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SAMUEL JAMES WAY, CHIEF JUSTICE, LT. GOVERNOR S.A., & GRAND MASTER

This is the first time I have seen a ‘CIRCULAR & CARTNOTE ONLY’ and it looks like a Newspaper Wrapper. It was sent from R.J. COOMBS & Co., Woolbrokers, Adelaide to The Right Hon. S.J. Way PC, Montefiore, Port Adelaide. The printed green 1d South Australian stamp was postmarked G.P.O. ADELAIDE/ AU 2 ( )/ S.A., but the year date was not seen. However he was made a Privy Cuncillor in 1897, and he was knighted in 1899 so that the item does not predate these times (Figure 1).

 

Samuel James Way was born in Devonshire, England, on 11th April 1836. His father was the Rev. James Way, a Bible Christian minister. The Bible Christians - a small Methodist denomination - had established a school known as Shebbear College in North Devon to provide primary education for boys intended for the Bible Christian ministry and Way attended this school for two years. In 1850 the Rev. James Way, his wife and four younger children emigrated to South Australia, leaving behind Samuel Way, then 14, to continue his education. In 1853 Samuel followed his family to South Australia. On arrival, he had to look for a job and eventually he obtained employment as a junior clerk in a solicitors' office. Later he entered into another solicitor’s office and after five years he was admitted as a barrister, solicitor, attorney and proctor on 25th March, 1861. From then on his rise in the legal profession was meteoric. At the time of his admission there were only about 30 legal practitioners in South Australia.

In the next ten years he became a leader of the legal profession, being appointed Queen's Counsel in September 1871. In 1875 Way was elected to the South Australian Parliament as the member for Sturt. The Premier (Blyth) whom he supported was defeated. Way was appointed Attorney-General in the new government on 3rd June 1875. In the following March Chief Justice Sir Richard Hanson died and judges were appointed by the Governor on the advice of Executive Council, and it was the function of the Attorney-General to recommend a name to Cabinet. There can be little doubt that Way recommended himself. He was duly appointed Chief Justice in March 1876, a few weeks before his 40th birthday. Both of his two colleagues on the Supreme Court bench, Mr. Justice Gwynne and Mr. Justice Stow, considered that he should have been appointed Chief Justice and neither of them would speak to him in private after he took up his duties in the Supreme Court. However, Way proved a great judge and gave outstanding service to South Australia during almost 40 years as Chief Justice.

Way joined Freemasonry in 1862 when he was initiated in Lodge of Harmony on 13 October. In 1871 he "called off", rejoining as an active member in February 1884. I n 1889 he became a foundation member of Lodge St Alban, and remained a member of both lodges until his death. In 1901 a new lodge, Sir Samuel Way Lodge, was founded in Stirling West. Way laid the foundation stone of this lodge's hall on 21 November 1914, and his last appearance as Grand Master was to dedicate the new Masonic Hall on 12 December 1915, less than a month before his death from cancer.

After Samuel Way rejoined Freemasonry in 1884 his rise in Freemasonry was spectacular. In 1883 there were 33 Masonic lodges in South Australia. In July 1883 a committee had been set up under the chairmanship of R.W. Bro. H.M. Addison to consider the formation of a Grand Lodge of South Australia. The committee worked swiftly and efficiently and by the end of 1883, out of 2043 contributing members of the Craft, 1625 had given their written consent to join the proposed union, and only 43 had voted against. Way at this time was a member of Lodge of Harmony but his highest rank in that lodge was Inner Guard. He took no part in the proceedings which resulted in the formation of the new Grand Lodge.

However, he was an outstanding citizen and was duly elected as Grand Master Mason. On 16th April 1884, a convention of delegates assembled at the Masonic Hall, Flinders Street, and passed a resolution establishing the Grand Lodge of South Australia.

Way was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of South Australia in January 1891. His first service as acting Governor of South Australia was in 1877. In 1897 he was appointed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, the first Australian to achieve that honour. In the same year in London he presented a jubilee address to H.M. Queen Victoria on behalf of the Grand Lodges of South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and New Zealand at a meeting of 7000 Masons held at the Albert Hall. The Grand Master, H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, who presided at this meeting, conferred on Way the rank of Past Grand Warden of the United Grand Lodge of England. Sir Samuel James Way was knighted and created a baronet in 1899. A photo of Sir Samuel is seen in Figure 2.

To-date any meaningful information about the sender, R.J. Coombs & Co. Woolbrokers Adelaide, has not been found other than 2 one-line entries in 2 South Australian papers:

Obituary of R.J. Coombs on 30 October 1913, page 8b in the Register; and, Obituary of R.J. Coombs, wool broker, on 1 November 1913, page 35b in the Observer.

Addendum (March 2011)  This cartoon advertisemen gives a small amount of information about the R.J. Coombs company (Figure 3)

 
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