James Martin Statue

The story ofthe Third Man

Hardly anyone knows the story of the third man. But what a story it is.

You probably know who William Charles Wentworth and Henry Parkes were – Wentworth the leading advocate for self-government for the colony, and Parkes the father of Australian Federation.

But in between, there was a man, mentored by Wentworth and loved and admired by Parkes, a man who, with them, helped to lay the foundations of Australian society and values.

Parkes named the very centre of Sydney after this man, and his name is spoken thousands of times a day, but he himself remains invisible and uncelebrated.

It’s high time he was better known.

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Castle Hyde
Castle Hyde, County Cork, Ireland.Image Source: State Library of NSW, a1939062 / PXA 420, f.28a

James Martin

Born May 1820 near Castle Hyde, County Cork, Ireland.

His father John, 24, a skilled horseman, was the respected steward of the Hyde family’s 12,000-acre estate.

Not far from Castle Hyde stood the British army barracks at Fermoy, commanded by General Thomas Brisbane, a great horse lover. In late 1820, Brisbane had finally been offered the post he had coveted for years – Governor of New South Wales.

Just after getting his offer, Brisbane visited Castle Hyde. He noted with interest young John Martin’s expertise with horses. In New South Wales he would need a horse groom. He offered the job to Martin, the steady, decent husband of a strong-minded, aspiring wife.

Horse groom!

Quite a step down socially, but John and Mary Martin now had baby James. Although New South Wales was still a penal colony, it was a new society, a land of opportunity, and opportunities, that little James could never have in Ireland. They accepted. Perhaps it was Mary who urged the move.

Their voyage from Cork to Port Jackson, in the convict ship John Barry, took four months, during which nearly all the 180 convicts suffered from seasickness.

James Martin Paper
James Martin Statue

10 November 1821, the day John Barry finally reached the port of Sydney.

James was one and a half years old. The little family was immediately taken to the servants’ quarters next to the stables at Parramatta Government House, where they would all live for the next 14 years. John would spend those long years brushing horses and mucking out stables, as a servant.

Little James started school in a tiny establishment run by an ex-convict.

Very soon, it became clear that this was no ordinary child. Bright, articulate, hard-working, the boy had a facility with words, and a burning ambition, that set him apart from his fellows.

By the time he was 12, it was obvious that this lad should go on with his education. Quitting now, like nearly all his school friends, would mean spending his life brushing horses and mucking out stables like his father, all his potential lost.

James Martin Government House

Image Source: State Library NSW, Painting by Charles Rodius

Government House Parramatta, 1838arrow1

In 1832, there was no high school in Parramatta.

Of course in Sydney, there were several. And the best one was W. T. Cape’s Academy in King St, headed by the 26-year-old William Timothy Cape, who would become the first headmaster of Sydney College, the forerunner of Sydney Grammar.

The family took stock. There seemed only one way out. So that James could go to the Cape school, John had to find a job in Sydney. They were simply too poor to afford the regular carriage fare. Time and again, John tried, but to no avail. No job offers in the city, no success at all. The future looked black for the brilliant boy.

Until the boy himself spoke up. If his father couldn’t find a job in the city, why, he told his parents, he would just walk. The distance was only 13 miles.
James Martin Government House

Image Source: State Library NSW, Painting by Charles Rodius

Government House Parramatta, 1838arrow1

In the 1950s, Elena Grainger, Martin’s biographer got a charming scene, directly from Martin’s last surviving daughter, Mary:

Suddenly James pushed through the screening bushes, and ran up the hill.

His father had been to Sydney to look for work.

Had he been successful?

Seething with excitement he rushed into the house. But no, his dear simple, honest father and mother were grieved that never a bit of high school would he see. No work in Sydney and the coach fare too dear and all.

But James was not discouraged, not in the least.

He would walk to school every day until the family moved to Sydney. Yes, it was every bit of 13 miles and he was only 12 years old, but had they forgotten he’d not have the road to himself? Bushrangers? But father, mother, what would a bushranger want with books on algebra or arithmetic?

