South Aus­tralia was founded on high ideals that weren’t al­ways em­bod­ied by some of its most fa­mous fore­fa­thers, in­clud­ing Sir Sa­muel Way, the pow­er­ful judge who lived a se­cret dou­ble life in Tas­ma­nia

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Ten thou­sand South Aus­tralians turned up to Ade­laide Oval on a Septem­ber day in 1891 for the cru­cial game that would de­cide the cham­pion of the year’s SA Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion sea­son – and young Frank White for Nor­wood had a lot to play for.

The 18-year-old had en­joyed a crack­ing sea­son and now a vic­tory over Port Ade­laide would see the team claim the ti­tle.

As it turned out, the young­ster turned in a top ef­fort, be­ing named best player for a ster­ling de­fen­sive dis­play as Nor­wood clinched its 10th premier­ship with a two-goal vic­tory.

It’s easy to imag­ine that some of the loud­est cheers among the bois­ter­ous crowd would have come from young White’s fa­ther.

But if he did join the hoi pol­loi that day, South Aus­tralia’s chief jus­tice Sa­muel Way might well have kept his ap­proval for the ef­forts of young Frank rel­a­tively low-key.

Af­ter all, the judge had a se­cret: the boy from Gee­long Gram­mar was his il­le­git­i­mate son – one of five chil­dren that the un­mar­ried Way, one of the most prom­i­nent pil­lars of colo­nial South Aus­tralian so­ci­ety, fa­thered with a woman of con­vict stock in Tas­ma­nia.

Way was a leg­end in the state’s his­tory, as chief jus­tice for nearly 40 years. In 1890 he was made lieu­tenant gov­er­nor for life. In 1896 he be­came a privy coun­cil­lor, with im­pe­rial sta­tus next af­ter the royal fam­ily. He was knighted in 1899, a Royal Com­mis­sioner, a stal­wart of the Methodist Church and Grand Mas­ter of the Freema­sons Lodge. He was a mem­ber of the Ade­laide Club. Lo­cal wags dubbed him a “Pooh-Bah”. To­day he stands proudly in bronze out­side the Univer­sity of Ade­laide, which he served as chan­cel­lor.

And while he did not marry un­til his 62nd birth­day in 1898, that did not stop him start­ing a fam­ily.

In Ho­bart dur­ing sum­mer va­ca­tions, young Sam Way, son of a preacher man, fa­thered five of the seven chil­dren of Su­san­nah Mary Good­ing, a Tas­ma­nian-born cham­ber­maid of con­vict her­itage. Sam saw that his chil­dren – one girl and four boys born be­tween 1869 and 1881 – went to good schools. Two of the boys be­came em­i­nent doc­tors who per­formed great pub­lic ser­vice in war and peace, earn­ing a knight­hood for one of them.

De­tails of Way’s dou­ble life has emerged in re­cent times, recorded in learned pub­li­ca­tions and de­bated in aca­demic cir­cles – although not given head­line treat­ment. Now it can be re­vealed for the first time that Way’s sec­ond son, un­der the name of Frank White, stud­ied at Rose­wor­thy Agri­cul­tural Col­lege and was a key mem­ber of that cham­pion Nor­wood Foot­ball Club premier­ship team in 1891.

When I be­gan re­search­ing the mys­te­ri­ous White for the NFC His­tory Group late last year, the first clue un­cov­ered from old news­pa­per re­ports was that he was a Vic­to­rian stu­dent at Rose­wor­thy. Univer­sity of Ade­laide ar­chiv­ist Sue Cop­pin searched the Rose­wor­thy records and dis­cov­ered that the player Nor­wood had recorded as T.B. White was in fact Frank Brook White. He was 18 when he be­gan his one year at Rose­wor­thy and his par­ent or guardian was listed as R. Cham­bers Nor­man.

Armed with that in­for­ma­tion, fel­low NFC re­searcher Michael Coli­gan un­cov­ered the link to Way and his se­cret fam­ily. Frank White, born in Ho­bart on Oc­to­ber 4, 1872, was the sec­ond child of Way’s li­ai­son with Su­san­nah Good­ing. His sec­ond name, Brook, memo­ri­alised Way’s re­cently de­ceased le­gal part­ner, James Brook. His guardian, Robert Cham­bers Nor­man, had been sec­re­tary of the Ade­laide Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal for five years up to 1886, when he was warmly farewelled by Way be­fore mov­ing to the Al­fred Hos­pi­tal in Mel­bourne.

Nor­man also was the guardian of Frank’s el­der brother James Sa­muel Row­den White, who was 22 when en­rolled at Rose­wor­thy in April 1893 and left in July the same year.

Seven years or so be­fore he be­came chief jus­tice, Way had formed a re­la­tion­ship in Tas­ma­nia with Su­san­nah, whose mother, Ly­dia Hines, and pa­ter­nal grand­par­ents had been trans­ported to Aus­tralia as con­victs. Su­san­nah would have been about 26 when she met Way and al­ready had two chil­dren.

