Holder, Frederick William (DNB12)

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HOLDER, Sir FREDERICK WILLIAM (1850–1909), first speaker of the house of representatives in the Australian commonwealth, born at Happy Valley, South Australia, on 12 May 1850, was son of James Morecott Holder of Adelaide by Martha Breakspear Robey, his wife. After education at St. Peter's College, Adelaide, he was for a time a state schoolmaster, and subsequently editor and proprietor of the 'Burra Record.' From 1886 to 1890 he was mayor of Burra.

He entered the legislative assembly of South Australia as member for the Burra district in April 1887, and was returned for the same constituency at the elections of 1890, 1893, 1896 and 1899. He was a member of several committees and royal commissions, including the land laws commission in 1887, Barrier trade select committee in 1888, intercolonial free trade commission in 1890, mails commission in 1890, pastoral lands commission in 1891, and the Orroroo railway commission in 1892. He took a prominent part in the movement for Australian federal union and was a member of the convention which framed the Commonwealth constitution in 1897-8.

From 27 June 1889 to 19 Aug. 1890 he was treasurer of the colony in Dr. Cockburn's ministry. After having been for some time virtually leader of the opposition, he was sent for in June 1892 on the defeat of the Playford ministry, and succeeded in forming a government, in which he again took the position of treasurer in addition to that of premier. His administration lasted only till 15 Oct. of the same year, when it was defeated by four votes on a want of confidence motion. On 16 June 1893 he returned to office as commissioner of public works in Mr. Kingston's ministry, and on 17 April 1894 became treasurer. On 1 Dec. 1899 the government was defeated by one vote and resigned; but within a few days Holder was again sent for and formed his second administration, in which he was premier, treasurer, and minister of industry.

In May 1901 Holder was returned as one of the representatives of South Australia to the federal parliament of the Commonwealth, and was unanimously elected speaker of the lower house. He was re-elected in 1904 and 1907. He died in office in tragic circumstances. He was about to prorogue the House after a turbulent all-night sitting, when he was seized with a fit, and expired within a few hours in the parliament house on 23 July 1909. He was accorded a state funeral at Adelaide on 26 July. Mr. Deakin, prime minister of the Commonwealth, in moving the resolution of regret in the house of representatives, said: 'No speaker more gentle, patient, or equitable has presided over any deliberative assembly with which I am acquainted' (Commonwealth of Australia, Parliamentary Debates, 1909, i. 1629-30).

Holder was a member of the South Australian School of Mines and Industries, and served in the military forces of his state from 1858 to 1899. He actively helped to found a national library, and he was a prominent office-bearer and preacher in the methodist church. He was created a K.C.M.G. on 26 June 1902.

Holder married on 29 March 1877 Julia Maria, daughter of John Ricardo Stephens, M.D., and left issue. Lady Holder has been president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in South Australia, and is a vice-president of the National Council of Women.

[The Times, 27 July 1909; Johns's Notable Australians, 1906; Year Book of Australia, 1901; Mennell's Dict. of Australasian Biog. 1892; Colonial Office Records.]

C. A.