And so it was agreed.

Mary, along with her husband John Inman, founded Tudor House School in Moss Vale. The Tudor House School is a private, day and boarding, preparatory school for boys and girls.
The school is Australia’s only preparatory boarding school and became co-educational in 2017.

For two years, till John did finally find work in Sydney, that was just what the lad did.

He walked, he hitched rides, he slept overnight at school, and he walked again. His parents made sacrifices to pay for his schoolbooks and uniforms. His fees were paid by friends.

And the boy walked...and walked...and walked
James Martin Tudor House
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James Maritin Map
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Henry
Henry

Sir Henry Parkes (1815-1896), Politician and Journalist.

Image Source: Painting from State Library of NSW, c. 1887 / P. Spence;
Portrait from National Library of Australia, obj.136671812.

Henry Parkes, deeply moved on the day of James Martin’s funeral, wrote a poem about those early struggles of his friend. Here is one of its verses:

Signature

How bravely did the stripling climb
From step to step the rugged hill
His gaze thro’ that benighted time
Fix’d on the far-off beacon still.

Somehow, through all of these struggles, perhaps because of them, he shone at W. T. Cape’s School. His facility with words, his curiosity, his drive, all flowered. His brilliant promise began to be fulfilled. He learned Latin and Greek, and began his lifelong love of the classics.

His school essays were scintillating, personal, eloquent.

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In 1834, Cape’s School and Sydney College in College Street merged, later on becoming Sydney Grammar.

Despite a need to expand its facilities in the nineteenth and tewntieth centuries, Sydney Grammar School has remained on its original site in College Street, Darlinghurst, although it maintains preparatory schools in Edgecliff and St Ives. Image Source: State Library of NSW, a1939062 / PXA 420, f.28a

James Martin School

Despite a need to expand its facilities in the nineteenth and tewntieth centuries, Sydney Grammar School has remained on its original site in College Street, Darlinghurst, although it maintains preparatory schools in Edgecliff and St Ives. Image Source: State Library of NSW, a1939062 / PXA 420, f.28a

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1838
While still at school, 18 year-old James started writing articles in The Australian.

This was an annus mirabilis for James, publishing both The Australian Sketchbook (we can smile at the youthful confidence of that “The”), and a bitter article on “the ignorance of the Molesworth committee on convict transportation”.

Already the lines of his future passions were emerging: an ardent patriotism, fierce support for the self-government of the colony, a wish to see it grow stronger and more independent, and impatience with sycophants, blockheads and snobs.

A book of miscellaneous
essays on the young colonyarrow1

Image Source: National Library of Australia
James Martin book

A book of miscellaneous essays on the young colonyarrow1

James Martin book
Image Source: National Library of Australia
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1839
By the age of 19, he was the Acting Editor of The Australian.

A feared crusader, he was mentored by the editor, the legendary G R Nichols, a lawyer who would soon change the course of Martin’s life.

G R Nichols had established a law firm in the city (it became the present-day Clayton Utz).

Ambition swelled in Martin.

He knew quite well that he could be more than a journalist. A poor Irish boy facing snobbery every day, he wanted a qualification and a standing that would prove his capacities beyond doubt.

James Martin Nichols
Image Source: State Library NSW

G R Nichols was James Martin’s mentorarrow1

James Martin Nichols
Image Source: State Library NSW

G R Nichols was James Martin’s mentorarrow1

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1840
At 20, Martin was articled to Nichols in his chambers.

Martin was the most brilliant member of his graduating year, and was admitted as a solicitor.

He would go on to become Australia’s first locally-trained QC, a wealthy, successful barrister with rooms in Parramatta and Sydney by the time he was 40.

But now in his twenties, the struggle was still intense.

While practising law, he never stopped writing articles in the press, or lost his passionate interest in the constitution and the political development of the colony.

Offence was often taken at opinions and his often combative style, but they were never counterfeit or trimmed…

…far from it.

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1848
Now he knew he could be more than a journalist and a lawyer.

