History of West Australia/James Montgomery Speed

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James Montgomery Speed HOFWA.jpg
Photo by
Greenham & Evans.

THE ranks of the Western Australian bar received an undeniable strengthening by the admission of a large number of the brothers of the wig and gown who elected to come from the other colonies and elsewhere to cast in their lot with this growing colony. Among those who came was Mr.James Montgomery Speed, who, besides obtaining mark in his profession, is on the fair way to make his influence forceful in public matters. James Montgomery Speed was born at Wanganui, New Zealand, in 1859. He was educated at Nelson College, in the Nelson Province, where he distinguished himself as a scholar, and later in the broader sphere of the New Zealand University he carried off several scholarships, and then took up the law as a profession. Young Speed became articled to one of the leading legal practitioners of Wellington—Mr. W. T. L. Travers. At his final examination he secured first place among the successful candidates. After his admission to the New Zealand bar, he practised at Auckland for some time, when he received a highly important mission, which meant considerable travel and the employment of the attributes of a diplomat. He was asked to proceed to Samoa, on behalf of an influential syndicate of Americans, to report on America's claims on that picturesque island. After investigating the matter thoroughly, Mr. Speed went to San Francisco, and laid the result of his labours before his clients, who were well satisfied with his exertions on their behalf Mr. Speed returned to Auckland, and resumed his practice there. Eventually he left the Pacific, and, arriving in Perth in 1892, he joined legal partnership with Mr. Lancelot de Hamel. These gentlemen remained together for over twelve months, when Mr. Speed started practice on his own account, and was alone for about three years. Recently he took Mr. Durston into partnership with him, as the practice he had acquired was rather too large for him to cope with single-handed. His many excellent legal qualifications have won for him an ever-expanding circle of clients, who have benefited by his legal knowledge.

In public matters Mr. Speed has always been most outspoken, both in the press and on the platform. He has broken many a lance with the champions of Protection, and in the columns of the papers of the day he has "written down" the food duties in forcible English, and never has he resorted to the custom of expressing views under the ambush of a nom de plume. Mr. Speed has several times been asked to stand for Parliament, but pressure of business has caused him to decline the honour. In June, 1897, he was elected as senior representative of the South Ward in the Perth City Council.

Mr. Speed is pleasantly intellectual, whether as philosopher, logician, or as the man of worldly wisdom.