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John Cummins Morphett (1844–1936)

DEATH OF MR. J. C MORPHETT - Outstanding Work As Clerk Of Parliaments


Mr. John Cummins Morphett, a former Clerk of Parliaments in South Australia, died at his home at Unley Park yesterday at the age of 92. Mr. Morphett was a son of Sir John Morphett, who arrived in South Australia in the Cygnet in 1836. Born at Cummins, Morphettville, in 1844. Mr. J.C. Morphett was educated at St. Peter's College and Oxford. On leaving Oxford he returned to Australia and, after two years in the north, went to New Zealand, where he remained for five years.

He entered the South Australian public service in 1873 as Parliamentary Librarian, and thereafter filled numerous offices in both Bouses of Parliament. In 1900 be was appointed Clerk of the House of Assembly, and remained in that position until 1918, when he succeeded the late Mr. Frederick Halcomb as Clerk of Parliaments. He retired in 1920 after 47 years of continuous service.

The late Mr. Morphett was a recognised authority on Parliamentary procedure. He was the mentor of newly fledged members of Parliament, and was universally liked and respected. He was succeeded by Mr. Alfred Searcy. In 1875 Mr. Morphett married a daughter of the late Mr. A. Sanders, of Adelaide. He is survived by a son and three daughters, Mr. Morphett, MP, of 'Cummins,' Morphettville; Mrs. J. B. Gunson, of Adelaide, Miss Bessey Morphett and Mrs. Lucy Wills, of Unley Park.

From the early days of the State, the late Mr. Morphett's family have held responsible positions in the Legislature. Sir James Hurtle Fisher, the first Resident Commissioner of the Province, and later first Mayor of Adelaide, was Mr. Morphett's maternal grandfather. Sir James Hurtle Fisher was Speaker of the Legislative Council which passed the Constitution Act in 1856, and President of the first Legislative Council under responsible government. Mr. Morphett's father, who assisted Colonel light in laying out the City of Adelaide and was present at the leading of the Proclamation, was appointed a non-official member of the Legislative Council in 1843, and was Speaker of the first partly elective and partly nominated Chamber. He succeeded Sir James Hurtle Fisher as President of the Legislative Council in 1865. The late Mr. J. C. Morphett was for many years in responsible positions on the staff of Parliament; and today his son. Mr. G. C. Morphett. is a member of the Assembly for Murray.

The President of the Legislative Council (Sir David Gordon) said last night that Mr. Morphett, with whom he had been associated for many years, was a distinguished member of a brilliant company of Parliamentary Clerks who had done so much to improve and clarify the Standing Orders and the procedure of the Federal Parliament as well as of the State. He had racked with Blackmore and Halcomb as an authority on procedure, and over a long period had given valuable service to the State. He was always courteous and obliging and always ready to advise members while insisting on up holding the dignity of debate and the prestige of Parliament.' Sir David Gordon added.

The Premier (Mr Butler) said that the name of Morphett had been associated with Parliament in South Australia from the first days of government. He was deeply sorry to hear of Mr. Morphett's death, and on behalf of both Houses he extended the Government's sympathy to his relatives. The family name was so indelibly imprinted on the history of South Australia that it was some recommense to know that it was being worthily carried on by a representative today.

The Clerk of Parliaments (Mr. J. P. Morice) said that Mr. Morphett was a great man in Parliament. His knowledge of Parliamentary procedure had been of lasting value.

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'Morphett, John Cummins (1844–1936)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012