William Owen

NSW State Archives Collection
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William Owen was born on 4 November 1834 in Wexford, Ireland (1). He was educated at Cheltenham College in England and Trinity College in Ireland, obtaining his BA in 1857 (2). He had eight terms at Lincoln's Inn, London until 1859 when he was called to the Irish Bar (3). He was married in 1860, and in the same year migrated to Sydney (4). On the 7 September of that year he was admitted to the Bar (5).

Owen became the commissioner of the Court of Claims in 1861, and remained in that position until 1887 (6).

He was appointed under-secretary of the Colonial Secretary's Department on 16 June 1865, but resigned early the following year. His wife and eldest son were drowned in January 1866 when the ship they were on foundered in the Bay of Biscay (8). Owen's long interest in Equity resulted in the Equity Act of 1880 being based on his draft (9).

Owen took silk in 1882 (10). In October 1887 he was appointed to the Supreme Court bench as chief judge in Equity (11). In November 1896 he was transferred to the common law jurisdiction and was also made deputy-judge commissary in the Vice-Admiralty Court (12).

He was knighted in 1906 and retired in February 1908 (13). Owen died on 22 November 1912 (14).

Honours received:
Knighted 1906

(1) Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 2: 1891-1939, p113
(2) Ibid
(3) Ibid
(4) Ibid
(5) Ibid
(6) Ibid, p114
(7) Ibid, p114
(8) Ibid, p114
(9) Ibid, p114
(10) Ibid, p114
(11) Ibid, p114
(12) Ibid, p114
(13) Ibid, p114
(14) Ibid, p114


Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, 18/10/1887-1/2/1908

Commissioner of the Court of Claims, 1861-1887

Under-Secretary Colonial Secretary's Department, 16/06/1895 - 01/01/1866

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