Samuel Way

Sir Samuel James Way, 1st Baronet, PC, KC (11 April 1836 – 8 January 1916) was an English-Australian jurist who served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia from 18 March 1876 until 8 January 1916.

Samuel Way

3rd Chief Justice of South Australia
In office
18 March 1876  8 January 1916
Preceded bySir Richard Hanson
Succeeded bySir George Murray
12th Attorney-General of South Australia
In office
3 June 1875  18 March 1876
PremierJames Boucaut
Preceded byCharles Mann
Succeeded byHenry Gawler
Member of the South Australian Parliament
for Sturt
In office
10 February 1875  20 March 1876
Preceded byWilliam Mair
Succeeded byThomas King
Personal details
Born(1836-04-11)11 April 1836
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
Died8 January 1916(1916-01-08) (aged 79)
North Adelaide, South Australia


Way was born in Portsmouth, England. Reverend James Way, his father, was a clergyman in the Bible Christian Church, who emigrated to Adelaide, South Australia in 1850 along with his wife and four younger children to establish a mission. Samuel, the eldest child, remained behind, studying at Shebbear College in Shebbear, a small village in North Devon, and later at a school in Chatham in Kent. He left England to rejoin his family at the end of 1852, arriving in Adelaide in March 1853. He was soon employed in the office of John Tuthill Bagot, at that time a barrister, and in 1856 became an articled clerk to Alfred Atkinson (c. 1825 – 4 June 1861), solicitor of King William Street.[1]

Legal and judicial career

On 25 March 1861, Way was admitted to the South Australian Bar to practice law, and when Atkinson died shortly afterwards, Way inherited his practice.[1] Way practised as a barrister and quickly became a leader among the legal community, and in 1868 joined a partnership with another barrister, James Brook.[2] In September 1871, Way was made a Queen's Counsel, despite having been admitted to the bar only ten years earlier. When Brook died in 1872, a young Josiah Symon joined Way as partner. Way continued to be highly successful, travelling to London to argue a number of cases before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In 1874, Way was elected as a member of the council of the University of Adelaide, and was also appointed to the South Australian Board of Education.[1]

In 1875, Way was elected to the South Australian House of Assembly as the member for Sturt, and on 3 June of that year joined the Boucaut government as Attorney-General of South Australia. He was only a politician for a short time, however, since in March 1876, at the age of just thirty-nine, he was appointed Chief Justice of South Australia following the death of Richard Hanson on 4 March. Since it is the role of the Attorney-General to recommend judicial candidates to the cabinet, it has been suggested that Way probably nominated himself to be Chief Justice.[3] Way soon gained a reputation as an excellent lawyer, and it has been said that none of his decisions were ever successfully appealed to a higher court.[4] Later in 1876 he was appointed as the vice-chancellor of the University of Adelaide, and in 1883 became the chancellor, a position he would hold until his death.

Statue of Sir Samuel Way on North Terrace, Adelaide in front of the University of Adelaide.

In 1877, Way was called upon to act as acting Governor of South Australia. In January 1891 he was appointed to the position of Lieutenant-Governor of South Australia, a position subordinate to the state Governor. In January 1897, Way became the first Australian to be appointed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In 1899 he was created a Baronet, of Montefiore, North Adelaide, and Kadlunga Mintaro, both in the Colony of South Australia.[5]

In October 1905, it was Way who publicly pronounced that Catherine Helen Spence, writer and suffragist, social worker and feminist was the most distinguished woman in Australia.[6]

Way was a Freemason and Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of South Australia and Northern Territory from 1884 to 1916, apart from the period 1889–95 when the position was occupied by the Governor, the Earl of Kintore.[7]

Personal life

Way married Mrs. Katherine Gollan Blue (née Gordon) on 11 April 1898.[8] She was the widow of Dr. William Archibald Sinclair Blue (died 18 September 1896) of Strathalbyn.[9] The time and whereabouts of the wedding, which was the subject of great public interest, were a closely kept secret until well after the event.[10]

Easter view of Montefiore, residence of Sir Samuel Way at North Adelaide in approximately 1890. After his death the second storey was removed.

Way became ill in 1914, and was diagnosed with cancer. He travelled to Sydney to have his arm amputated, in an attempt to delay the cancer. The operation failed to prevent his health from deteriorating, but he continued his work as Chief Justice until December 1915. He died early the following year in North Adelaide.


Samuel Way Building on Victoria Square, Adelaide

The baronetcy became extinct on his death. The geological feature Mount Sir Samuel and the town of Sir Samuel in the Goldfields region of Western Australia were named after him.

A statue was unveiled on 17 November 1924, located on North Terrace, Adelaide, in front of the University of Adelaide.[1]

The Sir Samuel Way Building on Victoria Square, Adelaide, was originally a major retail outlet for Charles Moore and Co. In 1983 it became a facility of the City Courts and was named after him.


  1. "A Distinguished Citizen". The Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 18 November 1924. p. 10. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  2. "Out Among the People". The Advertiser. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 20 July 1954. p. 4. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  3. "Our first Grand Master, Bro Samuel J Way". Freemasons South Australia and Northern Territory. Archived from the original on 21 August 2006. Retrieved 2 March 2006.
  4. Serle, Percival (1949). "Way, Samuel". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
  5. "No. 27174". The London Gazette. 16 March 1900. p. 1791.
  6. "The Scot who was lauded as the Grand Old Woman of Australia …". The National. Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  7. Past Grand Masters of The Grand Lodge of South Australia and Northern Territory Retrieved 4 May 2015.
  8. "Marriage of the Chief Justice". South Australian Register. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 11 April 1898. p. 4. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  9. "Family Notices". Southern Argus. Port Elliot, SA: National Library of Australia. 24 September 1896. p. 2. Retrieved 22 May 2015. W. A. Blue was father of Shylie Katharine Blue (1882-1959) mother of Henry Way Rymill.
  10. "Fair and Unfair". Quiz and the Lantern. IX (450). South Australia. 14 April 1898. p. 11. Retrieved 20 April 2019 via National Library of Australia.


  • Hannan, A. J., C. M. G., Q. C., The Life of Chief Justice Way, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1960.
  • Emerson, Dr. John, First Among Equals, University of Adelaide Barr Smith Press, Adelaide, 2004, pp 11–56.
South Australian House of Assembly
Preceded by
William Mair
Member for Sturt
Served alongside: William Townsend
Succeeded by
Thomas King
Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Mann
Attorney-General of South Australia
Succeeded by
Henry Gawler
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir Richard Hanson
Chief Justice of South Australia
Succeeded by
Sir George Murray
Government offices
Preceded by
new title
Lieutenant-Governor of South Australia
Succeeded by
Sir George Murray
Academic offices
Preceded by
Augustus Short
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide
Succeeded by
William Roby Fletcher
Preceded by
Augustus Short
Chancellor of the University of Adelaide
Succeeded by
Sir George Murray
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New title Baronet
(of Montefiore and Kadlunga Mintaro)