Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Edward Telford Simpson (1889–1965)

by Caroline Simpson

This article was published:

Edward Telford Simpson (1889-1965), solicitor and company director, was born on 13 March 1889 at Double Bay, Sydney, second of four children and only son of native-born parents Edward Percy Simpson, solicitor, and his wife Anne Maria Alexandra Guerry, daughter of the Marquis de Lauret. Helen Simpson was his sister. Telford grew up at St Mervyns, his parents' home at Double Bay, and attended W. A. Inman's preparatory school at Rose Bay.

In 1900 he was sent to Barker College, Hornsby. On his doctor's orders his luggage included a case of port, as he was considered a sickly child. Simpson's activities soon dispelled fears of serious illness: he became a prefect, and an accomplished footballer, cricketer and rower. He entered St Paul's College, University of Sydney (B.A., 1911; LL.B., 1914), and was admitted as a solicitor on 6 May 1915. Determined to serve in World War I, he sailed to London, trained as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps and obtained his commission on 17 March 1917. He logged nearly seven hundred flying hours while posted (September 1917-July 1918) to No.52 Squadron on the Western Front. In March 1918 he was promoted temporary captain and in September was awarded the French Croix de Guerre (avec palme). He was demobilized from the air force on 21 August 1919.

Back home, Simpson—who had been admitted to partnership at Minter, Simpson & Co. in 1916, while on active service—practised with the firm from 1919 until his retirement in 1960. He was a founder (1920) and committee-member of the State section of the Australian Aero Club and an organizer of the first Aerial Derby flown at Mascot aerodrome in November 1920. At St Mark's Church of England, Darling Point, on 21 November 1921 he married Edith Ursula Hammond Catterall. Shortly afterwards they built their home on the Cranbrook estate, Bellevue Hill.

Like his father, but without the same influence, Simpson took an interest in public affairs, mixed in conservative political circles, chaired (1936-41) the National Consultative Council and supported various anti-communist causes. A friend of (Sir) Robert Menzies, he corresponded with business and political leaders to further the cause of the United Australia Party.

In 1934 Simpson bought Newbury, a property at Sutton Forest, where he established a Southdown flock and enjoyed family holidays. As founder and first president (1952-62) of the New South Wales Southdown Stud Breeders' Association, he was a familiar competitor in the show-ring, wearing his beret and leggings. On one occasion he was so incensed at losing a championship (because his ram's muzzle lacked the required mouse colour) that he sent a pinned-out mouse-skin to the judge.

Simpson was sometime chairman of directors of Northern Collieries Ltd, Richardson & Wrench Ltd, Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd and Mort's Dock & Engineering Co. Ltd. Playing a prominent role on these boards, he expressed views in letters to the Sydney Morning Herald, particularly criticizing excessive wartime regulations and control of real estate. He chaired the difficult shareholders' meeting that followed the closure of the historic dock in November 1958, after years of strikes by the Building Workers' Industrial Union of Australia and heavy financial losses.

A short man with a friendly disposition, though liable to peppery outbursts, Simpson was a witty raconteur who enjoyed writing doggerel. His reverence for old families prompted him to trace his ancestry in France and England, and his love of Australian history led him to collect paintings by Conrad Martens. He belonged to the Union, Australian Jockey, Royal Sydney Golf and Melbourne clubs. Simpson died on 11 May 1965 in his home at Potts Point and was cremated. His wife and their two sons, both solicitors with Minter, Simpson & Co., survived him. John St Helier Lander's portrait (1919) of Simpson in the uniform of the Royal Flying Corps is held by the family.

Select Bibliography

  • G. N. Griffiths, Point Piper, Past and Present (Syd, 1947)
  • G. N. Griffiths, Some Southern Homes of New South Wales (Syd, 1952)
  • Minter, Simpson and Co., One Hundred and Fifty Years of Law, 1827-1977 (Canb, 1977)
  • A. Moore, The Secret Army and the Premier (Syd, 1989)
  • College Barker, 1911, 1913-14, 1916 and 1922
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Aug 1951, 19 Dec 1956, 16, 19 Nov 1957, 6 Nov, 17 Dec 1958
  • Minter, Simpson & Co., letter books (State Library of New South Wales)
  • family papers (privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

Caroline Simpson, 'Simpson, Edward Telford (1889–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


13 March, 1889
Double Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


11 May, 1965 (aged 76)
Potts Point, Sydney, New South Wales, 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.