GIBLIN, William Robert (1840-1887)


GIBLIN, William Robert (1840-1887)
premier of Tasmania
son of William Giblin, registrar of deeds, was born at Hobart on 4 November 1840. He was educated first at a school kept by his uncle Robert Giblin and afterwards at the high school, Hobart. Leaving school at 13 he was articled to John Roberts, solicitor. He was a great reader with a retentive memory, in 1862 won a prize for the best poem on the conversion of St Paul, and about this time delivered some lectures on literary subjects. In 1864 he was admitted as a barrister and solicitor, entered into partnership with John Dobson and subsequently with one of his sons Henry Dobson (q.v.). In the same year he was one of the founders of the Hobart Working Men's Club, was elected its president, and was re-elected on several occasions subsequently. He began to interest himself in public life and especially in the proposed railway from Hobart to Launceston. In 1869 he was elected without opposition as member for Hobart in the house of assembly, and in February 1870 became attorney-general in the J. M. Wilson (q.v.) ministry. Wilson resigned in November 1872 and was succeeded by F. M. Innes (q.v.). In August 1873 Giblin carried a motion of want of confidence but did not desire the premiership, and A. Kennerley (q.v.) formed a cabinet with Giblin as his attorney-general. This ministry lasted nearly three years and Giblin was able to bring in some useful legal legislation. In June 1877 Giblin lost his seat at the general election, but he was soon afterwards elected for Wellington and joined the cabinet of (Sir) P. O. Fysh (q.v.) as attorney-general, exchanging that position for the treasurership a few days later. When Fysh left for London in March 1878 Giblin succeeded him as premier and held office until 20 December. The W. L. Crowther (q.v.) government which followed could do little in the conditions of the period, and when it resigned in October 1879 Giblin realized that the only way to get useful work done would be to form a coalition ministry. This he succeeded in doing and he became premier and colonial treasurer on 30 October 1879. His government lasted nearly five years and during that period the finances of the colony were put in order and railways and roads were built. Much important work was done although the conservative elements in the legislative council succeeded in hampering the government to some extent. In December 1881 Giblin exchanged the position of treasurer for that of attorney-general with J. S. Dodds. He represented Tasmania at the intercolonial tariff conference at Sydney in 1881 and at the Sydney federal conference in 1883, and took an important part in the debates. In August 1884, Giblin resigned from the cabinet on account of failing health. He shortly afterwards accepted the position of puisne judge of the supreme court of Tasmania, and during the absence of the chief justice administered the government for a short period. He died at Hobart on 17 January 1887 in his 47th year. He married in 1865 Emily Jean Perkins who survived him with four sons and three daughters.
Giblin was a man of great sincerity and ability. In private life religious and philanthropic, in politics he was an excellent debater with statesmanlike ideals. The failure of his health and too early death closed a career of great promise. His son, Lyndhurst Falkiner Giblin, D.S.O., M.C., M.A., born in 1872, educated at the Hutchins school, Hobart and Cambridge university, fought with distinction in the 1914-18 war, was government statistician, Tasmania, 1920-8 and in 1929 became professor of economics in the university of Melbourne. On several occasions he undertook important work at the special request of the Commonwealth government, being acting Commonwealth statistician in 1931-2, member of the Commonwealth grants commission 1933-6 and director of the Commonwealth bank from 1935.
The Mercury, Hobart, 18 January 1887; J. Fenton, A History of Tasmania; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; Who's Who in Australia, 1941.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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