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  • doug.butler 14 Nov 2012 at 01:16
    For "Maratta" read "Monalta"

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3 corrections, most recently by Spearth - Show corrections



Within a little over a year the founder of the well-known and long-established legal   firm of G. & J. Downer— Sir John Downer and Mr. Alexander George Downer — have passed away. They have left a record   of excellent work done for the commu-   nity, and memories rendered fragrant by  

their gentleness, courtesy, and high attain- ments, few men commanded greater pub- lic respect or attracted more personal friends than Sir John Downer and his bro ther. They were personifications of all that wins affection and good repute in poli- tical or commercial circles. There was an indescribable charm about their disposi- tions which was irresistible. Both were competent business men, as well as trusted lawyers. In the political arena Sir John was a formidable debater, but he never lost his temper, and he was equally popu- lar with members on both sides of the   House. Mr. George Downer had no taste for legislative work, but be was a promi- nent figure in the commercial world, where his tact, keenness, and suavity were pro-   verbial. He had perfect control both of his temper and his judgment on all occa-   sions, and he was an ideal chairman of a board meeting or a gathering of share-   holders. He was always well informed concerning the business in hand, and he was invariably ready to give information , in a kindly manner, although he could be firm enough if the occasion demanded it. He was transparently honest and sincere. That was the secret of his popularity. There was no member of the legal profes-   eion more generally respected and admired by clients and the community at large. Sir John Downer died on August 2, 1915, and Mr. George Downer's life ended on Thursday.

Mr. George Downer had not been ac tively engaged in business during the last two years, by reason of a breakdown in his health early in 1914. In May of that year he severed his connection with the directorate of Elder, Smith, & Co., ' and relinquished the position he had long heid as chairman of the directors of the Bank of Adelaide. At the same time ho practically withdrew from all business af- fairs, in order to take a well-earned rest. Both the institutions named owe very much to his able conduct of their affairs. Since then he had on several occasions been in a serious condition of health, and more than once there seemed little hope of re- covery, but he possessed a wonderfully   strong constitution, and he rallied on each occasion. About the middle of August last year Mr. Downer had a severe heart at tack, from which he never thoroughly re- covered. Mr. Downer was in bis 78th year. He was born in Adelaide on January 28, 1839, and was a son of the late Mr. Henry Downer. His early education was re- ceived under the supervision of the late Mr. F. Haire, and when quite a youth Jie waB articled to Messrs. Bartley, Bake well, & Stow, who were all men of great professional attainments. The lastnamed became a judge of the Supreme Court. Mr. Downer sot himself assidu ously to work at the study of the law, for which he showed a considerable apti tude, even at tins stage of his career. However, bo combined with, the pursuit of legal knowledge a taste for journalism, and he was for a time editor of the 'Tele- graph,' the first penny paper in Aus- tralia, which is now incorporated with 'The Express.' Mr. Downer was a facile writer, and he had. a sense of humor which made his articles extremely read- able. He was admitted to the bar in 1868, shortly after Sir John Downer had entered the practice of his profession. The two brothers immediately entered into     partnership, and the firm of G. and J. Downer was established. The foun- ders pursued an honorable and success- ful course in intimate association for nearly half a century, and they be queathed a reputation to the present mem- bers of the firm of which they may well be proud. The firm in its earliest years conducted some of the most interesting and important cases which have been known in the State's legal history. There was an air of geniality imparted to the law as dispensed by Mr. Downer and his brother which made their relations with clients extremely happy, apart altogether from the successes they achieved. Messrs. F. H. Downer and J. F. Downer, nephews of Mr. George Downer, are the present partners.

The late Mr. A. G. Downer.

