William Henry Groom

William Henry Groom

(Member of Parliament and convict)

"In the House Mr. Groom showed himself a keen debater, a fervent speaker, and an earnest worker towards the accomplishment of the many ideals he had set his heart upon." – The Queenslander- Illustrated Supplement, 24 August 1901, p.365

Born: 9 March 1833 in Plymouth, England
Convicted: 26 October 1846 at the Devon, Borough of Plymouth Quarter Sessions.
Sentence: 7 years transportation
Ship: Hashemy
Transported: Arrived in New South Wales on 8 June 1849
Died: 8 August 1901. Buried in Toowoomba Cemetery.
Notes: Pardoned October 1849

"...for many years held the distinction of being the "Father of the House" in the Queensland Legislature..." – The Queenslander- Illustrated Supplement, 24 August 1901, p.365

Further reading:

Obituary for William Groom, convict Queenslander

Transcribed from the newspaper The Queensland Illustrated Supplement, 24 August 1901, pp.365-366

The Queenslander newspaper

The Late Hon. W. H. Groom

The late Hon. W. H.Groom, M.P., member for the Darling Downs division of the Federal House of Representatives, who, for many years held the distinction of being the "Father of the House" in the Queensland Legislature, was born on the 9th of March, 1833, at Plymouth (England).  He received his education at St. Andrew's College in that town, and in 1857 he emigrated to Queensland, and began business as a storekeeper in Drayton Swamp, as Toowoomba was then called, a village of 100 inhabitants, chiefly fencers, splitters and sawyers.  From the first, Mr. Groom took an active interest in public affairs, and on Toowoomba being gazetted a municipality in 1860, he was elected (in January, 1861) at the head of the poll for nine alderman, by a large majority.  A further proof of the appreciation in which he was held by his townsmen was forthcoming when the newly created Municipal Council made him their first Mayor, entrusting him with the duty of initiating municipal administration and work in the town, and of laying the foundation for the future government of the municipality.  The first three years of mayoral life (for Mr. Groom was elected year by year to the same position) were full of difficulties, and it was not until Mr. Groom was elected member for Drayton and Toowoomba in the Legislative Assembly in 1862, and again at the general election in 1863, that he was really able to bring the constituency any material advantages, and he began at once to invoke the aid of Parliament on behalf of the electors.  Grants of money and land were obtained for many necessary works, such as the main roads through Drayton and Toowoomba, two important bridges, the site of the present Town Hall, the Market Reserve, and the Queen's Park.  Mr.Groom was also one of the first advocates in the Legislature of the advantages of close settlement, and while he was engaged in making the town habitable, he did not forget that it wanted population and the producing interests to back it up.  But the pastoralist section of the Legislature and Mr. Groom's efforts were bitterly opposed.  In the early sixties agriculture in Queensland was discredited, and to counteract the dangerous impression, Mr. Groom, with a few others, started the Drayton and Toowoomba Agricultural and Horticultural Society, acting as its secretary for several years.  The society was formed with a specific object -- to prove what the district could grow , and it has well carried out its mission, and is today one of the established institutions of the town and district.

The financial crisis of 1866 had its reflex on the affairs of Mr. Groom, and he resigned his seat on assigning his estate in that year, owing to the failure of the Bank of Queensland.  He was, however, re-elected in 1867, and in the same year was again appointed Mayor of Toowoomba, in which capacity he officiated at the opening of the Southern and Western Railway to Toowoomba.  The same financial crisis, however, gave Mr. Groom an opportunity for a further advocacy of a pet scheme.  It was due to it, that one or more stations on the Darling Downs were offered for sale in Sydney, and Mr. Groom urged that these large estates should be purchased and thrown open for closer settlement.  The Land Act of 1868, also enabled Mr. Groom, in company with others, to insist upon the homestead clauses of the American Land Act of 1862 being inserted.  This was the first step towards real close settlement, because it gave to every settler a homestead of 160 acres at 2s. 6d. per acre, and five years to pay for it.  Indeed, not a few of the alterations in our land laws have been due to Mr. Groom from this time until 1897, when, as chairman of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into public lands, he showed that the homestead areas required enlarging. The Land Act of 1897, which in fact, was the outcome of this commission, contained clauses altering them to three classes--- 160, 320 and 640 acres, according to the price and quality of the land.

At the general election in 1869 Mr. Groom was again returned at the head of the poll, and the same compliment was accorded him in 1870, 1871, 1874 and 1878.  Up to the latter year, when the redistribution of seats took place, Mr. Groom was the only representative of Drayton and Toowoomba, Aubigny, and a large portion of what is now Cambooya.  In 1878 the electorate of Drayton and Toowoomba was given two members, and Mr. Groom was, of course, the first senior member.  In 1875, he assisted in the passing of the Education Act, and carried an amendment in Committee, which continued aid to non-vested schools for a period of five years, to enable them to meet the new conditions.  More recently he was the author of a resolution in Parliament establishing the principles of "bursaries" in connection with State school scholarships.  In 1876, he introduced a bill to consolidate and amend the laws relating to Friendly Societies, which became law after being investigated by a Select Committee, in November of that year.  At the general election of 1883, Mr. Groom was opposed by the Hon. John Douglas, whom he defeated by over 400 votes, and in the same year he was once more chosen Mayor of Toowoomba.  On the reassembling of Parliament, in 1884, Mr. Groom was chosen Speaker by 29 votes to 18, in a House which consisted then of fifty-four members, having previously refused the Chairmanship of Committees offered to him under the McIlwraith Ministry.  On the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly consequent upon the passing of the Redistribution of Seats Act in 1888, Mr. Groom appealed to his constituency for re-election, and was returned at the head of the poll.  In 1890 came the coalition of the Griffith and McIlwraith Ministries, and since then Mr. Groom, hitherto a consistent follower of Sir Samuel Griffith, sat in opposition until his resignation in the early part of this year on his being elected for the Darling Downs to the Federal House of Representatives.  He was re-elected in 1893, 1896, and 1899, his companion on each occasion being Mr. John Fogarty, the present senior member for the electorate.

Mr. Groom's career was a remarkable one.  He was seven times mayor of Toowoomba, and was member of the constituency for the thirteen consecutive Parliaments of the State.  For thirty-nine years he sat for the same electorate, and during that time saw Queensland pass from her infancy to the time when as a young but vigorous member of the Australian group, she linked herself with her sister States in the Commonwealth.  He received during that time many marks of appreciation from his constituents more material than the honour of being chosen to represent them, and so great was his reputation and popularity that it has been said that as often as he came forward the electors would send him down as their representative.  In the House Mr. Groom showed himself a keen debater, a fervent speaker, and an earnest worker towards the accomplishment of the many ideals he had set his heart upon.  As Speaker he was pronounced one of the best and most impartial that has ever presided over the Assembly, and his knowledge of Parliamentary procedure was often made use of both in the House and by young members struggling with the rules of debate or the Standing Orders.  Mr. Groom leaves a widow and a grown up family to survive him.

Disclaimer: This has been transcribed directly from the original document. Any mistakes are from the original document.

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