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Thomas Dudley (Tom) Room (1908–1994)

by Thomas Gunn

This article was published:

Thomas Dudley Room (1908–1994), accountant and community leader, was born on 4 March 1908 at Invermay, Launceston, Tasmania, elder son of Tasmanian-born parents Eila Mary, née Gunn, and her husband Richard Daniel Room, clerk and later orchardist. Tom or ‘TD,’ as he was known, was born into a prosperous mercantile family: his maternal grandfather, Thomas Gunn, was a founder of the building and hardware company J. & T. Gunn; his paternal great grandfather William Hart had made his fortune from the Mount Bischoff tin mine and the Beaconsfield gold mine. Room’s early years were spent on his father’s orchard at Deviot. He was educated at Launceston’s Scotch College before transferring to Launceston Church Grammar School.

In 1926 Room started work as a clerk with the accounting firm Inglis, Cruickshank & Creasey, while studying part time. Having passed his final Commonwealth Institute of Accountants exams, he was registered in 1933. That same year he and his cousin John Ewart Hart, who had also worked with the firm, set up the partnership Hart & Room. Five years later they merged with their old employers to form a new practice known as Cruickshank, Creasey, Gow, & Layh with Room and Hart. On 9 February 1934 at ‘Warringa,’ Woodbury, he had married Olive Edeline Jones. Rev. J. W. Bethune, his headmaster at grammar performed the Church of England service.

Room was a keen sportsman, especially in golf, tennis, cricket, and football, and had been an outstanding schoolboy player of the latter two games. He briefly played football for the city’s senior team (1931), but gave it away to concentrate on cricket. In the Launceston and South Launceston clubs, he was a top-order batsman and a safe slip fieldsman. He scored 118 runs on debut in 1927 for the Northern Tasmanian Cricket Association team and made irregular appearances in the side over the next decade and a half. Off the field he was an active administrator locally and at State level. Made a life member of the NTCA in 1977, he was the association’s president for seven years and chairman for a further twelve.

When World War II broke out in 1939, Room attempted to join the Australian Imperial Force but was deemed medically unfit. On 30 January 1942 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. Commissioned in March, he performed accountancy duties at headquarters and in units in Australia and rose to temporary flight lieutenant (1944). His RAAF appointment terminated on 7 March 1946. Maintaining an interest in aviation, he served as president of the Tasmanian Aero Club and of both the northern branch and State division of the Air Force Association. He was also the foundation president of the Tasmanian Ex-Servicemen’s Club.

Since the 1930s Room had been involved in a number of community organisations and charitable causes. In 1935 he was appointed as honorary secretary to the board of management of Launceston Grammar and acted as the school’s business manager until a bursar was engaged in the 1960s. Remaining on the board (chairman, 1974–75), he coached the school’s cricket team and funded the building of a new gymnasium. In 1937 he became secretary to the Crippled Children’s Aid (later St Giles) Society that had formed in response to the polio epidemic. His interest was both personal and philanthropic as his elder daughter contracted a mild form of the disease. He later filled the positions of treasurer (1944–64), chairman (1964–68), and president (1976–77), before being honoured as a life governor emeritus in 1987. Similarly his appointment (1938) as secretary of the Launceston Homeopathic (later St Luke’s) Hospital Association was followed by terms as chairman (1958–77) and treasurer (1979–86). In 1978 he was made a life governor.

Recalled as ‘too gentle a man to be a mover and shaker’ in politics (Courtney 1994, 15), Room remained dedicated to local concerns. He was twice elected to the Launceston City Council (1959–62, 1967–79). During his final term he was mayor (1975–77), and represented the city on the Municipal Association of Tasmania (1975–79). He served on a number of committees in which the council had an interest including the Launceston Airport Noise Abatement Committee (1971–79), Tamar Regional Master Planning Authority (1974–79), and Metropolitan Transport Trust (1972–80, chairman 1979–80). Appointed AM in 1975, he was made a freeman of the City of Launceston in November 1990.

Room became a senior partner in his firm. A diligent member of the profession, he had chaired (1958–62) the Tasmanian council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and represented the State (1950–61) on the general council. He retired from practice in 1973, but retained his office until November 1993. Survived by his wife and their son and two daughters, he died in Launceston on 26 October 1994 and was cremated.

Research edited by Nicole McLennan

Select Bibliography

  • Alexander, Alison. Blue, Black, and White: The History of the Launceston Church Grammar School, 1846–1996. Launceston, Tas.: The school, 1996
  • Charter: Journal of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia. ‘Vale Tom Room, AM.’ 66, no. 1 (February 1995): 9
  • Courtney, Michael. ‘Tom O’Byrne, Tom Room R.I.P.’ Examiner, 13 November 1994, 15
  • Examiner. ‘Former Mayor Dies at 86.’ 28 October 1994, 4
  • Gill, Jenny. The Story of the Launceston Homœopathic Hospital. Launceston, Tas.: J. Gill, 1990
  • Green, Anne. Billycarts & Wheelchairs: 75 Years of St Giles. Launceston, Tas.: Foot and Playsted, 2013
  • National Archives of Australia. A9300, ROOM T D
  • Personal knowledge of ADB subject
  • Williams, R. To Celebrate A Century of Northern Tasmanian Cricket: The Story of the Northern Tasmanian Cricket Association, 18861986. Launceston, Tas.: Foot and Playsted, 1986

Additional Resources

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Citation details

Thomas Gunn, 'Room, Thomas Dudley (Tom) (1908–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2019, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

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