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Percy Joseph Russell (1861–1946)

by Peter Balmford

This article was published:

Percy Joseph Russell (1861-1946), solicitor and municipal councillor, was born on 16 December 1861 at Carisbrook, Victoria, fifth child of Robert Russell, English-born pastoralist of Serpentine station, and his Irish-born wife Maria Ievers, née McDonough. He was educated at Wesley College and Hawthorn Grammar School, Melbourne. After serving articles in Melbourne (with G. H. Taylor (d.1886), then with G. M. Barthold), he was admitted on 1 June 1887 as an attorney, solicitor and proctor of the Supreme Court of Victoria. He then acquired Taylor's practice and continued it under the name Taylor & Russell.

The Melbourne land boom brought Russell conveyancing work and the opportunity for private speculation. In November 1888 Taylor & Russell were vendor's solicitors for an auction of land 'within one minute of Hawthorn station'. Three years later, Russell and Taylor's son, Captain C. F. Taylor who represented Hawthorn in the Legislative Assembly, built a row of shops, bank premises and the Langham Hotel beside the newly built Hawthorn Town Hall.

In March 1890 Russell was elected unopposed as a councillor of the Town of Hawthorn. A local newspaper described him as 'a large property holder … with youth and energy'. Elected mayor in 1893, 1905, 1915 and 1916, he remained a councillor until August 1919, when he did not seek re-election. In 1904-19 Russell was president of the Municipal Association of Victoria. He offered regularly to stand down, not wanting it believed 'that a city lawyer bossed the Association', but he dominated by his skills in the chair, hard work on the executive and knowledge of legal and municipal affairs.

From about 1893, Russell or the firm were solicitors to the Shire of Boroondara, predecessor of the City of Camberwell. He was joined in legal practice first by R. B. Rennick, then by A. H. Manton. In 1900-26 he practised alone before taking A. J. Kennedy into partnership, then, about 1939, E. A. Cook. Russell Kennedy & Cook remains a leading firm which still acts for the City of Camberwell.

On 7 October 1893 at St John's Anglican church, Camberwell, Russell had married Delia Constance Law (1870-1938). She was born on 5 April 1870 in South Melbourne, eldest daughter of J. D. Law, general manager of the Bank of Victoria. She was appointed O.B.E. in 1920 for founding and running the St Kilda Road Red Cross Kitchen during World War I. In the following decade she became widely involved in charitable activities and by 1930 was Victorian president of the Housewives' Association, vice-president of the Victorian Institute of Almoners, councillor of the Talbot Epileptic Colony, Clayton, an executive member of the National Council of Women, president of the Temperance Association, a justice of the peace and special magistrate of the Children's Court, Melbourne. In 1932-34 she was president of the Women's Hospital. An accomplished pianist, she supported a range of Melbourne's musical activities. She died on 16 February 1938.

Percy Russell was a founder of the Riversdale Golf Club. He died at Sassafras on 24 September 1946 and was buried with Anglican rites in Boroondara cemetery, Kew. A son survived him. Russell Kennedy & Cook hold a portrait of him by George Coates.

Select Bibliography

  • The History of Hawthorn to 1895 (Hawthorn, Melb, 1896)
  • Who's Who in the World of Women (Melb, 1930), vol 2 (Melb, 1934)
  • M. Cannon, Land Boom and Bust (Melb, 1972)
  • G. McWilliam, Hawthorn Peppercorns (Melb, 1978)
  • Municipal Association of Victoria, Minutes of Proceedings of Annual Session, 1917
  • Hawthorn and Kew Express, 14 Mar 1890
  • Argus (Melbourne), 25 Sept 1946
  • City of Hawthorn rate books (Public Record Office Victoria).

Citation details

Peter Balmford, 'Russell, Percy Joseph (1861–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 24 June 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

Life Summary [details]


16 December, 1861
Carisbrook, Victoria, Australia


24 September, 1946 (aged 84)
Sassafras, Victoria, Australia

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