insolvency cases, attracted so much business that in 1909 he and P. E. Johnstone formed a partnership. A part-time university lecturer, Poole taught evidence and procedure and the law of wrongs. He drafted the new Rules of Court, adopted in 1913, the Law Society Act (1915) and other legislation. He produced the first South Australian edition of A. C. Morley's The Australian Manual of Aaccountancy and Commercial Law (1910). Esteemed locally and by the High Court of Australia for his learning, quick intellect, common sense and courtesy, he took silk in September 1919 but that month ascended the Supreme Court bench under the recently proclaimed Fourth Judge Act. It was a popular appointment.

Poole made a striking contribution to the law. He delivered important judgments on the construction of the Industrial Code, 1920, and of numerous State and Commonwealth statutes. Many of his rulings on the law of evidence, libel, negligence, petitions of right, damages in torts, riparian rights, the legal rights of soldier settlers, trade unionists, insolvents, mortgagees and mortgagors, and the duties of trustees still subsist as South Australian law. In disposing of a host of appeals from magistrates' courts he also clarified the gaming, licensing and traffic laws, civil liberties and the powers and duties of police. In the full court his colleagues often simply concurred with him. Sir Mellis Napier reminisced in 1962: 'Poole was an extraordinary man. I have seldom met anyone with such vast knowledge … He had tremendous grasp'. He had some disagreements with Sir George Murray; when they were taken on appeal, the High Court usually sided with Poole. It was expected that he would be the first South Australian to join that tribunal.

In 1923 he became the State's senior puisne judge. Consequently, for six months in 1925 when Sir Tom Bridges and Murray were overseas, Poole became administrator and acting chief justice. He performed his vice-regal duties with distinction. Annoyed when, without informing him, John Gunn's ministry gave part of Government House grounds to the corporation of the City of Adelaide, Poole insisted on being advised of all important cabinet decisions. When ministers demurred, he led them so merry a dance in Executive Council that they ceased demanding that future governors be Australian.

Poole was warden of the university senate in 1922-27; in the university council he led the fight for the establishment of Adelaide's first university college, St Mark's. Chairman of the college's executive and finance committees, he drafted the constitution which admitted non-Anglicans to its student and governing bodies. From 1924 he was grand master of the Grand Lodge of South Australia. Unlike many, his interests extended beyond the first three degrees of craft masonry and in 1924 he also became first grand principal of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. He instigated the building of the new State headquarters on North Terrace and dedicated its principal temple Way Lodge in 1927.

From his student days Poole sported a bushy moustache. By nature 'retiring and modest', he 'could not do anything unless he did it with all his soul and might'. He was a kind and considerate husband and parent, whose sorrow was that his only son was stillborn; and his misfortune that he suffered severely from asthma. His first holiday was in January 1927 when doctors persuaded him to visit Colombo. He died of heart failure at Prospect on 2 May, survived by his parents, wife and three daughters, and after a state funeral was buried in North Road cemetery. Tributes noted that his 'passionate devotion to duty' shortened his life. Sixty years later, senior Adelaide lawyers still echo the opinion of contemporaries, as disparate as the patrician Sir Josiah Symon and the radical Dr William Jethro Brown, that Poole was the best judge South Australia has ever had.

His wife (d.1950) was a president of the Adelaide Lyceum Club, of the National Council of Women of South Australia (representing it and the Victoria League at overseas conferences), and in 1938-48 of the Church of England Mothers' Union.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Grenfell Price, A History of St. Mark's College (Adel, 1968)
  • E. Mander-Jones and P. B. Hilbig, A History of Craft Masonry in S.A. 1884-1934 (Adel, 1976)
  • C. S. Robinson, Canon F. Slaney Poole and his Family (Mudgee, NSW, 1981)
  • Quiz and the Lantern, 7 Mar 1895
  • South Australian Freemason (Adel), 11 Feb 1916
  • South Australian Law Reports, 1920
  • South Australian State Reports, 1921-26
  • Eagle, 49 (1936), p 282
  • P. A. Howell, ‘Varieties of vice-regal life in S.A.’, Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, no 3 (1977)
  • Register (Adelaide), 25 Sept 1919, 4, 7 May 1927
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 26 Sept 1919, 6 May 1925, 4, 5, 10 May 1927
  • F. S. Poole, diary, 1868-71 (State Library of South Australia)
  • Sir Samuel Way letter book (PRG 30/5/15, State Library of South Australia).

Citation details

P. A. Howell, 'Poole, Thomas Slaney (1873–1927)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Thomas Slaney Poole (1873-1927), by Hammer & Co., 1925

Thomas Slaney Poole (1873-1927), by Hammer & Co., 1925

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 4067

Life Summary [details]


3 July, 1873
Strathalbyn, South Australia, Australia


2 May, 1927 (aged 53)
Prospect, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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