Joseph Fisher (Australian politician)

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Joseph Fisher (14 September 1834 – 26 September 1907) was a South Australian politician and newspaper proprietor born in Brighouse, Yorkshire.[1]

Early Days[edit]

He left for Adelaide with his parents in the Prestonjee Bonanjee and arrived on 4 October 1838. His father, Joshua Fisher (died 1841), opened a grocery store at the corner of Hindley and Morphett Streets. Joseph was educated at the Oddfellows School where James Wardlaw Disher (1819 – 1901) was Classics master. (Disher and his brother-in-law Sir William Milne were later to take over the wine shop of Patrick Auld.[2])

In 1840 he started work as a clerk in the Tavistock Street office of the merchant Anthony Forster,[3] who, on the death of Fisher's father in 1841 became his guardian.[4]


In 1848 Forster bought a half share of John Stephens' (died November 1850) newspapers The South Australian Register and The Observer, and gave Fisher a job in the newspaper's office. In those days every employee was involved in other aspects of getting the newspaper out. For Fisher that meant working the press, folding and bundling the papers as well as keeping the books. After three months Forster took no part in the day-to-day business of the paper.[3] In May 1853 (after a year in the goldfields) Fisher became part-owner and business manager.[4]

The Register was, under Stephens, a crusading paper, with a campaign against some injustice almost every week. This won respect for the paper, but cost it advertisers.[5] When Stephens died in 1850, John Taylor took over his share of the business.

On 30 September 1865 Fisher sold his share of the business to John Howard Clark.[1]

Other Business[edit]

Fisher then concentrated on his activity as Adelaide agent of several businesses, notably that of John Ridley.[1]

Fisher was director of the Bank of Adelaide for around 20 years, a director of the South Australian Gas Company and a director of the South Australian Company.[1]

Fisher was part-owner of the clipper Hesperus and had shares in two large sheep stations.[4]

Fisher was chairman of the Port Adelaide Dry Dock Company.[6] and a director of Adelaide Marine and Fire Assurance.[7]

Fisher was a director of The Mortgage Company of S. A. Ltd.[8] which went into receivership in 1905.[9]

Other Interests[edit]

For nearly 25 years Fisher was vice-president of the South Australian Cricketing Association and trustee of the Sturt Cricket Club[6]

Fisher was known as a philanthropist, donating large sums to charitable and cultural organizations.[6] This included £500 for the National Art Gallery and £1000 to the University of Adelaide, though these may have partly motivated by a need to avoid inheritance tax.[4]


Joseph Fisher was elected to the South Australian House of Assembly for the district of Sturt from April 1868 to March 1870.[10]

Fisher was elected to the South Australian Legislative Council in 1873 and held his seat until 1881.[10] He was a man of unyielding principles - the obituary in The Register said "... in his earlier political career he expressed himself as sternly opposed to many of the political ideals which have since found favour in certain quarters and refused to shirk what he deemed to be his duties and responsibilities to retain his seat. He was at all times plain spoken and was not the man to make compromises of principle for the sake of securing any private advantage."[9] This may have referred to his opposition in 1880 to a parliamentary bill, which he labelled as "Un-Christian", to restrict freedoms of Chinese nationals. This opposition probably cost him his seat at the 1881 elections.[4]

Private Life[edit]

Fisher married Anne Wood Farrar (died 21 April 1915) on 10 March 1857[11]

  • son Henry (11 December 1857 – 2 December 1864) aged 7 years of diphtheria
  • son Francis Joseph, born 24 August 1859, married the daughter of merchant Robert Sellar
  • daughter Helen Elizabeth (20 March 1861 – 9 January 1865) aged 3 years of diphtheria
  • daughter Annie Katherine (28 January 1863 – 27 January 1865) aged 2 years
  • daughter Gertrude (15 October 1865 – 20 March 1952) married William Culross 12 November 1887
  • son Harold (13 May 1867 – 7 July 1929 aged 62) married Alice Russell Maude Smyth 7 May 1890
  • son Norman (4 October 1868 – 6 September 1871) aged 2 years

For all their married life they lived in "Woodfield" at what is now 78 Fisher Street Fullarton. The original house was built around 1853 by J. C. Verco and P. Santo, schoolmates from J. L. Young's Adelaide Educational Institution, both of whom were to become South Australian parliamentarians. He bought it at the time of his marriage in 1857 and extended it significantly in 1883. A prominent feature is a square three-storey tower from which Fisher could watch shipping movements.[1]

In his last twenty years Fisher suffered from gout and diabetes.[4] His death at home, after a bout of influenza, received little publicity: there was no death notice and his cremation was only reported after the event.


  1. ^ a b c d e Payne, G. B. and Cosh, E. History of Unley 1871-1971 Corporation of the City of Unley ISBN 0-9599174-0-3
  2. ^ A Venerable Pioneer The Advertiser 14 December 1900 p.6 accessed 1 June 2011
  3. ^ a b Interview with Joseph Fisher The Register 23 November 1904 p.9 accessed 2 June 2011
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Fisher, Joseph" Australian Dictionary of Biography Online accessed 2 June 2011
  5. ^ "Stephens, John (1806-1850)" Australian Dictionary of Biography Online accessed 2 June 2011
  6. ^ a b c Personal The Advertiser 28 September 1907 p.8 accessed 31 May 2011
  7. ^ Public Notices South Australian Register 21 May 1886 p.2 accessed 31 May 2011
  8. ^ Public Notices South Australian Register 14 June 1890 p.2 accessed 31 May 2011
  9. ^ a b Death of Mr. Joseph Fisher The Register 28 September 1907 p.9 accessed 31 May 2011
  10. ^ a b "Statistical Record of the Legislature 1836 to 2009" (PDF). Parliament of South Australia. 
  11. ^