Mr. George Downer's activities outside the office were both widespread and im- portant, but he was not often seen pro- minently in public life, although he was   a leading figure in the world of business.' In private, although a bachelor, he was extremely hospitable, and those who knew   him best knew him to be one of nature's gentlemen, considerate, unselfish, benevo lent, and gracious in manner. In business he was shrewd, cautious, and thorough. His genius in high finance was widely re- cognised, and his operations as a pas- toralist were remarkably successful. Early In life he invested in station property in the north, and later, on 'this station being resumed, he took up a part of Minburra   station ; and the adjoining leasehold land and established Melton station, which is now one of the best improved stations in                    

the north-east. He had a high sense of duty, and, indeed this was the key- note of his life. He did what he believed to be right, no matter what considerations might be advanced in an opposite direc- tion. His integrity and business acumen were known of all men, and they were most highly appreciated by those best able to form a judgment concerning them. For 25 years Mr. Downer was a director of the Bank of Adelaide, and during the greater part of that period he was chair- man of that institution. The bank owes much of its success to his enlightened counsel and his excellent foresight. He was a director of Messrs. Elder, Smith, and Co. -from 1892 to 1914, in which capa- city he also did signal service to the State and the company, and for many years he was on the directorate of the China Traders Company. He was one of the trustees of Harrold Bros., and was a director of the Norwich Union Assurance Company. In all these capaci- ties he displayed characteristic- conscienti ousness and energy, and his advice was always disinterested and weighty. Mr. Downer proposed to live at Maratta, his country residence, at Belair, and spend the greater part of his time there, only coming to his residence at South-terrace, Adelaide, during the winter months. Early last year, when the Federal authorities were in search of premises suitable for use as hospitals for returned soldiers, he gene- rously placed the large property formerly known as Hope Lodge at the disposal of the Military Department. When he retired from the various direc- torates in May, 1914, many eulogies were passed upon the splendid service Mr. Downer had rendered to the commercial institutions of the State. On that occasion The Advertiser' remarked:— "'The retire ment of Mr. A. G. Downer deserves more

than a passing notice, for although Mr. Downer never enjoyed Parliamentary honors he has been associated at so many different points, and in so influential a manner, with the mercantile life of South Australia that in every sense but the political he may be viewed as a public man, and one, too, of such eminence and distinction that his place will not bs readily filled. The members of the Downer family as lawyers, politicians, and men of affairs, have all in various directions left a creditable mark upon the history of the State, but none has more honorably dis- charged the duties of citizenship, or with a higher measure of ability, than the gentleman. who now, at the ripe age of 75, is seeking the leisure which may fitly crown the unceasing labors of a useful life. He has played with remarkable suc- cess a part, or perhaps we should rather say a series of parts, calling for versatile

talent of no common order; and he has done so in such a manner as not merely to win for himself the material rewards of unflagging industry and keen intelligence,   but to gain the confidence of all with whom he has been associated in business and the respect of the whole -community. A pioneer in the pastoral industry, it is now recognised that he took a well informed and perfectly reasonable view of its requirements when years ago he criti- cised rash legislative proposals, the carrying out of which must have hindered the de- velopment of our outside country. In his profession Mr. Downer has attained special distinction as an authority on commercial law. To the companies on which he has acted as director his legal knowledge has been of considerable service, but he became well-nigh indispensable to them because of an unusual combination of valuable qualities, among which may be noted a spirit of enterprise and progressiveness duly tempered with the wise prudence which carefully weighs all risk and -looks nhead. But no reserve of caution is visi- ble in the warm-hearted generosity with   which lie has ever been ready to meet the deserving claims of charitable and philan- thropic causes.'     Mr. Downer's work on the Pastoral Com mission held in the eighties of last century was very valuable. His grasp of the re quirements of the industry was much ap preciated, both by the Government and the Houses of Parliament, as well as by the pastoralists throughout the State. No man in South Australia has done more than he did for the pastoral industry. He was     largely instrumental in obtaining long tenures at a rental that was satisfactory both to the Crown and the pastoralists. These long tenures enabled lessees to im- prove their holdings and thus to increase the carrying capacity of their pastoral country.