William Portus Cullen

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The Honourable
Sir William Portus Cullen
KCMG KC
SirWilliamPortusCullen.jpg
7th Chief Justice of New South Wales
In office
28 January 1910 – 27 January 1925
Appointed by Viscount Chelmsford
Preceded by Sir Frederick Darley
Succeeded by Sir Philip Street
15th Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales
In office
28 January 1910 – 27 January 1930
Appointed by Edward VII
Preceded by Sir Frederick Darley
Succeeded by Sir Philip Street
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Camden
In office
3 July 1891 – 17 July 1894
Serving with Kidd, McCourt
Preceded by Thomas Garrett
Succeeded by John Kidd
Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council
In office
1895–1910
Personal details
Born (1855-05-28)28 May 1855
Jamberoo, New South Wales, Australia
Died 6 April 1935(1935-04-06) (aged 79)
Leura, New South Wales, Australia
Nationality  Australia

Sir William Portus Cullen KCMG KC (28 May 1855 – 6 April 1935) was an Australian barrister, the 7th Chief Justice of New South Wales,[1] Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales,[2] and Chancellor of the University of Sydney.[3]

Early life and Education[edit]

Cullen was born at Mount Johnston, near Jamberoo, New South Wales, the seventh son of John and Rebecca (née Clinton) Cullen. A brother, Joseph Cullen, was a Member of Parliament for both New South Wales and Western Australia. William was educated at country state schools, including Kiama, and the University of Sydney, where he won a scholarship.

William Cullen graduated B.A. with first class honours in classics in 1880, M.A. in 1882, LL.B. in 1885 and LL.D. in 1887. During his university career he won the University, Lithgow, Barker, and Renwick scholarships, and the John Smith prize.[4]

Legal career[edit]

Cullen was called to the bar in 1883 and his progress at first was slow. But, he eventually took high rank at the equity bar, and argued with much success before the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court of Australia (an institution whose creation he had vigorously supported). He became a KC in 1905.[5] He regularly appeared in the High Court,[6] and was considered one of the leading barristers appearing in the High Court,[3] including appearing in R v Governor of South Australia; Ex parte Vardon,[7] Union Label case,[8] and the Steel Rails case.[9]

Political career[edit]

Cullen entered politics in 1891 when he was elected a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for Camden.[10] He was defeated at the 1894 election, and in 1895 was appointed to the New South Wales Legislative Council.[11] Though not a strong party man, or even a politician by temperament, he was a useful member of the house who never spoke unless he could contribute something constructive to the debate. Cullen was a Federationist.

University of Sydney[edit]

His chief interest from his undergraduate days was the University of Sydney; he was elected a member of the university senate in 1896, vice-chancellor in 1908, and chancellor in 1914. During his early days in the Legislative Council he introduced a bill embodying important reforms in the conduct of the university, although some of these were not brought into effect until many years after. He was elected term after term as chancellor, and when he resigned on account of his health and his advanced age in December 1934, he had been in office for a longer period than any previous chancellor, during a time of great expansion.[3]

Judicial career[edit]

In January 1910 he was appointed Chief Justice of New South Wales in succession to Sir Frederick Darley,[1] and in March was appointed Lieutenant-Governor.[2] Cullen found much business awaiting him at the Supreme Court, but his great capacity for work soon cleared up the arrears. He was a very sound equity and constitutional lawyer who as chief justice worthily upheld the traditions of his court. Cullen was courteous and considerate to juniors appearing before him, and could hold his own with the most experienced barristers. He had great conscientiousness, excellent knowledge of the law and sound judgment, and consequently his judgments were seldom upset.[5]

Late life[edit]

Cullen retired as Chief Justice in January 1925 but retained the position of Lieutenant-Governor until September 1930.[12] He administered the State of NSW on several occasions during the absence of governors from the State or between appointments.[13] He died at Leura on 6 April 1935.[14] He married in 1891 Lily, eldest daughter of the Hon. R. H. D. White, who died in 1931.[15] He was survived by two sons and a daughter. He was knighted in 1911 and created KCMG in 1912.

Cullen was interested in literature, in the Australian flora (Eucalyptus cullenii was named for him), and in social and philanthropic movements.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Appointment of Chief Justice". NSW Gazette. 29 January 1910. p. 645 – via National Library of Australia. 
  2. ^ a b "Appointment of William Portus Cullen Esq LL.D. to be Lieutenant-Governor". NSW Gazette. 6 May 1910. p. 2469 – via National Library of Australia. 
  3. ^ a b c "The Hon Sir William Portus Cullen KCMG". University of Sydney. Retrieved 27 June 2017. 
  4. ^ Bennett, J.M. (1991). "Cullen, Sir William Portus (1855–1935)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. 
  5. ^ a b Fuller B.C. "Obituary Sir William Cullen". (1935) 9 Australian Law Journal 24.
  6. ^ "Search: Dr Cullen OR Cullen K.C". austlii.edu.au. 
  7. ^ R v Governor of South Australia; Ex parte Vardon [1907] HCA 31, (1907) 4 CLR 1497.
  8. ^ Attorney-General for NSW v Brewery Employees Union of NSW (Union Label case) [1908] HCA 94, (1908) 6 CLR 469.
  9. ^ Attorney-General (NSW) v Collector of Customs (NSW) (Steel Rails case) [1908] HCA 28, (1908) 5 CLR 818.
  10. ^ "Return of Writs for a General Election". NSW Gazette. 13 July 1891. p. 5261 – via National Library of Australia. 
  11. ^ "Legislative Council of NSW". NSW Gazette. 8 August 1895. p. 5075 – via National Library of Australia. 
  12. ^ "Sir William Cullen resigns Lieutenant-Governorship". The Sydney Morning Herald. 18 September 1930. p. 8 – via National Library of Australia. 
  13. ^ "NSW Parliamentary Record" (PDF). NSW State Parliament. p. 2. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 June 2017. 
  14. ^ "Late Sir William Cullen". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 April 1935. p. 10 – via National Library of Australia. 
  15. ^ "Lady Cullen, Death at Leura announced". The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 June 1931. p. 10 – via National Library of Australia. 
  16. ^ Serle, Percival (1949). "Cullen, William Portus". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. 

 

Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Frederick Darley
Chief Justice of New South Wales
1910 – 1925
Succeeded by
Sir Philip Street
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Frederick Darley
Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales
1911 – 1930
Succeeded by
Sir Philip Street
Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
Thomas Garrett
Member for Camden
1891 – 1894
Served alongside: Kidd, McCourt
Succeeded by
John Kidd