Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Robert Stopford (1862–1926)

by Stephen Garton

This article was published:

Robert Stopford (1862-1926), medical practitioner and politician, was born on 20 February 1862 at Upholland, Lancashire, England, son of John Stopford, property owner, and his wife Jane Elizabeth, née Yates. He studied medicine at University College, Liverpool, and qualified as licentiate of King and Queen's College of Physicians, Ireland, in 1885.

Setting up in private practice at Southport, Lancashire, Stopford developed an interest in homoeopathy. He married Elizabeth Ann Johnson at Rivington on 21 September 1889, joined the Liberal Party and was a volunteer in the King's Liverpool Regiment. In 1902 he and his family migrated to Wellington, New Zealand. There he became involved in the infant welfare movement organized by Lady Plunkett. Moving to Auckland by 1905, he ran the hydropath institute and served as a Labour alderman (1907-08) on Auckland City Council. To Stopford, politics was a means of advancing infant welfare.

In May 1911 he arrived in Sydney. For eight years he ran a clinic for slum children at Balmain, where he lived, and then established himself as a consultant in children's diseases: in 1925 Stopford claimed to have attended the delivery of over 30,000 babies in Sydney. Deploring the medical profession's 'pecuniary interest in disease', he treated soldiers' dependants without charge and advocated the introduction of a state medical service. He did not join the State branch of the British Medical Association and, when criticized, was protected by (Sir) David Storey, the minister for public health.

Actively involved in Labor politics until the split over conscription in 1916, Stopford joined the National Party and unsuccessfully contested the traditional Labor stronghold of Balmain in 1917 and 1920. He was a councillor (1917-26) and vice-president (1920-21 and 1925-26) of the National Association of New South Wales. Benefiting from support for his prominent local role, he won the seat of Balmain in 1922. While in the Legislative Assembly, where he was known as a 'straight-hitter', he chaired the 1922 select committee into Sydney's milk supply and served on the 1923 royal commission into lunacy law and administration. As president of the Balmain Amateur Radio Club, he asked the Speaker to arrange for the broadcasting of members' speeches. He was defeated in the 1925 election.

A heavily built, bald and generous-faced man, with a clipped moustache and thin-rimmed glasses, Stopford was a Freemason, a member of the New South Wales Protestant Federation and president of the Poultry and Pigeon Club of New South Wales. In 1925 Balmain's citizens made a public presentation to him for his contribution to the community.

When Stopford died on 28 January 1926 in St Luke's Hospital, the Bulletin concluded that he had led 'a more than ordinarily useful life'. He was buried in the Anglican section of South Head cemetery. His wife, son and two daughters survived him. His estate was valued for probate at £5685.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (New South Wales), 30 Jan 1924, p 638
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 May 1916, 28 Feb 1918, 23 Mar 1920, 24 Apr 1923, 26 Sept 1925, 28 Jan 1926
  • Bulletin, 4 Feb 1926.

Citation details

Stephen Garton, 'Stopford, Robert (1862–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 18 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 February, 1862
Upholland, Lancashire, England


28 January, 1926 (aged 63)
New South Wales, Australia

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