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Sir James Martin

1820 – 1886

Sir James Martin (1820-1886) was fourth Chief Justice of New South Wales. Martin came to Australia with his family as a baby, proved a brilliant student and began working as a journalist with the Australian, of which he was acting editor by 1839. A patriot and a crusader for the interests of the native-born, he was admitted as a solicitor in 1845, the year he became manager and editor of Robert Lowe's anti-Gipps paper the Atlas. At around this time, according to his biographer Bede Nairn, 'his enemies diversified, repelled by his rare combination of lowly birth, pugnacity, colonial patriotism, ability and growing wealth'; a prominent Catholic chaplain held him up as a 'living example of the effects of an education not based upon religion'. He won a seat on the Legilative Council in 1848, weathering objections that he lacked the necessary property qualifications. He became attorney-general in 1856 (again, a controversial appointment, as he had not at that stage been admitted to the Bar) and was made QC in 1857. Spending a fortune on renovating Clarens in Wylde Street, Potts Point, he was active in choral and educational matters and lobbied for the beautification of Hyde Park. In 1863 he became premier; it was to be the first of his three terms in the position (1863-1865, 1866-1868 and 1870-1872). Martin's appointment as New South Wales's fourth chief justice in 1873, according to Nairn, was 'the greatest triumph of the native-born in the nineteenth century.' He held the office of chief justice until he died in 1886. Having borne him fifteen children (evidence, according to Murray Gleeson AC, that Martin was a 'persuasive man') Lady Martin left him in 1882, on the basis that Clarens was too small. Sir James Martin Chambers opened in Martin Place, Sydney - also named after him - in 1990. Lady Martin is commemorated in a little beach at Point Piper.

Updated 2018