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Randolph Isham Stow (1828–1878)

by D. Bruce Ross

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STOW BROTHERS: Randolph Isham  (1828-1878), judge, Jefferson Pickman (1830-1908), editor and magistrate, and Augustine (1833-1903), public servant, were the sons of Rev. Thomas Quinton Stow and his wife Elizabeth, née Eppes. In 1837 the family arrived in South Australia in the Hartley. The brothers were educated by their father and at D. Wylie's school.

Randolph was born on 17 December 1828 at Framlingham, Suffolk, England. He was articled in Adelaide to the legal firm of Bartley and Bakewell, who later took him into partnership. In 1854 he married Frances Mary MacDermott. He went into practice on his own account in 1859 and later was a partner with T. B. Bruce and F. Ayers. He built up a large practice and for many years was regarded as the leader of the Bar. A brilliant advocate, clear-thinking and industrious, in 1865 he was one of the first three barristers appointed Q.C. in South Australia. He displayed courage and determination in brushes with Judge Boothby, who challenged his right to appear as Q.C. and on one occasion threatened to commit him for contempt of court.

Stow was a member of the Legislative Assembly for West Torrens in 1861-62, Victoria in 1863-65, East Torrens in 1866-68 and Light in 1873-75 and was attorney-general in three ministries. In 1864 he brought down the Ayers government with a no-confidence motion but was then unable to form a cabinet. In 1875 he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court and next year he was deeply disappointed when (Sir) Samuel Way was appointed chief justice to succeed Sir Richard Hanson.

Stow died of atrophy of the liver on 17 September 1878, survived by his wife and six of their seven children. He was given a state funeral and his estate was sworn for probate at £2500. Despite his brief judicial service he was regarded by his contemporaries as a great judge. Way considered that his forensic gifts had 'never been surpassed in Australia and would have gained him distinction in any part of the world'; Sir John Downer described him as 'one of the greatest judges Australia ever had, having a commanding presence, a striking voice, unusual swiftness in comprehension with an immense combination of eloquence and power'. After his death £500 was raised by public subscription to provide annual Stow prizes and scholarships for the LL.B. course at the University of Adelaide.

Jefferson was born on 4 September 1830 at Buntingford, Hertfordshire. In 1850 he worked on a farm near Adelaide and on 30 October 1851 married Elizabeth Manning. Widowed soon after, in 1854 he went to the Victorian gold diggings, but soon returned to South Australia and married Jourdiana Maria Brodie on 1 February 1855. In 1858, after a further short residence in Victoria, he started an auction business at Gawler in South Australia; it was not very profitable and in 1862 he tried his hand as a journalist and wrote a series of articles for the Critic. He went with B. T. Finniss's survey party to the Northern Territory in 1864 and next year embarked with W. McMinn and five companions at Adam Bay in a small open boat, the Forlorn Hope, in which they sailed to Champion Bay, Western Australia. Next year he published an account of the voyage. In September 1865 he became a reporter for the South Australian Advertiser and editor in 1876. At the request of the government he wrote, in 1883, South Australia: Its History, Production, and Natural Resources for the Calcutta exhibition. Next year he was appointed a special magistrate, and served first at Naracoorte and later at Mount Gambier and Port Pirie. He retired in 1904 and died on 4 May 1908, survived by his wife, two sons and five daughters. His estate was sworn for probate at £620.

Augustine was born on 3 August 1833 at Halstead, Essex. He was a member of the Legislative Assembly for West Torrens in 1862-65 and for Flinders in 1866-68, a member of the Legislative Council in 1869-75 and chief secretary in the Strangways government for a few days in May 1870. He was associate to the judges of the Supreme Court in 1877-83 and registrar of probates and chief clerk of the Supreme Court in 1883-1903. He also held office as public trustee, commissioner of inland revenue, curator of convict estates and deputy registrar of companies. His main outside interest was the Congregational Church. He was a deacon of the Stow Memorial Church and in 1880 was the first lay chairman of the Congregational Union of South Australia. He was a member of the board of governors of the Public Library, Art Gallery and Museum. On 10 September 1867 he had married Elizabeth Augusta, daughter of Robert Frew of Greenhill. Stow died on 29 May 1903 and his estate was sworn for probate at £1220.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Ward, The Vineyards and Orchards of South Australia (Adel, 1862)
  • G. C. Morphett, Rev. Thos. Quinton Stow (Adel, 1948)
  • A. J. Hannan, The Life of Chief Justice Way (Syd, 1960)
  • Public Service Review (Adelaide), Dec 1902
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 18 Sept 1878
  • Register (Adelaide), 18 Sept 1878, 3 Aug 1915
  • Chronicle (Adelaide), 20 Oct 1906.

Additional Resources

Citation details

D. Bruce Ross, 'Stow, Randolph Isham (1828–1878)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 13 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Randolph Stow, n.d.

Randolph Stow, n.d.

State Library of South Australia, B 19647

Life Summary [details]


17 December, 1828
Framlingham, Suffolk, England


17 September, 1878 (aged 49)
South Australia, Australia

Cause of Death

liver dysfunction

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Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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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.

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