Su­san­nah was a house­wife, aged 41, when she died in Carl­ton in 1888 and by then had been liv­ing in Vic­to­ria for seven years. Her death cer­tifi­cate showed she had mar­ried John White in Ho­bart. Her chil­dren all took the sur­name White.

Su­san­nah’s death had a pro­found im­pact on Way. He suf­fered a break­down, ex­plained as due to pres­sure of work, and went on a world tour for a year.

Short life­spans were the fate of three of Sa­muel Way’s chil­dren – Florence El­iza Jane White (1877-1880), James White (1869-1895) and Frank White (1872-1902) – but the other two boys en­joyed long and pro­duc­tive ca­reers.

Way gave three of his sons his grand­mother’s maiden name, Row­den. His two youngest sons, Al­fred Ed­ward Row­den White (1874-1963) and Ed­ward Row­den White (1881-1958), be­came em­i­nent doc­tors. It is ap­pro­pri­ate that both were called Ed­ward, as they were no doubt named af­ter Sir Sa­muel’s younger brother Dr Ed­ward Willis Way, the lead­ing gy­nae­col­o­gist in colo­nial South Aus­tralia.

Way sent his four sons to Gee­long Gram­mar School, where Frank was an im­por­tant mem­ber of the cham­pion foot­ball team from 1888 to 1890.

“White is cer­tainly one of the best all-round ath­letes in the Schools,” wrote ‘Bar­racker’ in

The Sports­man of Oc­to­ber 15 1890. “Nev­er­the­less, his per­for­mances at foot­ball have this year been ex­ceed­ingly dis­ap­point­ing. Too much flashi­ness and too lit­tle solid hard work were the main fea­tures of his play. He never seemed to have his heart in the team; and to all ap­pear­ances a vic­tory to him was just a lit­tle pleas­an­ter than a de­feat.”

De­spite that crit­i­cism, ‘Bar­racker’ in­cluded Frank as a rover in his best team cho­sen from the Schools.

Frank did make his mark in his one sea­son with Nor­wood. Still only a teenager, he was named best player for a ster­ling de­fen­sive dis­play against Port Ade­laide as Nor­wood clinched its 10th premier­ship with a two-goal vic­tory be­fore a crowd of 10,000 at Ade­laide Oval in Septem­ber 1891. In his endof-sea­son sum­mary in The South Aus­tralian

Chron­i­cle, ‘On­looker’ de­scribed White as “a clever lit­tle mark and a use­ful player”.

Frank White van­ished from the scene af­ter his mo­ment of glory. He was only 29 when he died on March 7, 1902, at Mrs Mad­den’s Pri­vate Hos­pi­tal, a salu­bri­ous es­tab­lish­ment in Nichol­son St, Fitzroy, op­po­site Mel­bourne’s Ex­hi­bi­tion Gar­dens. He was buried in the Mel­bourne Gen­eral Ceme­tery.

Sa­muel Way was born in 1836 in Portsmouth, Eng­land, the son of a poor Bible Chris­tian preacher, James Way, and his wife Jane, who em­i­grated to Ade­laide in 1850. Sam joined them three years later and soon be­gan his rapid climb to the top of colo­nial so­ci­ety through a com­bi­na­tion of great nat­u­ral abil­ity, burn­ing am­bi­tion and good luck.

Three deaths aided his as­cent. In 1858 he was ar­ti­cled to the lawyer Al­fred Atkin­son, who was de­clared in­sane just be­fore Way’s ad­mis­sion to prac­tice in 1861 and died soon

af­ter­wards. Way re­built the firm with James Brook, whose un­timely death in 1872 left Way in charge of a strong prac­tice all his own. He took silk in 1871 and was elected to the House of Assem­bly as the mem­ber for Sturt in 1875. Barely four months later he was at­tor­neygen­eral and af­ter just nine months in that job some­what con­tro­ver­sially rec­om­mended him­self for the chief jus­tice­ship, left va­cant by Sir Richard Han­son’s death. He joined the Supreme Court on March 27, 1876, and dom­i­nated it for the next four decades.

“Way knew both joy and re­gret,” says Pe­ter Moore in SA Greats – The men and women of

the North Ter­race plaques, edited by John Healy (His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety of South Aus­tralia Inc. 2001). “Be­hind the glory lurked the se­cret life of a de­voted fam­ily man . . . with a dif­fer­ence. From about 1868 Way passed his sum­mers in Tas­ma­nia with for­mer cham­ber­maid Su­san­nah Good­ing (1842-88). He was the fa­ther of at least five of her six [seven] chil­dren, all named af­ter his par­ents, si­b­lings and as­so­ciates, and each chris­tened with his own sur­name.

