House of Representatives
27 July 1909

3rd Parliament · 4th Session

The House met at 3 p.m.

page 1629


The Clerk:

– It is with deep regret that I announce that Mr. Speaker died at Parliament House on Friday afternoon, the 23rd instant.

Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Prime Minister [3.1]. - Mr. Clerk, rising on Friday last in great alarm, yet with no such grave anticipations as subsequent events have warranted, most of us little thought that we had looked for the last time upon the Speaker whom we revered and trusted. I now; with the sincerest regret, beg to move -

That the Parliament records its high appreciation of the many and eminent services rendered to the Commonwealth by the late Six Frederick

Holder, particularly during his tenure of the arduous office of Speaker, from its first assembling until his decease on Friday last.

Inspired by a lofty conception of the duties of his office, he presided over the House of Representatives with conspicuous ability, firmness, and impartiality. An unsparing devotion to administrative duties was associated with a personal courtesy which endeared him to members and officers of the House.

The founding of a National Library has been among the most important of his special interests.

All citizens of Australia will concur in tendering their profound sympathy to the bereaved wife and family of a most distinguished Australian, whose loss is deeply felt by the whole community.

That this resolution be transmitted to the Senate for its consideration.

Prior to attaining his high office in the Commonwealth, the late honorable gentleman had achieved many honours within, and some without, the State of South Australia. Little favoured by the circumstances under which his career commenced, , he was, in the old phrase, “the son of his own works,” and furnishes a fine illustration of. the freedom of Australian life, and the frequency of the opportunities it affords to courage and ability, without restraint of station. Throughout his State career, he was not exceptionally assisted by fortune. Though far from confining himself to a single sphere, his exemplary, laborious, and fruitful labours were to be found in the fields of religious, social, and educational work, as well as in that of current politics. Yet he became prominent in them all, and occupied at the time of our Australian union the highest office in his State. He accepted the position to which he was called by the members of the first Parliament with the same calm resolution and devotion to the best purposes of the office that had characterized his previous public life. He accepted its varied burdens, and bore them cheerfully. He confronted its inevitable trials bravely, and with complete self-restraint. It is common knowledge that while even this high position was not his first choice, in this matter, and indeed during the whole of his life, he accepted willingly whatever conditions were imposed upon his efforts. He endured and surmounted them here within our own experience, with most conspicuous success. No Speaker more gentle, patient, or equitable his presided over any deliberative assembly with which. I am acquainted. But the strength of his control was derived from its justice. It came insensibly, being due in no small degree to the dignity with which he maintained the high traditions of his office. and the directness with which he responded to every appeal. His rulings, without seeming unduly weighted, were based upon close study and .examination of precedent ; their delivery was swift, incisive, and clear, thus assisting most materially in the transaction of public business. By temperament, highly strung, and keenly ‘ sensitive, none of the functions which he discharged were dealt with lightly. In the Chair, he was obviously under a perpetual strain, eager that nothing should escape him, ‘ lest in any respect he might fall short of the obligations of his office. He identified himself with this House to an extraordinary degree. He cherished its character and its reputation as his own. No man relied less on his position for the authority of his sway. Simple and unaffected in daily life, -he remained simple and unaffected here ; without ostentation, or even the appearance of enforced command, occupying the highest place in the House with a prevailing modesty. I am sure that we are not ‘ yet able to measure the potency of his influence. Silent, unobtrusive, persuasive, it was also deep, and, I trust, will prove a lasting, and, indeed, a permanent heritage. To him, for this, and for much else, in his personal relations to us, not to be spoken of to-day, we owe him an enduring and inexhaustible gratitude.

Wide Bay

:- No words of mine can add to the eulogy pronounced by the Prime Minister on the deceased statesman, who was our first and only Speaker. His knowledge of procedure enabled him at all times to guide this Assembly, while added to his general ability was a kindliness of character, and consideration for every one, which enabled him to win the confidence of the oldest as well as the youngest parliamentarian from the first moment that he had communication with him. “ I feel that the House has lost a. great Speaker. I feel also that his record will be a valuable guide to those who will succeed him in that distinguished position. He was, above everything, a sincere man,’ and it has been said by a great authority that sincerity is the sum of all the virtues He was unostentatious always, always desirous of discovering any new means of conducting this assembly as we all wished’ to see it conducted. While we had in him a great Speaker, I feel that this House and this Parliament have lost through’ his occpying that position a great parliamentarian, who, instead of guiding this- Chamber from the Chair, might have largely swayed the policy of the Commonwealth. That, however, was destined not to be. He has finished his work - finished it in a tragic manner - in the House where his greatest labours for the Commonwealth have taken place, and in a way, apart from all other circumstances, that many of us would desire to finish ours. . The tragic occurrence may be viewed differently by different people, but for a man who carried out his duties to the very letter with great success, nothing could be more fitting than to close his career in the way that our late Speaker’s career -was closed, although those, of course, who were near and dear to him must feel additional pangs that they were not able to see him in his last moments. We who have been with him during those eight arduous years of his parliamentary career must all acknowledge that he performed the duty that lay nearest to him in a manly, straightforward, and distinguished way. May I be allowed to mention, as I have mentioned before, that’ the time has come when the Australian Parliament should take steps to obtain a permanent record of the features of the distinguished public men of this Commonwealth.

Mr Deakin:

– Hear, hear ! The Ministry propose to do that.


