Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Duff, Robert William

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DUFF, Sir ROBERT WILLIAM, for some time styled Robert William Duff Abercromby (1835–1895), governor of New South Wales, born at Fetteresso in Kincardineshire on 8 May 1835, was the only son of Arthur Duff (d. 1859) of Glassaugh in Banffshire, by his wife Elizabeth (d. 1838), daughter of John Innes of Corvie, Kincardineshire. His father assumed the name of Abercromby on succeeding to the estates of his mother, Mary, wife of Robert William Duff (d. 1834), and only child of George Morrison of Haddo, by his wife Jane, eldest daughter of General James Abercromby (d. 23 April 1781) of Glassaugh. Robert was educated at Blackheath school, and in 1848 entered the navy. He attained the rank of sub-lieutenant in May 1854, and that of lieutenant on 5 Jan. 1856, and retired with that of commander in 1865. The death of his uncle, Robert Duff, on 30 Dec. 1870, made him owner of Fetteresso, and on succeeding him he discontinued the use of the surname Abercromby.

On 1 May 1861 he was returned to parliament for Banffshire in the liberal interest, and retained his seat until his appointment as governor of New South Wales. He was appointed junior lord of the treasury in 1882, acting as liberal whip, a post which he held until the defeat of the government in June 1885. On Gladstone's resuming office he was nominated junior lord of the admiralty on 15 Feb. 1886, going out of office in July. In 1892 Duff was made a privy councillor, and offered a post in the household, which he declined.

On 23 Feb. 1893 he was appointed governor of New South Wales as successor to Victor Albert George Child-Villiers, seventh earl of Jersey. He arrived at Sydney in the Paramatta on 29 May. Before leaving England he was created G.C.M.G. His term of office was chiefly marked by his permitting the premier, Sir George Dibbs, to obtain the prorogation of parliament on 8 Dec. 1893, after that minister had incurred a vote of censure. In July 1894, after his ministry had failed to carry the general election, Dibbs desired Duff to nominate several persons to the legislative council on his recommendation. Duff declined to accede to his wish on the ground that the ministry had been condemned by the colony, and in consequence Dibbs and his colleagues resigned.

Duff died at Sydney on 15 March 1895, and was temporarily buried in the Waverley cemetery on 17 March, his remains being afterwards removed to Scotland. After his death Sir Frederick Darley, the chief justice, was sworn lieutenant-governor. On 21 Feb. 1871 Duff married Louisa, youngest daughter of Sir William Scott, ninth bart. of Ancrum in Roxburghshire. By her he had three sons, the eldest Robert William, and four daughters.

[Sydney Morning Herald, 18 March 1891; Melbourne Argus, 16, 18 March 1895; Times, 16, 18 March 1895; Official Return of Members of Parliament; Foster's Scottish Members of Parl.]

E. I. C.