At the age of 28, he went into politics. Backed by Wentworth, he won the Legislative Council seat of Cook and Westmoreland.

A year later, he was unseated, purportedly because he lacked the necessary property qualification.

Not enough money, Mr Martin!

That would have stung any poor, ambitious Irish boy.

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1854
At the age of 34, he further offended polite society by marrying Isabella Long.

Isabella was the daughter of an ex-convict who had become wealthy in the most reliable way in the infant colony – through the liquor trade. They went on to have 16 children.

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1856
He was able to regain his seat the next year, and in August 1856.

At 36 years old, he became Attorney General of New South Wales, but the government fell soon after.

At the time, Philip Gidley King, a wealthy pastoralist, son of a naval captain of impeccably English stock, wrote about Martin:

“What a vulgar fellow [he] is.
I should think no decent person
would ever cross his threshold
again or send their cards!”

Martin was blackballed three times from the Australian Club while King was its president. And the wife of Governor Hercules Robinson refused to have him in her genteel, exclusive salon.

Martin’s abilities and passion carried him through all the slights, the snobbery and the jealousies.

His star continued to rise.

Clarens House Monument
Clarens House Interior
Clarens House Exterior
Image Source: dictionaryofsydney.org

He bought Clarens, a fine house on the site of the present-day HMAS Kuttabul in Potts Point.

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1863
In October 1863 he became Premier of New South Wales for the first time.

His government fell in 1865 but he became Premier twice more, ending in 1872.

James Martin NSW Map
Image Source: dictionaryofsydney.org
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1868
In 1868, while he was living in “Clarens” in Potts Point

Martin also commissioned a lovely sandstone copy of
the Lysicrates Monument built in 334 B.C. in Athens.

Lysicrates Monument

Today the copy is standing in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden.arrow1Learn more

James Martin NSW Map
Image Source: dictionaryofsydney.org
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Throughout all his time in office, Martin’s over-riding passion for the independence of the colony remained strong.

Some of James Martin’s accomplishments includearrow1

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He spent years evolving a constitution for the colony.

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He created the Mint, so that the colony would not have to depend on English coinage.

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He was a fervent advocate of nurturing New South Wales’ infant industries against the might of English competition.

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He created programs to train for useful professions the street urchins running wild in the streets, by introducing the Industrial Schools Act.

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With Henry Parkes, James Martin oversaw the introduction of the Public Schools Act of 1866 giving greater authority to the new Council of Education.

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He helped found Sydney University.

His vision for the new country –

strong, with healthy and well-trained youth, growing industries, a literate people, and political independence from the apron strings of the English governess.

Sir James Martin, fourth Chief Justice of NSW (1873-1886) in W. F. Morrison, The Aldine Centennial History of New South Wales, Illustrated (Syndey 1888).Image Source: Inaugural Martin Oration 2016. Distributed by The Lysicrates Foundation.

In 1873, he was appointed Chief Justice of NSW by Parkes, who was then the Premier.

Martin is the only person in the history of the state to have occupied all three roles – Attorney General, Premier, and Chief Justice.

James Martin Portrait Frame
Sir James Martin, fourth Chief Justice of NSW (1873-1886) in W. F. Morrison, The Aldine Centennial History of New South Wales, Illustrated (Syndey 1888).Image Source: Inaugural Martin Oration 2016. Distributed by The Lysicrates Foundation.

His vision for the new country –

strong, with healthy and well-trained youth, growing industries, a literate people, and political independence from the English apron strings –

Sir James Martin, fourth Chief Justice of NSW (1873-1886) in W. F. Morrison, The Aldine Centennial History of New South Wales, Illustrated (Syndey 1888).

Image Source: Inaugural Martin Oration 2016. Distributed by The Lysicrates Foundation.

James Martin Portrait Frame

In 1873, he was appointed Chief Justice of NSW by Parkes, who was then the Premier.

Martin is the only person in the history of the state to have occupied all three roles – Attorney General, Premier, and Chief Justice.