– The distinguished men who took part in the inauguration of the Commonwealth are growing older day by day, and time is gradually but surely depleting their ranks. T am, therefore, glad to know that the Government are taking action, for I think this Parliament ought to embrace the earliest possible opportunity to secure some permanent memento of the appearance of the accomplished gentlemen who have done so much for Federation. The motion submitted by the Prime Minister conveys all that any honorable member could think of. It. expresses our appreciation of the services rendered by the. deceased gentleman in the State and in the Commonwealth Parliaments, and it conveys the feelings of all of us to her whose loss is irreparable. We shall find, another to take up the duties ‘that he so faithfully performed to the day of his death, but his widow’ and family have lost, so far as this earthly life is concerned, a worthy, noble, and devoted husband, and a father that would be a guide to any family in any part of the world.


– As a supporter of .our late Speaker in the South Australian . House of Assembly some years ago, when I first entered parliamentary life, I want to take this opportunity of paying my tribute of respect to the memory of> that great man. Within the last few days there passed away in this building one of the most patriotic and distinguished statesmen of Australasia. He was the .confidential friend and the public guide of each and all of us. The late Sir Frederick Holder was one of the pre-eminent political monuments of the Commonwealth, and it will be very hard to fill his place in this House. He was- always a kind friend to me. When I entered the South Australian Parliament he could not do too much for me. He went out of his way upon many occasions to help me, and I never can forget his kindness. Australasia has lost one of its great public men, one of its most illustrious statesmen, and no one regrets it more than I do.


– My first meeting with’ the late Speaker was when I entered this House as a young member. Amongst the greetings which I received upon my return, I valued none more highly than those which came from his heart through his eloquent lips. . This day week one of the greatest of the British race was still . alive.- To-day he is nothing but clay, but the good that he has done will live after him. He was a man thoroughly religious at heart, true in his friendships, and kind to others’ faults, and I am sure that, those qualities which endeared him to all made every member in this House feel that’ he was- a personal friend of his. Time and again in the conversations I had with him have I discerned in him the noble mind beneath. I say today, “ Peace to his ashes,, and glory to his’ name.” I am sure that the people of South Australia, who had the honour of sending him here, will cherish the memory of a great man, and of the great good that he did privately and publicly. As one who followed Dr. Salmon to that seat where we laid our late Speaker, T felt then that the Speaker’s chair would never hold him again. I hoped that the stroke might pass by, but I felt . sure that even if it did, and he recovered consciousness, he would be in such a condition that he could never again fill that chair as he had filled it in the past. I felt that the strong de termined voice, so far as his Speakership was concerned, was silent for ever. Speaking here in the knowledge that it is only a short time ago’ that he was present in that chair, and with the feeling that truth is the highest form of religion, I cannot but take this opportunity of expressing my. resentment against what has appeared in the newspapers, and also what has come even from the pulpit. So far as the ministers’ of religion are concerned, had they known that what they termed “turbulence” occurred when the Chairman of Committees was in charge of the business, they would not have called! him whose loss we all mourn a martyr to what occurred, for I tell them from my place in this House that, if the God who created us had intended that he should live he would be alive, and in that chair to-day. That is all that I would ask those ministers of religion to remember. But when an old friend of mine is attacked by newspapers, I cannot keep silent. Possibly, it may have been, through some words of mine, to the effect that it was the system of our party Go’,vernment that seemed to make all-night sittings inevitable. God forbid that my brain should formulate a thought, or my lips convey words, pointing to either one’ side or the other. Whenever I attack any one it is done absolutely in the open, and with fair warning. But at this solemn moment let me quote what was said by the. Argus to-day -

But now that one of the first results of this new system of Parliamentary warfare has been the death of an eminent man - no doubt weakened by previous unsuspected illness- surely the Opposition,, in its own interests, will recognise that it is time 16 revert to more legitimate methods.

There is no name signed to that article ; and it is perhaps well that there is not. What is the truth ? On the very . Friday previous to the fatal stroke which laid our late Speaker low, he, as the result of hastening from the tram to the train, collapsed in the Adelaide express; and it was a wonder that he did not then pass into the shadow. That circumstance may not have been known to the writer of the article which I have quoted, but I strongly resent his statements as I do the following,, which appeared in a leading article in the Age of Saturday last -

Sir Frederick Holder’s death was quite un questionably caused by the stress of party cbn- ‘flict The scenes of violence which have taken place, and those which are promised in. the . future, have been more than his nervous system could meet and endure.

Would to God that the silent voice could speak now, to give that statement a contradiction . Is it not known to every medical man that such a death as his may occur when the individual ishighest to death - when he is in the glamour of sleep, and in the silence of his chamber? Is it not known that the bursting of a blood vessel of the brain may occur at any time ?I leave this aspect of the matter with a pity which in my position I shall always feel. I wish to God that the conscience of these writers could be freed from the reproaches which I feel sure they must experience when they seek to inflict pain upon my old friend, the honorable member for Hume. Asyou, Mr. Clerk, know, I have had experience of two Speakers who have died a similar death. The late Honorable Duncan Gillies experienced a similar death whilst taking a bath, and had somebody been present then to raise his head he might have lived for some years. Didanybody say that his death was due to turbulence in the House? I raise my protest to-day against such allegations as I have read, and I do so with all the love that I have for the man who has gone from us - a man who was so great in his position in the Chair that he has almost made me swerve from the opinion which I hold that our Speakers should be elected not by this House, but by the people outside. Sir Frederick Holder was one of the few lovable, religious men, it. has been my good fortune in life to meet. God rest him, and may those who loved him as the head of the family have the solace that is imparted by the reflection that no matter how many of those we love may go before us, they will only add to the many who will welcome us when it is our time to pass through the shadow.

Prime Minister · Ballarat · Protectionist

Mr. Clerk, I ask that the question may be put and assented to by honorable members standing.

Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.

page 1632


Prime Minister · BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · PROT; LP from 1910

– As a mark of respect to the memory of our late Speaker, I move -

That the House do now adjourn.

I ask the Clerk to put the question.

Question put by the Clerk accordingly, and resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at 3.27 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 July 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.