PLAYFORD, Thomas (1837-1915)


PLAYFORD, Thomas (1837-1915)
premier of South Australia and federal senator
was born in London in 1837. His father, the Rev. Thomas Playford, was in the army before joining the church and fought with the Guards at Waterloo. Thomas Playford was brought to South Autsralia in 1844, and had comparatively little schooling, but afterwards read widely. He began working on a farm in early life but afterwards took up market gardening with success. He became a member of the East Torrens district council, was chairman for 21 years, and for several years was president of the Association of District Chairmen. He was elected to parliament for Onkaparinga in 1868 as a Liberal and land reformer, and held the seat for four years. In 1875 he was elected for East Torrens and in the following February became commissioner of crown lands in the Boucaut (q.v.) ministries from March to June 1876, and October 1877 to September 1878; in the Morgan (q.v.) ministry September 1878 to June 1881; and from February to June 1885 in the Colton (q.v.) ministry. He was also commissioner of public works in Colton's ministry from June 1884 to February 1885. He became premier and treasurer in June 1887 and held office until June 1889, when he was succeeded by J. A. Cockburn (q.v.). He formed his second ministry in August 1890, was also treasurer until January 1892, and commissioner of crown lands until June 1892, when the ministry resigned. He was one of the two representatives of South Australia at the federal conference held in Melbourne in 1890, and came into conflict with Sir Henry Parkes (q.v.) on the ground that his proposals were too vague and indefinite. He was a representative at the Sydney convention of 1891, sat on the constitutional committee, and took an active part in the proceedings. He was treasurer and minister controlling the Northern Territory in Kingston's (q.v.) ministry from June 1893 until April 1894, when he was appointed agent-general for South Australia in London. Returning to Australia four years later he was elected one of the senators for South Australia to the first federal parliament in 1901, was vice-president of the executive council and leader of the senate in the first Deakin (q.v.) ministry from September 1903 to April 1904, and minister for defence in the second Deakin ministry from July 1905 to January 1907. He lost his seat at the December 1906 election and retired from politics. He died at Adelaide on 19 April 1915. He married in 1860, Mary Jane, daughter of the Rev. W. Kinsman, who survived him with five sons and five daughters.
Playford was physically a big man, considerably over six feet in height and burly in proportion, with a resounding voice and a blunt manner. An astute politician who, however, fairly earned his nick-name of "Honest Tom", he left a long record of useful work behind him. One of his grandsons, Thomas Playford, born in 1896, became premier and treasurer of South Australia in 1938.
The Register, Adelaide, 20 April 1915; B. R. Wise, The Making of the Australian Commonwealth; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; Who's Who in Australia, 1941.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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