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Symon, Sir Josiah Henry


Son of James Symon, was born at Wick, Caithness, Scotland, on 27 September 1846. He was educated at the Stirling high school, of which he was dux in 1862, and the Moray training college, Edinburgh. He emigrated to South Australia in 1866 and was articled to a cousin, J. D. Sutherland, who was practising as a solicitor at Mount Gambier. Some of his work coming under the notice of (Sir) Samuel Way, who was then the leader of the South Australian bar, Symon was invited to join the firm of Way and Brook. While with them he completed his legal studies and was called to the bar in 1871. In 1872 on the death of Mr Brook he became a partner, and established a reputation as a barrister. In March 1881 he joined the William Morgan (q.v.) ministry as attorney-general; he was not a member of parliament but a few weeks later a seat was found for him as representative for Sturt. This government, however, went out of office on 24 June 1881. In this year Symon became a Q.C. and in 1884 declined a judgeship. In 1886 while on a visit to England he was offered and declined nomination for a seat in the house of commons for a conservative constituency. He returned to South Australia, and was defeated as a candidate for the Victorian district at the 1887 election, and was never in the South Australian parliament again.

Symon was an ardent federalist, did valuable work as president of the South Australian Federal League, and was elected as a representative of South Australia at the 1897 convention. As chairman of the judiciary committee he took an important part in the proceedings. In 1899 he again visited England and was able to be of assistance in connexion with the Commonwealth bill and its passing through the Imperial parliament, and in 1901 was created K.C.M.G. He was placed head of the poll at the South Australian election of senators in 1901, and was appointed leader of the opposition in the senate. At the second Commonwealth election he again headed the senate poll in South Australia, and from August 1904 to July 1905 was attorney-general in the Reid-McLean ministry. In 1911 he was the Commonwealth representative at the coronation naval review, but in 1913 he lost his seat at the election for the senate. He continued his practice as a barrister until 1923, and lived in retirement until his death on 29 March 1934. He married Mary Eleanor Cowle in 1881 who survived him with five sons and five daughters.

Symon was an excellent advocate and in criminal cases his addresses to the jury were masterpieces of pleading and oratory. He was a member of the Society of Comparative Legislation and International Law and frequently contributed to its journal. He also wrote extensively on federation and was a good Shakespearean scholar; his pleasant little volume, Shakespeare at Home, was published in 1905. Another volume, Shakespeare the Englishman, appeared in 1929 and some of his lectures were printed as pamphlets. He took much interest in viticulture and owned Auldana, a well-known South Australian vineyard. His many benefactions included 9500 to the university of Adelaide for the women's portion of the union, and he also established scholarships at the university of Sydney, Scotch College, Adelaide, and Stirling high school, Scotland. His fine library of 7500 volumes was left to the public library of South Australia.


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