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In the Blue Mountains, he built a simple weatherboard family weekender which he called “Numantia”.
Numantia

James Martin’s Numantiaarrow1

Photograph of James Martin’s Numantia in the Blue Mountains.Image Source: sorianitelaimaginas.com/en/patrimonio/numantia
Numantia
Birdseye view of the Numantia ruins in the municipality of GarrayImage Source: sorianitelaimaginas.com/en/patrimonio/numantia
Why Numantia?

The name is a clue to Martin’s most deeply held opinions.

Numantia was a hill town in Spain. In 133 B. C., after a two-year siege, it fell to the invading Roman army. But the Celtic inhabitants refused to accept Roman rule. Except for the last man, they all committed suicide. The last man stood on the battlements and cried down to the Roman commander, “You can enter the city now”, and then committed suicide himself.

It does not need much imagination to see why the story would appeal to an Irish-born, Australian-bred man.

Martin’s neighbour in the mountains was Henry Parkes, whose house today is still where it was then. They would often travel up together, and sit on the verandah in the sunset sipping their drinks and talking about politics, Federation and the development of Australia.

James Martin Family
James and Isabella Martin and family at Clarens,Parramatta Heritage CentrePotts Point, Sydney, around 1860. Image Source:
In 1882, Isabella left Martin.

For some time she had been objecting to what she believed to be the unhealthy air around Clarens, and had attributed to that the death of a favourite daughter. She moved to Vaucluse, then to Point Piper. The beach near her house is now called Lady Martin’s Beach.

Martin was deeply shocked. No longer a stripling of 12, he himself was unable to move so far away from his demanding legal work in the city. From then on, the man who had loved being surrounded by children, had laughed with them and cosseted them, lived mostly alone.

Just four years later, at only 66, James Martin died.

On the day of his funeral, Henry Parkes, full of emotion, sitting in his office in Parliament House, wrote the fitting tribute, The Buried Chief.

Still, writing a poem, Parkes felt, was not enough.

Martin Place
Published by the Sydney firm Charles Kerry & Co. Image Source: The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
Martin Place
Recent photograph of Martin Place. Image Source: Ultimately Sydney Website

His eye fell on the plans for a grand boulevard in the centre of city. Of course, he would name it Martin Place.

He made a formal pledge to honour Martin by placing, at the top of the magnificent avenue, a statue of the man whose motto had been:

Aut viam inveniam aut faciam:
I’ll either find the road, or make it.

And make it he did.

The pledge was later dishonoured by another Premier as an economy measure, for a saving of £3,000.

James Martin Paper
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The Buried Chief

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The Buried Chief

With speechless lips and solemn tread,
They brought the Lawyer-Statesman home;
They laid him with the gathered dead,
Where rich and poor like brothers come.

How bravely did the stripling climb
From step to step the rugged hill,
His gaze thro’ that benighted time
Fix’d on the far-off beacon still.

He faced the storm that o’er him burst
With pride to match the proudest born;
He bore unblenched Detraction’s worst –
Paid blow for blow, and scorn for scorn.

He scaled the summit while the sun
Yet shone upon his conquered track,
Nor faltered till the goal was won
Nor, struggling upward, once looked back.

But what ails the “pride of place”,
Or winged chariot rolling past?
He heeds not now who wins the race
Alike to him the first and last.

Isabella,A post script

Some years later, Isabella began to feel guilty.

She had a large structure built in the classical style in Waverley Cemetery to house Martin’s remains, and took a decision to be buried there too.

On the vault is a plaque commemorating Charles Badham Martin (named after Martin’s best friend Charles Badham, second Professor of Classics at Sydney University, and one of the foremost hellenists of his generation), the eighth son of James and Isabella, who was killed in action in 1918 in France, only a few days before the Armistice.

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Knowing James Martin’s love of Greek culture, Isabella commissioned this grand vault in the Grecian style as their joint resting place, and had it positioned so that they would forever look out together over the majestic Pacific Ocean.

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