“He set the fam­ily up at good ad­dresses in Ho­bart and then in Mel­bourne. When he pre­sented his com­mis­sion as Chief Jus­tice in Ade­laide, he ad­journed the court for a fort­night to at­tend the chris­ten­ing of his fifth child in Ho­bart.”

Ac­tu­ally, that most likely would have been Su­san­nah’s fifth child and Way’s third. The cou­ple never mar­ried and their re­la­tion­ship was kept se­cret, pre­sum­ably be­cause Su­san­nah’s back­ground would have been so­cially un­ac­cept­able for the wife a ris­ing young lawyer and dis­tin­guished judge.

“Way looked af­ter Good­ing and her chil­dren with dili­gence and af­fec­tion,” says Stephen James in The Aus­tralian Dic­tio­nary of Biog­ra­phy (MUP, Vol 16, 2002), “and in the 1880s moved them to Mel­bourne. By that time they were us­ing the sur­name of White.”

Al­fred White grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Mel­bourne and em­barked on a long, var­ied ca­reer in medicine. As a ma­jor in the Aus­tralian Army Med­i­cal Corps, he served in France with the 2nd Aus­tralian Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal in World War I. He helped to found the Royal Aus­tralasian Col­lege of Physi­cians.

Ed­ward White, known as Teddy, was se­nior pre­fect at Gee­long Gram­mar School in 1900. He was an ob­ste­tri­cian when com­mis­sioned as a cap­tain in the Aus­tralian Army Med­i­cal Corps in 1914 and posted to the 3rd Light Horse Field Am­bu­lance, serv­ing at Gal­lipoli and in Si­nai and Pales­tine. He played a lead­ing part in the early de­vel­op­ment in Aus­tralia of the Royal Col­lege of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gy­nae­col­o­gists.

Although ap­proach­ing his 60th birth­day when World War II broke out, he joined the AIF on New Year’s Day 1941 and sailed to Malaya soon af­ter as com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of the 2nd/10th Aus­tralian Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal. He

“He set the fam­ily up at good ad­dresses in Ho­bart and then in Mel­bourne.”

was men­tioned in dis­patches be­fore Sin­ga­pore fell to the Ja­panese army in Fe­bru­ary 1942. He en­dured his or­deal as a pris­oner of war in For­mosa and Manchuria with dig­nity and strength of char­ac­ter de­spite his age and news of the death in March 1942 of his only son, James North­cote Row­den White.

Way dom­i­nated al­most ev­ery im­por­tant cul­tural, ed­u­ca­tional, artis­tic, sci­en­tific and char­i­ta­ble ele­ment of life in South Aus­tralia since he was ap­pointed to the court in 1876. He turned down at least four of­fers of knight­hood, hold­ing out for an hered­i­tary hon­our, per­haps a peer­age, though he had no law­ful heirs.

On 11 April, 1898, his 62nd birth­day, he mar­ried the 44-year-old wi­dow Kather­ine ‘Kitty’ Blue – who had links with the Downer and Rymill fam­i­lies – and the fol­low­ing year ac­cepted a baronetcy “to please Mrs Way”.

“Pol­ished, cul­tured and proud, Way was a jum­ble of as­pi­ra­tions and con­tra­dic­tions,” says Pe­ter Moore. “Wear­ing ju­di­cial robes at Univer­sity events cov­ered his lack of a de­gree and he ap­pears this way in the bronze statue that stands in front of the Univer­sity of Ade­laide. His res­i­dence ‘Mon­te­fiore’ at North Ade­laide, set in an ex­otic if minia­ture gar­den, was a mon­u­ment to his hospi­tal­ity, bib­lio­philia and the arts and craft move­ment. He also had two coun­try prop­er­ties for re­lax­ation, income and sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ment.

“Way sup­ported Fed­er­a­tion but not a High Court un­less he could be Chief Jus­tice. When he failed to achieve this, his star be­gan to fall. Af­ter 1907 he was oc­ca­sion­ally ap­pealed against and once over­ruled by his own Full Court. In 1914 he had his left arm am­pu­tated in Syd­ney, due to cancer, but he nev­er­the­less suc­cumbed on 8th Jan­uary, 1916. A State fu­neral was held three days later and he was buried at West Ter­race Ceme­tery, Ade­laide.”

Beatrice Webb, the English Fabian, met Way in Ade­laide and found him “a griz­zled, bearded lit­tle man, in­signif­i­cant in fea­tures, vol­u­ble and dif­fu­sive in speech, with more author­ity than dig­nity in his man­ner, he nei­ther pleases nor im­presses . . . At first he seems a fussy lit­tle Methodist . . . presently you dis­cover that he is both good and wise”.

And a lot of other things that the good cit­i­zens of Ade­laide never dreamt of.

Frank White, left, in the 1888 Gee­long Gram­mar School foot­ball team; Chief Jus­tice Sa­muel Way with Lady Way (Pic­ture: Chron­i­cle, July 19, 1902)

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